Golden West launched its newest radio station in southern Manitoba Thursday morning. Classic 107.1 FM officially hit the air-waves with classical and jazz music at 10AM.
Golden West isn’t unfamiliar with the classical music genre. The broadcast company has a history of playing classical music in southern Manitoba on AM radio since 1957. The company says Classic 107.1 is a natural extension of a decades long tradition.
“One of the things we learned years ago is that if you can imagine it, you can actually do it; that’s almost a guarantee,” said the Chief Executive Officer of Golden West Elmer Hildebrand. “Over the years we have done lots of things that couldn’t be done, but we keep doing them. I think this was maybe one of those. We have 41 radio stations right now, and we will have 50 stations in the next while.”
The launch of Classic 107 in a large market like Winnipeg is rare for Golden West, who predominately does business in rural areas of Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
“While it is quite different there is a lot of similarity,” said the President of Golden West Lyndon Friesen. “We have grown our whole business on serving communities. In this case, it’s the arts community. There is a huge passion for the arts in the city, that’s a community. If we serve that, it won’t be a lot different from what we do in our small communities.”
Eric Friesen who has years of classical experience with CBC Radio was asked approximately two years ago, by Hildebrandt himself if he would be interested in helping start a classical radio station. Friesen said he almost jumped across the table with a resounding ‘Yes’. He added that he’s excited to see how the station will be received.
“If someone like Golden West dedicates a full station to this, then it just helps everybody think that the arts are important,” said Friesen who’s Classic 107’s program director. “I hope it’s something that nurtures and strengthens the arts community, but also stimulates it and helps it grow.”
The station’s studio office is located at 20 St. Mary’s Avenue, but they did their launch in the heart of southern Manitoba’s classical music community; live at the Centennial Concert Hall. One of the station’s immediate fans is the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. The WSO’s music director was thrilled to see the station go to air.
“For us we love having Golden West here and having the new classical music station,” said Alexander Mickelthwate. “It’s like a dream come true because you want that outlet. We now have a spokesperson in the sense of a radio station that speaks for us. To have that in the city is fantastic.”
Golden West operates 41 stations and 16 online community portals across Western Canada and has a strong reputation for supporting the communities they serve both on and off the air.