People often ask me how Sunday Baroque came into existence. I’d like to say it was a strategically planned effort to address the burgeoning interest in baroque and early music in the late 1980s. However, the truth is that it was a happy accident. With my freshly minted Bachelor’s degree in music performance, I had never even set foot in a radio station before. But when the local public radio station in my hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut advertised several positions I applied. Somehow, for some reason, they hired me. At first, my main job was selling sponsorships to businesses – the Underwriting Director. But the station management also assigned me the Sunday morning on-air shift as a way of training me in the “radio” part of the radio business. Honestly, I’m pretty sure the Program Director told me to “play baroque music” at least in part because he was afraid that a new graduate of music school needed some strict boundaries or else I’d be playing a far-out variety of exotic atonal music.
Being young and enthusiastic I threw myself into this program headfirst. It was called “Sunday Morning Baroque” back then, and it was just a 90-minute local filler program between two network shows. Baroque music occupied just a sliver of my training as a musician up to that point, but this was a golden opportunity to really sink my teeth into it and soak up knowledge. It was immersion learning! Sunday Baroque set me on a path of learning about this genre – about period instruments and the people who play them, about what kind of people the composers were, and so much more. And those remain some of my favorite things to share.
Thinking back to those early days of the program – how every week was an adventure – an opportunity to hear something new, test how something sounded, see what connections existed between various pieces and composers and performers. It’s like looking at the facets of a diamond in different light – there is so much to see if you hold it “just so.” And I figured if it was new to me, it would be new to at least a few listeners, too. As people, we are drawn to stories about other people.
That’s what I still try to keep in mind when I’m programming Sunday Baroque and when I’m thinking about how to talk about the music: what is interesting about this? Who was this person who composed it? What was his world like, and what made him tick? I hope, most of all, that happy accidents keep happening as we explore this music together every week.