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Originally published Friday, August 1, 2014 at 6:15 AM

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KING-FM is on the hunt for new classics with Second Inversion

Meet Maggie Stapleton, the enthusiastic contemporary music fan behind Classical KING FM’s Second Inversion channel. Second Inversion is part of an effort to make classical music more accessible to more listeners by introducing them to modern pieces.

Special to The Seattle Times


Consider a typical day’s playlist on classical-music radio station KING-FM: Beethoven’s Romance No. 2 in F, Bach’s Prelude in C, a snippet of Thomas Newman’s score for the 1994 film version of “Little Women” — and so much more.

Then remind yourself that all of the old music was once new.

That raises a question: What new music composed and performed today is likely to be included on a classical station’s programming schedule in 50 or 100 years?

Time will tell, but KING-FM is working to explore and identify possibilities among the modern classical, avant-garde and cross-genre experimental music proliferating in our time.

With the launch last January of online-streaming service Second Inversion (, the station offers new music 24 hours a day, every day, without altering its terrestrial radio programming.

Second Inversion (the name refers to a chord that has been shaken up though the notes haven’t changed) is one of the listener-supported station’s targeted programming channels (including an all-symphonies stream and another for opera). As with many arts organizations, KING is looking beyond its current core audience and planning for tomorrow.

“Second Inversion is really a consequence of KING’s success,” Maggie Stapleton, assistant program director at KING FM and manager of the new channel, says, referring to the fact that the station’s listening community has grown since its 2011 transition to a nonprofit model.

“A huge part of KING’s mission is to expand and diversify the audience for classical music. That’s one of the reasons Second Inversion came about. We’re serving a larger demographic — mainly people in their 20s and 30s — that doesn’t make up a big part of KING’s audience.

“Our goal with Second Inversion is to rethink classical music and make it accessible to a younger audience. Music is constantly evolving and composers and musicians are bringing exciting, new energy to it.”

Stapleton is a fan of experimental string quartet Brooklyn Rider, whose most recent appearance in Seattle involved collaborating with banjo master Béla Fleck. She also speaks highly of classical pianist Christopher O’Riley, whose expanded repertoire includes critically praised covers of music by Radiohead and the late songwriter Elliot Smith.

“This music is fun,” says Stapleton, “and a great gateway for people who only think about classical music in terms of Beethoven and Brahms.”

Second Inversion’s schedule recently included selections from composer Howard Hersh and pianist Brenda Tom’s colorful new album “Angels and Watermarks,” and Sarah Kirkland Snider’s stunning “Daughter of the Waves.”

But Stapleton is also committed to capturing as much live music on the Seattle scene as possible. Entire concerts by the Seattle Modern Orchestra and such visiting artists as chamber group yMusic and vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth have been recorded and are available on demand.

Stapleton, 27, came to KING four years ago. As assistant program director, she has influence on KING’s overall scope, though she is working full-time on Second Inversion.

A flutist, she plays with the Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra. She also teaches the instrument at a studio.

“Music is a very important part of my life inside and outside KING,” she says. “It’s important for musicians today to really push boundaries, take the capabilities of instruments and combinations of instruments to a whole new level. It’s essential to take risks.”

Tom Keogh:

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