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Debate draws judges from Nashville, D.C. and even Texas


Classical Music Debate Attracts Unlikely Trio of Judges

Who could bring the Washington Post’s noted critic Anne Midgette, balladeer “Hobo Jim” Varsos, and best-selling cellist Zuill Bailey to Anchorage, to all appear on the same stage at the same time?

Why a classical music radio station, of course.

The three will serve jointly as celebrity judges for a debate about classical music between Oxford University and the University of Alaska Anchorage on April 30th.

The idea grew from a brainstorming session between KLEF Radio and the UAA Seawolf Debate Program.

“We each were looking for a way to reach new audiences and decided to collaborate,” explained UAA debate coach Steve Johnson.  “I always want my debaters to face the strongest competition so when the idea came up I immediately thought of Oxford University.”

UAA is ranked #17 in the world while Oxford is #2. The two teams will argue the question, “This house believes classical music deserves no support beyond that which the market will provide.”

While each judge will each render a verdict on who they think won, the ultimate decision rests with the audience which will vote using cell phones.

In the written collaboration agreement between KLEF and Seawolf Debate it was Johnson’s job to recruit “a major British University.”  He said “Oxford was always my first choice.  Their debating reputation is legendary with Matt Handley and Carin Hunt being part of a dominant tradition of debating from Oxford.  Matt has repeated high-level finishes at major international competitions under his belt and Carin is a British national debating champion.  They’ll be the stiffest competition our debaters face this year.  Period!”

Selection and recruitment of the celebrity judges was left to Rick Goodfellow, the owner and founder of KLEF.

“My first choice was Anne Midgette,” he said.  “She’s is my favorite national critic, hands down.  Sometimes I disagree with her rather passionately but no one will ever catch Anne in an error of fact.  She’s pretty phenomenal.  I have emailed with her a bit over the years but never met her.  This is going to be interesting.”

Once a critic had been secured Goodfellow moved next to a classical music performer.  “That choice was obvious,” he said.  “Zuill Bailey has quickly made himself synonymous in Alaska with classical music excellence in the few short years since he’s taken over artistic leadership of the Sitka Summer Music Festival.  He’s Mr. Charisma.”

The third choice was the most difficult but Goodfellow believes the solution to the puzzle was the most inspired. “I wanted someone who wasn’t part of the traditional classical music scene yet who had musical credentials above reproach.”  The answer was Hobo Jim Varsos, who’s written more music that’s sold more recordings than any other Alaskan musician,” said Goodfellow. He has built a big-time career as a performer and song writer for some of the greatest names in country music.  “I don’t know what his opinion is on this issue but I sure want to find out.”

Ticket proceeds from the debate will go to help support the UAA Debate Program and are available from CenterTix.


KLEF FM 98.1


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