You'll soon hear a new voice on the airwaves as we welcome Melissa Dundis as our new classical music host.
A native of Omaha, Neb., Dundis was music director and weekday host of KVNO. She also ran the station's Classical Kids program.
Dundis' love for radio began at age four, when she called her local station to request Neil Young's "No More." She started playing guitar as a teenager and later received classical training while pursuing a degree in music education at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. As a sophomore, she interned at KVNO, eventually going on air before taking over as music director.
Appealing to younger audiences is one of Dundis' passions.
"It's really important to get the opinion of younger listeners when trying to engage them," Dundis says. "We need radio to be personable and human. There's an opportunity to add humor and see the music as stories that can ebb and flow — there's always more to be revealed."
As a teacher, she encouraged her students to go outside to explore what the environment can bring to music-making and how specific composers were inspired by the natural world.
"We can learn so much from nature if we observe what is happening around us every day. Classical music is tied to our surroundings."
Her passion for nature translates into her love for impressionist composer Claude Debussy.
"He uses the moon and clouds a lot in his composing, which is taking something in our world, but making it so mystical," she says. "On the other hand, he takes more abstract ideas and makes them feel concrete. He's able to flip realities, which really draws me in."
As a classical guitarist, Dundis integrates her musical tastes into her programming — some of which goes beyond the classical realm.
"Paul Simon is one of my favorite musicians. I view him as classically-trained in some ways. The way he writes — this is why people cover his music, because it's magical."
Besides Simon, her musical inspirations center on great guitarists, such as David Gilmour, Billy Gibbons and Mark Knopfler. One of the greatest influences on her own music is Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos.
"He was a cellist, but he wrote many pieces for guitar. His compositions changed the way I built and looked at chords, and they allowed me to expand the way I looked at things."
When Dundis envisions the future of classical music, she's optimistic about the role it can play in the lives of everyone, especially younger listeners and musicians.
"We can learn from younger people — they're more honest and have this great awareness. They're not too influenced by anything in particular, and they're so smart. Through classical music, people of all ages can find their boundaries and realize that they can push beyond that. Music making shouldn't be constrained."
Melissa will be heard at various times to cover for other hosts until she settles into a regular shift this fall.