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With the death of Randy Stewart, KSMU has lost a valuable member of its team

Stewart, who had worked at KSMU for 48 years, was the long time host of Arts News. He died of cancer late Monday.

For those who haven’t heard, our friend and colleague at KSMU and a voice familiar to many, Randy Stewart, passed away late Monday night.

He died of cancer at the age of 67.

Randy had worked at KSMU since 1976, starting as a student, and was our fine arts producer for more than four decades. By the time he retired this spring, he had worked at the station for a total of 48 years.

Mike Smith, producer of Seldom Heard Music, had worked with Randy since 1980.

"You know, Randy Stewart was much more than a radio announcer, host and producer of audio, digital audio," he said, "he was so great at those things and many more, but he was a true broadcaster in every sense of the word. And there's not many of those folks still around. Randy was a student of radio and television broadcast history, and he understood and appreciated classical music and composers like very few in the Ozarks could. And he knew more about opera and its composers and singers than anyone I've ever met. He even knew morse code, for God's sake, having learned that skill qualifying for his ham radio license."

I started as an announcer back when Randy wrote all the scripts for classical music, and we had to read them live, I remember all the pronunciations marked in red above the names of classical works and composers. He knew a lot, and the community greatly benefited from that. I still miss handing off the live broadcast to him each Friday morning as he jumped in the announcer seat for Arts News when Morning Edition was over.

Liz Malarkey, traffic coordinator at KSMU, worked with Randy for about 37 years.

"When I first started working at KSMU back in 1987, I really didn't listen to classical music," she said, "and I was really impressed with Randy's knowledge and his passion for classical music, and after working for a time, I realized he was like a walking encyclopedia for classical music. He could tell you about different symphonies around the world. He could tell you about different pieces of music, specific information about composers. It was just never ending the knowledge that he had about that topic."

Rich Lawson first met Randy 30 years ago when he was a student employee at KSMU and has worked with him for a long time in producing his weekly show, The Basement.

"He was very much a huge influence as far as like personified dedication, you know, to the station and professionalism," he said. "He gave it his all, you know, and you could definitely see it and hear it in his work."

Randy Stewart was perhaps best known for his weekly Friday morning show, Arts News, which he created and which details arts events happening in the Ozarks. He often had people in to talk about their shows or their work.

Randy Russell, an educational consultant for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and someone who has been involved heavily in the local arts scene for years, describes Randy Stewart as an educator.

"Among many listeners, Randy has been such a great teacher across the region in terms of classical music, in terms of music history, well-curated things that he has worked on, put together for every show that he ever does," he said. "He is amazing in terms of that as a teacher. As a person, he is so willing to share his knowledge and love of classical music and all music, you know, in every circumstance, both in the community and personally."

He said Randy Stewart had a big impact on area arts organizations by sharing what they do.

In fact, Randy was honored in 2006 with an Ozzie Award by the Springfield Regional Arts Council for his contributions to the arts in southwest Missouri.

Arlen Diamond is retired general manager of Ozarks Public Broadcasting who began working with Randy in 1978 when he came to Springfield to teach and to manage the public radio station. He remembers meeting Randy when Randy was a student at then-Southwest Missouri State and was impressed by his knowledge of many things, including classical music. He says Randy’s long-form show about local arts was enterprising.

"When the program came along for him to do Arts News, it just exploded," he said. "You know, he's doing Arts News for an hour on Fridays, and I don't think anybody else in the United States in public radio was doing anything like that. So, he was able to promote the arts, he participated in the arts, he received an Ozzie Award, he, you know, was active with the Springfield Regional Opera, he just, he gave, gave, gave, and he gave a lot to the community, and he gave a lot in particular to the arts community."

Randy Stewart also produced the weekend shows, Saturday afternoon Classical and the Choral Tradition. And he hosted Symphony in the Ozarks and Symphony in the Ozarks Preview with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

The symphony’s music director, Kyle Wylie-Pickett, issued a statement to KSMU.

"For more than a decade, I joined Randy every month to talk about Springfield Symphony concerts on Symphony in the Ozarks. I always looked forward to those conversations. Randy was one of the most knowledgeable, insightful, and interesting people I’ve met. It seemed like he knew every commercial recording of almost every orchestral piece in the repertoire. He was funny, and he always had a fascinating anecdote or story about performers. What listeners heard from us was only half of our conversation, because we never stopped talking (off mic) while the music played. He kept the Ozarks’ classical music audience entertained and informed. I will miss our talks. Rest in peace, my friend."

Randy also contributed to KSMU’s Sense of Community Series as well as doing occasional interviews for the news department.

Randy Stewart is survived by his wife, Tammy and their beloved cats. He and Tammy met at then-Southwest Missouri State and were married for four decades. They recorded a conversation for KSMU’s Sense of Community Series in 2021, ahead of StoryCorps’ visit to the Ozarks, about how they met. Tammy explained that she had recently switched her major to broadcast media, had joined the media club, was asked to sell tickets for a concert the club was sponsoring and got moved from her assigned location to another. That's where she met Randy, and they found that they enjoyed talking to one another. She eventually began working as a student at KSMU where Randy was working, they fell in love and got married.

When Randy retired in March, he returned to the station for just a few hours a week to work as an afternoon host and to continue hosting his Saturday classical music show, The Choral Tradition and Arts News. He was dedicated to Ozarks Public Radio and believed in its mission.

KSMU Studio Live host and Compliance Coordinator Jess Balisle interviewed Randy shortly before his official retirement in March. He talked about his time at the station and gave advice to the KSMU team and the person who would eventually become the next arts reporter. He said to embrace that person as a family member.

Jim Rea, KSMU’s new arts reporter and afternoon host started his job at the station on Monday, and listeners may rest assured that our focus on the arts will continue.

Randy Stewart’s part-time work with KSMU following his official retirement wasn’t nearly long enough. We looked forward to having him as part of the team for a long time to come.

Mike Smith summed it up for all of us.

"It's been a rather surreal situation these last few days, and my heart goes out to all who knew him, especially, of course, his wife, Tammy, whom he met right here at KSMU many years ago," he said. "Randy is already greatly missed and will be for a very, very long time."

I know all of us here at KSMU and those who are regular listeners will miss hearing Randy’s voice. And we’ll miss our co-worker.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.