By Carlos Morales
For more than a decade, Roseland Klein has taken West Texans on illuminating tours of classical music every week on Marfa Public Radio. But now, the longtime radio host is retiring at the end of next week—bringing her time on air to an end.
Roseland’s program Classical Midday has been a mainstay of Marfa Public Radio since the station’s earliest days. It has been a favorite among listeners who tuned in to hear her airy, comforting delivery and her deep knowledge of composers. Affectionately known as the matriarch of the radio station, Roseland recently celebrated her 92nd birthday and says it’s now time to leave the show behind.
“I’ve loved it,” Roseland says while reflecting on her time hosting Classical Midday. “I thought long and hard about retiring.”
Roseland says she’ll continue spending her days doing what she enjoys most, practicing Hapa and Iyengar yoga on the front lawn of the county courthouse in Fort Davis, wrangling her three cats—Pecos, Parker and Poco—and, yes, listening to classical music.
Since the pandemic began, Roseland has recorded her show remotely with the help of friends and staff at Marfa Public Radio. While she was able to put out Classical Midday regularly, she says she’s missed being live in the studio. Pre-recording her show, she felt, was “a bit artificial, even though I care as much.”
“When you’re in the studio by yourself, and you’re talking to the people who are listening, you feel really connected,” Roseland explains.
That intimacy with listeners was a familiar note throughout her two-hour show.
Roseland took the time to carefully detail the day’s weather and provide listeners with tidbits about the music and composers you heard on her program. As soon as she finished preparing for one show, she says, she would think about the next even when relaxing at home.
“Sometimes, I’d get up and go to the computer, jot down some notes about what I thought would work with what else,” says Roseland. “I spent a lot of time imagining the program and then typing it up.”
Her holiday shows, especially her Halloween specials, were listener favorites. Then, there were the shows she played Wendy Carlos’ synthesizer takes on the compositions of Bach.
Roseland aimed for perfection while hosting. To make sure she had every detail just right, she would correct herself on the air, sometimes restart her sentences from the beginning. A highlight of her time, she says jokingly, was “not making an absolute idiot of myself.”
On a few occasions throughout her years on air, Roseland would accidentally leave her microphone on during her show, sending a slight scare throughout the radio station.
But any worry she might unintentionally say something over the air quickly eased when staff realized all you could hear was her soft singing as she quietly hummed along to the music she played. In those moments, it was clear just how much Roseland adores the genre, from Bach’s cantatas to the compositions of french musician Francis Poulenc.
From an early age, Roseland grew up immersed in classical music.
When she was growing up in the Midwest, her parents would regularly turn on the radio to hear opera broadcasts out of New York. She was classically trained in violin and continued with it for years, performing with various ensembles and orchestras.
“I can’t imagine a life without classical music,” Roseland says. “It’s always been part of my life.”
At 92 years old, Roseland has seen music change throughout the decades.
She remembers when Elvis was a hit, and when Beatlemania reigned supreme over the music charts.
“Oh, I loved rock and roll,” says Roseland. “I still do.”
The genres she couldn’t quite get into, grunge and heavy metal. She says she tried, but it just wasn’t for her.
“I always like to give everything a chance and see how it measures,” says Roseland from her home in the Far West Texas mountains. “But mostly, for my own pleasure, it’s always classical.”
When she wasn’t playing classical music on the radio, Roseland says there was “always music playing in my mind.”
After her last show on Dec. 30, you won’t find Classical Midday with Roseland Klein on the radio anymore, but the music—the swelling crescendos and the still passages—will still carry on in her day-to-day life.
In between her yoga sessions and birdwatching, the orchestral notes of classical music will continue to be the soundtrack to Roseland’s life.