Julie Amacher's desire to introduce others to great music is what led her to radio. She began her professional broadcast career at a station in Sun Prairie, Wis. She went from rock 'n' roll to the Rocky Mountains, where she found her niche in public radio at KUNC in Greeley, Colo. Julie spent 13 years at KUNC, where she managed the announcers and their eclectic music format. During that time, she earned four national awards for best announcer. She joined Minnesota Public Radio in 1997 as an on-air host and also produces New Classical Tracks, a weekly podcast critiquing a new release each week. It airs locally at 7:15 a.m. Wednesdays and 5:15 p.m. Fridays.
Favorite classical music quote:
"Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you." Gustav Holst
First music recording you ever owned?
Actually, the first album I can remember really being enamored with was one my sister bought when I was 11 Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman.
How did you get involved with classical music?
Virgil Thomson put it best: "Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not." That's pretty much how I came to classical music. I just kept trying it. First as a kid sitting on the piano bench listening and singing as my mother played all kinds of music including classical. In high school, I finally started taking voice lessons. That's when I discovered art songs by composers like Franz Schubert. Before coming to Minnesota Public Radio, I worked at a public radio station in Colorado that included classical music in its eclectic mix. Since coming to MPR, I've really immersed myself in it.
If a listener were to go for coffee with you, what's the first thing they'd learn about you?
That I love chai tea and chocolate! Usually when I get to chat with our listeners the first thing they ask is, "How do you come up with all those interesting things to say?" Well, I do a lot of digging. I'm really curious, and I know they are too, so I love digging for fun tidbits about the music and the artists who perform it.
Your favorite piece from the classical music play list archive?
Beethoven's Choral Fantasy (DG 453 798). Claudio Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic. Pianist Yevgeny Kissin. This is a piece that isn't heard very often, but for me, it epitomizes what Beethoven's all about. It starts off quietly, with piano alone, and gradually builds into a luscious precursor to his Ninth Symphony.
Stories by Julie Amacher
New Classical Tracks: 'Dawn to Dust'
Since Thierry Fischer accepted the full-time post of music director in 2011, the Utah Symphony has commissioned at least six new works, three of which appear on its new recording, 'Dawn to Dust.' Hear more about this new recording, and enter for a chance to win a copy of the CD.
New Classical Tracks: The Menuhin Century
On the centenary of violinist and educator Yehudi Menuhin, a friend of the late musician has curated a comprehensive box set that celebrates the work and life of a man who was not only a gifted musician, but a kind and generous person.
New Classical Tracks: 'Royal Harp Strings'
Harpist Claire Jones played at the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, but was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome two years later. The release of Jones's new recording, 'Royal Harp Strings', has been part of her healing process.
Allen Hightower's Nordic farewell
For six years, Allen Hightower has conducted Luther College's Nordic Choir. Soon, he will leave for a new position in his native Texas. Hightower spoke to Classical MPR about his experience at Luther, including one of his favorite memories as Nordic Choir's conductor.
Meet Dr. Michael Kim, new director of the University of Minnesota School of Music
Dr. Michael Kim, pianist and new director of the University of Minnesota School of Music, sat down with Julie Amacher for a conversation and to listen to some of his recordings.
New Classical Tracks: Rachel Barton Pine, 'Testament: complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin'
Rachel Barton Pine grew up playing the music of J.S. Bach at her hometown church in Chicago, where there is even a stained-glass window of Bach himself.
New Classical Tracks: Alessio Bax, 'Lullabies for Mila'
Inspired by the music that most captured the attention of his baby daughter, Italian-American pianist Alessio Bax has put together an album of 17 pieces to appeal to parents, children and those discovering classical music.
New Classical Tracks: Andrew Litton and the Colorado Symphony, Copland
When Swedish label BIS wanted to add music of Aaron Copland to its repertoire, it looked to Andrew Litton and the Colorado Symphony. 'I said, 'Sure, why not?' Litton recalls. 'We'll happily do Copland.'
New Classical Tracks: Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax, Faure & Strauss Violin Sonatas
Two longtime friends collaborate on recording the violin sonatas of two early Romantic-era composers. Itzhak Perlman and Emanuel Ax had had the idea for many years, and finally agreed to do the album while having dinner together.
New Classical Tracks: Seraphic Fire, 'Steal Away'
On vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire's new album, 'Steal Away,' the group celebrates the first quintessentially American art form: the African-American concert spiritual.
New Classical Tracks: Helene Grimaud, 'Water'
Pianist Helene Grimaud has a new recording that puts the focus on music inspired by Earth's most precious resource.
New Classical Tracks: John Lunn, 'Downton Abbey - the Ultimate Collection'
As the long-running and much-beloved television series 'Downton Abbey' comes to an end, composer John Lunn has released a double album of the show's unforgettable music.
A performance by the Morehouse College Glee Club Quartet
Dr. David E. Morrow and the Morehouse Glee Club Quartet stopped by our studios recently to talk with Julie Amacher about the history of the Glee Club and to perform some songs. Dr. Morrow and the glee club members also spoke about their participation in a concert with VocalEssence on Sunday, Feb. 21.
New Classical Tracks: 'Latin Reverie'
Recorder player Clea Galhano and guitarist Rene Izquierdo collaborate on a collection that brings together a number of rhythms from Latin America.
New Classical Tracks: Henning Kraggerud, 'Equinox'
This week's New Classical Tracks offers an interesting collision between books and music. Henning Kraggerud composed 24 pieces in all the different keys, working from 24 original texts by author Jostein Gaarder.
New Classical Tracks: 'Joyce and Tony - live at Wigmore Hall'
For Joyce Di Donato, there's no place like Wigmore Hall; it feel likes home. So she paired up with Tony Pappano, the music director of the Royal Opera House, for a double CD project that combines Italian art song and American Songbook selections.
New Classical Tracks: Pittsburgh Symphony releases Beethoven live album
Manfred Honeck leads the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in two of Beethoven's most popular symphonies, No. 5 and No. 7. PSO horn player Bill Caballero says what makes this recording remarkable is that it's live.
New Classical Tracks: Igor Levit plays Bach, Beethoven and Rzewski
Igor Levit is often referred to as 'the future of piano.' He's just released an ambitious three-CD set featuring three of the most demanding keyboard cycles.
New Classical Tracks: Chopin and Rachmaninov Piano and Cello Sonatas
Longtime friends, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan, have collaborated on this collection of works by Chopin and Rachmaninoff. 'We really felt this kind of primal, visceral connection to and love for this music,' Weilerstein says.
New Classical Tracks: Steve Barta's arrangement of Claude Bolling
Arranger Steve Barta accepted the challenge of creating a symphonic arrangement of Claude Bolling's Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio. He found the experience both challenging and eye-opening.