Author: Suzanne Bona

World Kindness Day

Today is (apparently) World Kindness Day. I was alerted to this by a kind friend, and in looking up the observance I learned it was established on November 13, 1997 by a consortium of humanitarian groups. They wanted to encourage people to do something kind, whether it’s donating time, money or goods to a worthy organization or person, or committing an act of kindness — large or small — for a friend or stranger.

I LOVE the idea of World Kindness Day, and the idea of kindness has been looming large in my consciousness, especially lately. In the last few days alone I have been the recipient of kind words from Sunday Baroque listeners telling me how much they enjoy the music on the program. I experienced the kindness of two extraordinarily talented musician friends who shared their artistry with an enthusiastic audience to benefit a local public radio station, AND extended the kindness of letting me perform with them. I also witnessed the kindness of a group of people — including several strangers — spending hours helping a friend search for a beloved missing pet.

Being kind is simple and inexpensive, and yet quite valuable. It benefits the recipient as well as the giver of the kindness, and it benefits society.  So I’m on a mission today to seek out ways to commit random acts of kindness, and I invite you to join me. Do something kind, witness an act of kindness, or accept an act of kindness and pass it along. Thanks for YOUR kindness!

 

 

Keeping it Fresh

We are marking the 30th anniversary of Sunday Baroque — the program I originated on WSHU Public Radio as a local show, and which we ultimately began distributing nationally 19 years ago. Listeners frequently ask me how I keep Sunday Baroque fresh week after week, especially after so many years. Probably the most important factor is that I retain the same wonder and enthusiasm for sharing music as I did in the beginning — maybe even more so, as I’ve learned and experienced more myself. There was an interview with a commercial airline pilot on another public radio show recently, in which she shared that she still feels the same exhilaration and wonder about launching a 175,000 pound metal tube filled with people into the air (and eventually landing it) safely. Her words resonated, because even though it’s not the same kind of scientific achievement, I retain a sense of wonder about the music, and about my role in sharing it. (AND I, too, think that flight technology is miraculously wonderful!)

Each week I approach Sunday Baroque as a blank canvas, and ask myself a number of questions, such as: What is a wonderful recording I’m excited to share? What significant event or holiday is happening in the world? What cool things are my fellow musicians (or other interesting people) doing? How can I connect these events with music to share with listeners? What extraordinary recording — new or old — do I want to spotlight? What compelling story ought to be shared — about a musician, composer, composition … ?

I know someone new is tuning in EVERY time … someone who has not yet cultivated a passion for this music … and I try to listen with that person’s ears and experiences, and to help them feel welcome and appreciate what is special about the music. I also know there are some listeners who know a lot about the music already, and it’s a fun task to find new angles to keep them engaged, too. I want to craft an entertaining listening experience that invites anyone who appreciates good music performed well. I want to provide context and information — just a little bit! — to enhance the listening experience, intrigue and tantalize. With more than two centuries’ worth of music to mine, and thousands of CDs to choose from, that blank canvas becomes easy to fill! Thanks to the extraordinary evolution of technology in these 30 years, listener feedback is more immediate and comprehensive, too. In those early years, the phone, the US postal service and face-to-face meetings were the only means of communication with you. Today, the internet has facilitated email and multiple social media platforms, as well as making Sunday Baroque available across the globe.

It’s my privilege and pleasure to share this music with you, and I look forward ever-enthusiastically to what the future brings. Thank you for listening, whether you’ve been with me from the beginning 30 years ago, or if you’ve only recently discovered Sunday Baroque.

 

 

 

 

Lifelong learning

If you follow Sunday Baroque on Facebook, you may have seen the recent posts from Germany. I was privileged to travel with a group of music lovers to significant places, including Berlin, Leipzig, Köthen, Arnstadt, and Dresden, where we were steeped in the history, architecture, art and music of the region, including several musical performances. This was a group of experienced travelers, some of whom had been to these cities before our trip. It was also a group of sophisticated concertgoers, who regularly attend musical performances in their own communities across the United States. And yet, what was so extraordinary — and inspiring — was the sense of wonder, enthusiasm, delight, and appreciation for everything we encountered. We learned new things about Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and other musicians — not just their music, but their personal lives and the world in which they lived. We also gained more nuanced perspectives about historical events in world history as we walked the streets where they occurred. It was an affirmation and a welcome reminder that we can always learn something new when were are open to the experience. I return to work now with a renewed sense of optimism and appreciation for new experiences in everyday life, and I thank my fellow travelers for their inspiring spirit and attitudes.

Transformation

Not long ago, a listener sent me a message saying how much he enjoys Sunday Baroque. He identified himself as an “old rocker” who grew up in the 70s and 80s but who, nevertheless, finds himself newly captivated by baroque music. It reminded me of an interview I heard recently with travel expert Rick Steves, in which he talked about the “transformational” experience of travel. He pointed out how when you go to someplace new, somewhere you’ve never been and may have questions about, and where you may not even speak the language, it can transform you. That “old rocker” listener’s comments demonstrate that music can be transformational, too. Someone might assume he won’t like classical music because rock has been his staple genre, but when he listens to Sunday Baroque he finds the music comforting, appealing, even familiar.

Not everyone is as fortunate as I was to have classical music in my life from the beginning, but I hope some will find their way to it through Sunday Baroque and feel welcome and … transformed. I remind myself often that there is ALWAYS someone hearing this music for the first time, just as I am still discovering music and genres I didn’t know I’d enjoy. How about you? Do you recall your first introduction to classical music? Were you like the “old rocker” who found his way to baroque music or the broader classical music tradition later in life? How did that happen? Was it transformational in some way? Please share your story!

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