Q: How long have you been with WKSU?
That depends on how you count the years. It could be anywhere from 14 years to 27.
This is because I've been with WKSU twice. The first time was from March of 1978 to September of 1990. I returned in January of 1997, initially doing some part time work. Since the spring of that year, I've been full time music director.
Q: Where are you from originally?
Canton, Ohio. I was born in Mercy Hospital. It's gone now. The Canton Public Library now stands where Mercy was, which seems somehow appropriate.
Q: At what other radio stations have you worked?
Well, I did some college radio. I did production, a bit of news reading, a folk show, and a classical show. Then, before I joined WKSU, I did a little time in a tiny commercial station. They even let me have a classical show there too for a while. That would never happen today.
While I was away from WKSU in the 1990s, I worked for public stations in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Virginia. I was a music director, program director, and station manager. I found that I like doing music best, so here I am.
Q: What do you like about classical music?
You know, I just realized that no one has ever asked me that before! It's kind of like asking "What do you like about your mate." After enough years, it's not easy to remember what brought you together, is it? Well, classical music and I have been an item at least since I was in high school.
Beauty? Check. Intelligence? Check. Similar interests and background? Check. What can I say? We're compatible. We make beautful music together.
Q: Who is your favorite composer?
Now that question I get a lot, and it's even tougher to answer. I've always named a couple of names when I've been asked. But come to that, is there any composer for whom I can say, "I love everything he wrote"? No.
However, I could probably come up with a list of maybe a few dozen WORKS that I never get tired of. I'm a chorister, and a lot of them are vocal pieces that I love to sing. Naming just a few major works, in no particular order, I'd list Mahler's Second; the Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music, Mystical Songs, and Dona Nobis Pacem; Durufle's Requiem and Gregorian Motets; Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms; Poulenc's Gloria; Haydn's Little Organ Mass, a work that deserves to be better known; the Mozart Requiem.
Hildegard's Ordo Virtutum fascinates me. I'd love to sing it, but I can't, because it's for women's voices. I'd be qualified for the devil's role. He doesn't get to sing, just shout, and of course he's sent back to where he belongs in the end, but that would still be fun!
Let's not forget Handel's Messiah. I could sing Messiah every December for the rest of my life, and never get tired of it.
Q: Do you have a favorite musical ensemble?
Another tough choice. There are so many good ensembles out there. The level of musicianship all over the world just keeps climbing.
But what I love most is hearing music live. And we have some world class ensembles right here in Northeast Ohio - Apollo's Fire, the Cleveland Orchestra. And great regional talent - the Akron Symphony, for example; the Canton Symphony.
I'm really excited about what Debra Nagy is doing with Les Delices. They're going to go far.
Q: What do you see in the future for classical music?
I don't have a pithy one-sentence answer for you, except to say that it's going to hang in there. So please forgive me if I get a little long-winded.
I think it's kind of entertaining that about every decade or so some self-appointed musical pundit pops up and wails, "Look at all the grey hair! The classical audience is dying! All is lost!" And then, somehow, we get through another decade, and what do you know, musicians are still making classical music, and audiences are still coming to hear them.
Look at the audiences that Apollo's Fire pulls in. They fill the house. Look at the Akron Symphony. They're doing a semi-staged Porgy and Bess; they started with one night, and they had such a huge demand for tickets that they had to add a second night.
Sure, you see grey hair in these audiences. So? Classical audiences are older than rock audiences. It's been that way for as long as I can remember. Don't panic.
I think the day of the superstar classical musician is over, but that's not a recent development. The kind of wild, unbridled adulation that Haydn got in London, or Mozart got in Vienna, or our own Gottschalk got in Brazil - that baton passed to Elvis Presley in the 1950s, to the Beatles in the 1960s. Still, it's possible to make a very nice living in classical music. Some conductors are pulling down seven figure salaries. But a lot more are in six figures and plenty are in five. Really, it's great that some folks can do well, but you do music not for the money, you do it because it's in your soul, because you can't do anything else.
That holds in recorded music, too.
In the 1940s, 50s, into the 60s and 70s, the big media companies had classical divisions because they thought it gave them credibility and prestige. In recent years some of them have either dumped classical music, or knocked it around so much that it's ready to sue for divorce.
What remains of the big media classical divisions now tend to be run by people with MBAs rather than music degrees. Not that I have anything against MBAs, but you can tell from what and who they record. For all that, they're still here, still recording. Sony BMG is still doing classical, along with Universal and EMI, and Warner, to some extent.
Naxos is thriving, in part by being remarkably fleet-footed. They record a stupefying amount of classical music, and sell it cheaply, and also distribute a bunch of the smaller labels. They're experiementing with different distribution models. I don't agree with everything they do, but I say "bravo" for their pluck.
A lot of the real dedication in classical recording these days comes from the little kids skittering round the big guys' ankles. These are the small and medium sized independent labels - Bis, Harmonia Mundi, Analekta, Chandos, Marquis, Hyperion, Avie, and Dorian, for example. Right in Chicago we have Cedille, a nonprofit label. There are lots of others. These companies are mostly run not by MBAs, but by people who love classical music. Some incredible music making is coming out of the one-, two-, and three-person shops.
I can't deny that there are some clouds on the horizon. Classical music, at least here in the US, relies heavily on philanthropy. In my view that isn't really that much different from the patronage system that supported musicians centuries years ago. Unfortunately, foundations and contributors are having a tough time of it right now, and support is still weak.
For the big picture on this, I think it's instructive to look back to the 18th century. A lot of Mozart's money troubles were his own fault, but he lost commissions thanks to the fiscal drain of the Turkish war. Wealthy music lovers also had less to spend on their hobby as the emperor's humanist reforms took money out of their pockets.
The details are different, of course, but isn't that a lot like what we have today here in the States? Billions of dollars are going overseas to fight wars, and we're 30-plus years into a long decline in public support of the arts. Well, music survived the financial challenges of the 18th century, and it'll survive the financial challenges of the 21st. Again, don't panic.
As I see it, we're still going to have concerts. We're still going to have recordings. Concert tickets may cost more, and we may be downloading our music instead of buying it on CDs. But classical music isn't going anywhere. It's lasted centuries, and it'll still be here a hundred years from now.