Author: Suzanne Bona

Falling for baroque music

The Autumnal Equinox is almost here — Fall begins on Friday, September 22. Baroque era composer and violinist Antonio Vivaldi famously honored each season with a Concerto, and an accompanying sonnet for each. In his AUTUMN Concerto, Vivaldi depicted “The peasant celebrates with song and dance the harvest safely gathered in,” “cooling breezes,” and hunters who “emerge at dawn, ready for the chase.”

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

Vivaldi’s FOUR SEASONS are among his most famous compositions, and some of the “greatest hits” of the baroque era. But did you know that another Italian composer also wrote FOUR SEASONS, accompanied by sonnets, at roughly the same time as Vivaldi? (maybe even a little earlier) His name was Giovanni Antonio Guido, although we know much less about his life than we know about Vivaldi’s. As you welcome the new season, I hope you’ll enjoy listening to Giovanni Antonio Guido’s musical take on AUTUMN.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BgugsHRw4g

Sentimental Journey

This is a milestone week, and I’m feeling sentimental.

On September 6, 1987 I hosted my first radio program! It was a local show on WSHU Public Radio in my hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut and the manager there entrusted me with the responsibility and privilege of being a radio announcer despite my complete lack of experience. Armed with my newly minted degree in music, I had never even set foot in a radio station before that week, and it was truly seat-of-the-pants learning. “Sunday Morning Baroque” was born on that day. It was a 90 minute “filler” program between two network shows, airing from 8:30-10am, and the only instructions given were to “play baroque music.” When I opened that microphone for the first time, it was terrifying and thrilling. If only there were a tape of those first few shows! It changed my life.

Suzanne Bona at WSHU

Suzanne at the WSHU studio (1999)

Listeners like you responded enthusiastically, and Sunday Morning Baroque lived and grew and expanded on WSHU. On September 6, 1998 — eleven years to the day later — the newly renamed “Sunday Baroque” was launched as a national program on four pilot stations in addition to WSHU: WGUC Cincinnati, KBAQ Phoenix, WETA Washington, DC, and WUSF Tampa. Today, more than 170 stations across the United States broadcast the program to hundreds of thousands of listeners, and Sunday Baroque is still growing as we continue to welcome new stations and new music lovers.

Reflecting on these 30 amazing years, it’s clear that listeners like you are the core of our success and growth by every measure. Your calls, letters, emails, and Facebook interactions have provided encouragement, feedback, motivation, guidance and inspiration. You have touched my heart with your countless stories of how the music on Sunday Baroque has entertained, comforted, inspired, amused, and illuminated you in some way. You played the music for your family, and now your kids tell me they grew up listening to the program! And your financial support of Sunday Baroque on your local public radio station has literally made it all possible.

Thirty years ago this week I could never have imagined the path that has unfolded. So while this is technically my sentimental journey, I am profoundly aware that YOU are my treasured traveling companion.
Thank you for taking Sunday Baroque along with you!

Music Hath Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast …

Listening to the news about the effects of Hurricane Harvey this morning, I heard an inspiring story about a Houston businessman who reached out to his neighbors needing shelter. He has a large mattress store, so it was the perfect place for people who needed a safe, dry place to sleep in the aftermath of the devastation. The story was inspiring all on its own, and it warmed my heart even more when the announcer added that the businessman also welcomed people’s pets. Our hearts go out to people devastated by such an unimaginable tragedy. And the tragedy is compounded for someone who must leave behind a beloved pet, so it was especially moving that the big-hearted Houston mattress store owner’s heart is big enough to welcome ALL creatures great and small.

High-Tech Baroque

Once upon a time, if you wanted to hear Sunday Baroque, you had to listen to it on your local radio station at the time it was broadcast. Once the broadcast was over, it was lost forever into the ether. But time marches on, and since I began hosting and producing this program, technology has exploded and there are now many high-tech options for listening.

My favorite things

A confession: I am not fond of “Best of ..” lists. I even find them a bit exasperating. They are especially popular at the ends and beginnings of calendar years, but they pop up year round, too. People often ask me for lists of the “best” baroque music or recordings.

The main reason I don’t care for these well-intentioned lists is their attempt to put an objective categorization on what is typically highly subjective material. My ten favorite compositions (or whatever) might not be yours … and why should anyone’s ten (or hundred) favorites of anything be deemed the “best”? Don’t get me wrong — I certainly have my favorites, whether it’s music or food or recreational activities, and I know you do, too. That’s a good thing! But my favorites can change as my experiences widen, my tastes evolve and even as my mood changes.

My “Hero’s Journey”

Although I frequently interview people as part of my job, I recently sat on the other side of the microphone and was the subject of an interview for a new podcast. Melodic Connections is a community music therapy studio in Cincinnati offering an array of programs for people of all ages with various developmental disabilities. Its students recently created their own podcast called HERO RADIO:STORIES BEYOND THE MUSIC, and they asked to interview me about Sunday Baroque and my life as a musician. I loved meeting and conversing with my interviewers — Quincy, Ashley and “The Joes” — and was impressed by their insightful and compelling questions. They even composed “superhero theme music” which they asked me to play for them on my flute! (A big relief for me, since they usually ask guests to SING their theme music.)
I hope you will listen to my HERO RADIO interview and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes so you can hear what other people say about the importance of music in their lives!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hero-radio-stories-beyond-the-music/id1257084671

Classical music’s future

Rumors of classical music’s demise are greatly exaggerated. As long as I can remember, people have been pronouncing classical music as dying or dead. But last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a young violinist who doesn’t share that view. In some ways Michelle Ross has pursued a traditional path for a classically trained musician: earning a Juilliard School degree, studying Johann Sebastian Bach’s music from a deeply scholarly perspective, and making her debut recording of music by Bach on a borrowed Stradivarius violin.

Party like the Founding Fathers

The “official” baroque era was 1600-1750. To put that into some context, George Washington was born in 1732, Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743, and Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706. They were all born during the baroque era!

An invitation to share your suggestions

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing a variety of fascinating people about their relationship with music. Most of them are musicians, including people such as pianists Leon Fleisher and Simone Dinnerstein, guitarist Sharon Isbin, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, and conductors Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman and Masaaki Suzuki.

How do you spell “inspiration”?

A confession: one of my all-time favorite movies is THE WIZARD OF OZ. I love that the core lesson Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion all learn is that the things they wanted so badly and sought so tenaciously were already in them — they just had to recognize their gifts and believe in themselves. It’s a simple yet powerful lesson for us all, and it came to my mind again last week.