When Muschi Mayflower was in the 11th grade, an orchestra in her small East German town played a symphony that exploded the constricted musical world she had inhabited.

Outside the home, where her mother played the piano and her father sang operettas, Mayflower's exposure to music was limited to the "communist marching songs" she was forced to learn.

She doesn't know why the authorities allowed the performance of George Gershwin's "An American in Paris," but the concert left her with a musical sense of adventure that can be heard Sunday nights on the airwaves of KMUN.

"It was like a revelation," Mayflower remembers. "I had never heard anything like it. It was just the most beautiful, exciting music."

Mayflower fled East Germany shortly after the concert and shortly before the Berlin Wall was built. She was reunited with her mother, from whom she'd been separated by the Iron Curtain since age 7.

In the free West, Mayflower made it a point to listen to music of every kind. She moved to London and began collecting records, even before she could afford a record player.

"I could not do without music," she says.

On her program "Muschi's Nachtmusik," Mayflower plays classical music from the obscure medieval to the obscure contemporary. She avoids the popular classics, including Mozart's famous "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" - roughly translated, "A Little Bit of Night Music" - from which her program takes its name.

"I don't play Mozart or Beethoven because everyone else does," she says.

Instead, Robert Schumann's "Traumerei" - dreaming in English - serves as an occasional theme song.

Mayflower is fond of the cello, piano and vocal music such as madrigals and Gregorian chants. She enjoys music from the Spanish Renaissance and contemporary composers such as the experimental John Cage (though she's never played his "4'33"," which is completely silent, on the air).

At first, Mayflower was afraid listeners would reject her German accent - softened now after 40 years in America - on the radio. But that has turned out to be an asset rather than a liability.

"I have the advantage of being able to pronounce all those foreign names," she says.

In her seven years on the air, Mayflower has become a student of classical music minutiae. She spends her time in the air room reading up on composers' lives and other technical tidbits surrounding the music. She shares the information with an appreciative audience.

And just who is listening late on Sunday nights? Mayflower says she's never really sure, but she gets regular phone calls from artists and writers working late into the night, and occasionally a baker just starting his day.

"Some people tune in to just really listen," she says. "It's kind of funny. Some of them are Germans."

- Benjamin Romano

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