Recently I spoke to a group of public radio donors in Phoenix who love the programming on their all-classical station. The topic was my opinion of the general state of classical music, and what I think the future holds. One of the points I made is that we — as in, those of us who are passionate about classical music — may inadvertently pose a threat. Really!
There are so many extraordinarily talented musicians in the world. I had a chance to attend a live performance by one of them last week: Chris Thile. He’s one of those rare people whose technical command of his instrument is so complete and effortless that every sound he makes expresses his exceptional artistry.
Each year, for the Sunday closest to September 11, I try to craft a Sunday Baroque program that addresses this terrible, heartbreaking anniversary. It’s not easy. I start thinking about it months ahead of the date, and it percolates actively in my brain throughout that time, because it is such an enormous and painful wound for our country and for our world. With the musical choices, I want to acknowledge the tragedy, but also honor resilience and heroism. The range of music should be solemn, but also uplifting and hopeful. Despite hosting and producing Sunday Baroque for more than 29 years, I still find the September 11 program my most challenging show to craft every year. It never gets easier, and apparently my classical radio colleagues feel the same way. We have a Facebook forum, and many of the posts recently showed people grappling with the same challenges and sharing ideas for how to approach this important and sensitive day in our history. Reading the variety of input from thoughtful classical music radio programmers all over, it occurred to me that the process of coming together, talking openly, encouraging one another and sharing ideas was much like the process of healing from a tragedy. We really do get by with a little help from our friends. In whatever way you are marking this solemn date, I hope you find peace, healing and inspiration from loving friends and uplifting music.
Flying home from a family wedding over Labor Day weekend, my seatmate on the plane turned out to be an avid and longtime public radio listener and supporter. The lovely and interesting woman described how she had lived in several states over the years, moving for jobs and family. She was flying back to her relatively new home in a new city near her son. Just before our plane landed, she leaned over to add, “You know, I’ve made all these moves to places where I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t know my way around. But as soon as I found the local public radio stations, and my favorite programs, it was so comforting. I instantly felt at home.” I know exactly how she feels!
Students are returning to school this time of year, and I’ve been thinking a lot about teachers and mentors. Specifically, I’m recalling the many wonderful people who guided me on my path over the course of my educational life and beyond. These caring role models not only imparted their knowledge about the subjects they taught, they modeled what it meant to be deeply committed to one’s work.
Last week I made my third visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Are you surprised that someone who hosts a baroque radio program would be interested in a Rock and Roll museum? Are you curious why a classical flutist with a music degree would care about the Beatles, the Stones, Prince and Eric Clapton, to name just a few? Or perhaps it makes perfect sense to you, based on your own musical tastes.
A recent article in the NY Times caught my attention. It was a review of performances in the Mostly Mozart Festival’s new venue – a 230 seat space used for part of the concert series – and it also advocated for smaller venues, in general, for classical music performances. (“Let’s Get Intimate. Big Music Doesn’t Need Huge Halls” by ANTHONY TOMMASINI AUG. 3, 2016)
A beautiful video circulating online features the extraordinary effects of music on elderly residents of a nursing home. Otherwise silent and unresponsive people with dementia came alive when their favorite music was played for them. Their faces brightened, their eyes sparkled, their smiles beamed brightly, and they often began to sing along. It inspired the documentary ALIVE INSIDE.