The Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis

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Classical Music Indy (formerly the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis)
Type501 (c) (3)
PurposeAn independent, non-profit producer of syndicated classical music radio programs and diversity-focused community programs.
HeadquartersIndianapolis, IN
Board Chair
Eloise Paul
Main organ
Board of Directors

Classical Music Indy, Inc. (formerly the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis, Inc.), located in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an independent, non-profit producer of syndicated classical music radio programs and diversity-focused community engagement initiatives. Programs are made possible through the generous support of individual, foundations, governmental entities, and both private and public sector grants.

Mission statement[edit]

"To inspire people with the power of classical music."

History of Classical Music Indy[edit]

Prior to 1961, there was little classical music on the radio in Central Indiana. In May of that year, a group of research chemists from Eli Lilly and Company pooled their resources, formed a corporation and on May 13 the "Lively Arts Station," WAIV-FM went on the air. The station offered a variety of classical music, jazz, poetry, interviews, folk music, discussions of religion, and editorials. Its broadcasts emanated from a tower atop the Dearborn Hotel on East Michigan Street in Indianapolis.

The station only became profitable in 1967 when the program format became exclusively classical. Programs were chosen by station staff and were presented in their entirety without interruption. This was the first completely classical music format on the radio in Indianapolis.

Decisions between the owners of WAIV led to the sale of the station but Fine Arts Society co-founder Norbert Neuss was not about to give up. With the help of his friends he purchased WAIV's 2,500 classical record library, packed them up, and stored them in the Lilly Pavilion of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. His hope was to use them later. That moment came sooner than anyone could have hoped for.

Neuss's friendship with Frank P. Thomas, founder and owner of the Burger Chef System of restaurants, turned out to be a decisive factor in fulfilling his dream of reviving classical music on the radio. In early 1968, Neuss, F. Bruce Peck, Frank P. Thomas and Willis K. Kunz formed the Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis, Inc. as a public charitable trust under the laws of the State of Indiana. The Society was granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service in January, 1969.

Upon hearing that the Indianapolis Public Schools were constructing a new radio/television center, the Society approached school officials. After informal discussions between Neuss and the staff of the school's broadcast center, IPS's Board of School Commissioners and the Society arrived at an agreement whereby the Fine Arts Society would augment the instructional programs of the IPS's radio station, WIAN-FM, with a "Second Programme" of classical music during prime evening hours that went on the air in November, 1969.

The partnership between the Fine Arts Society and the Indianapolis Public Schools' WIAN, represented a totally unprecedented and unique approach in financing a radio program without any tax subsidies. Through the Fine Arts Society's programming, WIAN was able to expand its broadcast hours by more than 100% at no cost to taxpayers.

During these years, more than 20 different broadcast services provided the Second Programme with concert materials from the entire spectrum of worldwide musical activity. The Society was also especially proud to bring, to the Indianapolis radio audience, selected student and faculty concerts from the School of Music of Indiana University in Bloomington. Also during this time, the Society suffered a serious loss on November 5, 1973, when the Grant Fire destroyed the downtown Thomas Building, including the offices and classical and opera record collection of the Society.

Thanks to the expansion of program time, WIAN was able to qualify for affiliation with National Public Radio and in the 1970s began receiving grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. WIAN had the financial resources to expand its own operation and programming originating from NPR, but this resulted in increased restrictions on broadcast time for the Society, and prompted the Society to seek another outlet for its programming.

Fortunately, the University of Indianapolis was in the process of upgrading its campus radio station both in signal strength and into stereo broadcast mode. The happy affiliation of the Classical Music Indy and the University began on January 26, 1983, when the Society broadcast its First Program on WICR-FM, 88.7.

The Metropolitan Opera selected The Fine Arts Society to join its national radio broadcasting network in 1993.

2001 saw the retirement of the volunteer President of the Society's Board, Norbert Neuss, after 32 years of service to the organization. He was appointed President Emeritus. In the summer of 2005 Society longtime Treasurer Bruce Peck died. A year later, President Emeritus Neuss died. The Fine Arts Society's 8,500 cd music library was dedicated the F. Bruce Peck Library and one of the production studios was dedicated the Norbert Neuss Production Studio in honor of their memory and contributions to the Society.

In 2013, the Society conducted a community assessment that revealed an immediate need to create accessible programming reflective of the multiculturalism of the local community. In response, the Fine Arts Society changed its name to Classical Music Indy to better reflect the organization’s vision and mission, and developed a three-year strategic plan focused on creating musical programming to enhance community life through approachable, intergenerational cultural experiences. The Society assumed a new d/b/a on January 7, 2014 as "Classical Music Indy," and the name was legally changed with the State of Indiana from "Fine Arts Society of Indianapolis, Inc." to "Classical Music Indy, Inc." on October 30, 2017.

Today, Classical Music Indy is the creator and syndicator of classical music radio programs. The organization now also manages an innovative community concert series, maintains collaborative off-air programs geared towards revitalizing under resourced communities, and is the advocate for and promoter of local music and music-makers. The broad mission of the organization is “to inspire people with the power of classical music.”

The George Foster Peabody Award[edit]

The Society received the coveted George Foster Peabody Award in 1986.

This honor was given to only 28 of over 800 entries and was only the fourth ever received by an Indiana broadcast entity in the 48-year history of the award, administered by the University of Georgia School of Journalism and Mass Communication. What impressed the judges most was the manner in which the Fine Arts Society was able to finance its operations exclusively from private sources.

Each year the Society produces and provides funds for more than 5,400 hours of professionally produced classical music programming. This programming is broadcast on WICR-fm, the radio station of the University of Indianapolis. For the Society's outstanding contribution the Peabody Board recognizes the accomplishments of both the Society itself as well as the individual contribution made by Norbert Neuss, its founder and president.

Classical Music Indy, Inc. is a not-for-profit public charitable trust, under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.


  • President & CEO: Jenny Burch
  • Program Director: Michael Toulouse
  • Producer: Anna Pranger Sleppy
  • Operations Manager: Tierney McGuire
  • Community Programs Manager: Eric Salazar

External links[edit]