‘I Know Your Voice’ Born Into Classical Music in England, Now A ‘Flexible’ KVMR Broadcaster

Written by on November 5, 2019

Charles Atthill was born into classical music back in England, but now radio’s making a play for his affection.

Atthill is one of the rotating hosts of KVMR 89.5 FM’s “Classics Declassified”, a classical music series that airs 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. each Sunday on the Nevada City community radio station.

“It was a musical family, everyone played an instrument, everyone took lessons,” said Atthill. “My grandmother was a professional violinist.”

“In fact, classical music was all I can remember until I discovered Miles Davis at age 16.”

No surprise, Charles wanted to study music but was dissuaded from it in favor of Greek and Latin , psychology and philosophy “and I became a teacher, first in high school 5 years and  then an academic at Bath University.”

Soon he became a training manager for Bank of America in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and finally “came to San Francisco in 1985 for a three year job and I’m still here (the U.S.)”

He retired in 2001, and Charles and his wife were looking for a place to live.  “You should look in Grass Valley,” someone told him.

And here they are, only “we didn’t know anyone.  When our phone never rang, we knew we had to get out more,” according to Atthill.

So they volunteered at Empire Mine, he at the Music In The Mountains chorus, she with the Master Gardeners.  Over the years, Charles has written 85 concert reviews in The Prospector

Atthill started getting the radio bug when he was on KVMR as a sub for Dr. Aileen James on her monthly classical music show.  And he credits KVMR broadcasters Ralph Henson and Michael Young for encouraging him to take the station’s broadcaster training class in 2018, about the time “Classics Declassified” went weekly.

So Atthill worked at getting certified and finished the process very quickly.

“I was pretty anxious at the time,” he recalled. “I was certified on a Thursday and had to do my first show the next Sunday.”

“But how exciting it was to do a live show by yourself,” he added.

And he’s worked with five of this year’s training class so he’s passing along what he’s learned to others.

“KVMR has really opened my eyes to different music,” Athill noted. “I’m interested in jazz, and I’ve been inducted into some of the mysteries of the blues and r&b.”

And then there was the time a KVMR deejay asked him to sub for him.

“I asked him what kind of music he played, and he told me ‘world music.’  ‘What’s that?’ I replied.”

Now he knows world music.

“You’ve got to be flexible as a broadcaster,” Atwell said with a smile. “It’s quite exciting. This is what community radio should be.”

He’s also done a series of tongue-in-chic short “pitches” for station membership drives, poking fun at the station in some and citing valuable services KVMR provides in others.

Maybe it’s that distinctive British voice of his.

“I’ve been here for 35 years, and I still have my natural accent.”

“But I appreciate having a voice that makes people say, ‘I know your voice’.”

And he appreciates getting phone calls when people compliment his music.

“That’s when you feel you’re actually playing music for real people, not just alone in some studio,” Atthill mused

On The Air is a weekly irreverent look at the nearly 200 broadcasters at Nevada City’s eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM, 105. 1 FM Truckee, and streaming at kvmr.org.  The Bridge 105.7 FM features NPR and Pacifica news and analysis by day, with KVMRx.org indie pop by night.

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