A chronological meandering

Friday, March 3, 2006
Alan Journet prepared to record the 25th anniversary edition of "A Musical Meander" for KRCU radio at Southeast Missouri State University. (Fred Lynch)

Dr. Alan Journet knows the cooking prowess possessed by Tom Harte.

One of the first things he does Wednesday evening upon entering the KRCU studios in Cape Girardeau is dig in to a large chunk of Harte's cheesecake, accented with chocolate, that sits on a table free for the taking.

The cake is rich, but Journet doesn't care. He relishes the treat and kicks back in a chair, as relaxed as if he were sitting in a recliner at his own home.

But after 25 years of hosting music shows at the local public radio station, he should be comfortable with his surroundings.

"It is a family," says Journet.

If KRCU is a family, then Journet is somewhat of the patriarch -- at least in terms of seniority. This year the station is celebrating its 15th anniversary as a National Public Radio affiliate -- 10 years younger in that role than Journet's broadcasts.

"His program is one of those staples on Thursday nights," said Dan Woods, general manager. "Alan Journet is going to be there."

Thursday night saw the broadcast of Journet's 25th anniversary of his show "A Musical Meander." The show hasn't always gone by the same name, but the format has largely remained untouched -- a chronological journey through classical music and beyond, with plenty of backstory on the composers involved and always the entertaining, laid-back presence of Journet himself.

Of course, the 60-year-old biology professor sporting the bushy gray beard and long hair loves doing the program, or else it would have never made it this far.

"I really, really enjoy doing it," Journet says, sitting in the studio where he tapes his weekly show, a wall of classical music on disc behind him. "There's no doubt about it. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy doing it."

Journet chalks up his passion for the program to the "irresistible teacher" in me, wanting to expose people to composers and ideas they may not have known of before. The urge to teach over the airwaves was so irresistible for him he even taped shows during a fierce battle with leukemia, through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a mild stroke caused by the illness and treatments.

Journet's musical journey began in 1981, a mere five years after the station first went on the air as a student-learning radio lab. In those days the 10-watt broadcasting was done from the top of Academic Hall.

"To get to it you had to climb up these creaky stairs," Journet recalls of the station's old digs. "It was almost a closet in the attic."

During broadcasts anything happening downstairs in Academic Auditorium would bleed through the microphones, creating interesting challenges for broadcasters. Broadcasts only extended about 250 to 300 yards from Academic, Journet says. Luckily he was close enough to pick up the signal.

Journet's involvement with the station was initially reluctant. He would listen to classical music broadcasts at night and hear the student DJs. They meant well, but they just didn't know their stuff.

DJs would pronounce Rachmaninov "Rocky Manoff" Journet remembers, while piano sonatas became piano "Santanas."

Journet, a fan of classical since his graduate school days, called station founder Herb Taylor and offered his assistance to help school the students on pronunciation and the ins and outs of classical compositions. Taylor asked if Journet would be willing to work a shift.

"That really wasn't what I had in mind, but I said I suppose I could do a shift," Journet said.

The show started out being called "From the Bach and Beyond," in much the same format as the current "Musical Meander." Through four incarnations the show has stayed basically the same, as has the man at the helm.

"I basically parlayed reading the liner notes into a career," Journet jokes.

Not all the music is classical -- Journet sometimes plays John Denver, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival. But almost all the music comes from his own collection.

The only requirement, says Journet, is that the music makes him say "Damn, that's good music."

Guests also make appearances on his show, and Journet invites anyone with a passion for music to bring in their own songs or some music they're passionate about for a segment called "Southeast Selections."

All the work Journet has done in having a show for 25 years is purely volunteer.

"He really cares about the program and his commitment to the station is tremendous," said Woods. "He's been volunteering for 25 years, and he's always ready, his program is always high quality and always fresh."

Woods said local shows like Journet's are key for KRCU. As more media options are available to listeners, local programming allows the station to provide unique offerings for listeners, he said.

Now as the station celebrates 30 years, 15 as an NPR affiliate, and prepares to expand its listening audience by a potential 1.5 million listeners with a repeater station in Farmington, Mo., set to go online in April, Journet shows no signs of slowing down.

Journet doesn't know how long he'll keep the show going, but he's the kind of guy who doesn't speculate too much on the future.

He never even thought he would be in Cape Girardeau this long when he started his show. "Whenever do you say 'In 25 years time I'll be doing this?'" said Journet. "All you say is "In 25 years time I hope to be alive.'"

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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