Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

happy 60th, marlboro!

August 13, 2011

the famous "CAUTION" sign at marlboro

There was a lot of talk about it among my colleagues from other stations over the last year: the Marlboro Music Festival is turning 60! What are we going to do?

Of course we all wanted to ‘help’ celebrate the prestigious Festival’s anniversary, but we soon acknowledged there was a bigger issue here. What does that really mean to radio folks, for a Festival that is completely self-sufficient, tremendously successful, and not in the least dependent on media for our help with publicity?

The Marlboro legend was established in 1951, rooted in the deep musicianship of a core group of recent European émigrés: pianist Rudolf Serkin and co-founders Adolf Busch, Hermann Busch and Marcel, Blanche and Louis Moyse. Its  fine reputation has been sustained the same way; through the dedication and consistent excellence of the musicians who play there. Its sole focus is creating the best possible supportive creative experience for the musicians. A popular Marlboro phrase is, “It’s about the music.”

So how could we media outsiders possibly hope to participate in some way in the famously sequestered Festival’s 60th anniversary plans?

Pretty easily, it turns out.

It began with a phone call, then an email – and then a lot of phone calls and emails as I worked to start up a relationship with folks at the Festival. To my delight they were very receptive to the idea of establishing a partnership and cooking up some kind of celebration for their special season. I purchased and sent them a 120 gig hard drive; they returned it filled with music performances from the last dozen seasons. Fantastic. Then my two fellow classical hosts and I planned our “Marlboro Month” celebration, mirroring the Festival’s performance season from July 16th  through August 14th. And I worked with the station’s online team (thanks Tim, Dan and Jonathan!) to create a special page and make a nice selection of performances available for online listening.

A highlight of the summer came with a visit to the Festival on Sunday, July 24th. It was a hot, sunny afternoon and the wooden beams of Persons Auditorium resonated with the sounds of Ravel, Brahms, and Shostakovich. At one moment during the Brahms (the monumental g minor Piano Quintet) a mocking bird outside the auditorium in a nearby tree could be heard echoing a rhythmic figure in the first movement of the piece. It’s just that kind of place.

One of my VPR Classical co-workers stayed over that night and returned to the Festival the next day to record interviews with many of the performers who were there at the time. I’ve been spending time over the last couple of weeks editing those interviews into clips we’ve been airing with our daily Marlboro Month selections. And those clips are now archived online on the “Marlboro Conversations” page. (I have around 1/4 of the interviews edited now – check back for more conversations to be added to the page later!)

Tomorrow marks the final performance of the 60th anniversary season. Around 4pmET the final chords of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy (the traditional closing piece) will resound on the Marlboro campus and another summer of practice, comraderie, partnership, sharing and learning will come to an end for the year’s talented participants.

In the words of veteran violinist Bella Hristova (now concluding her third and final year at Marlboro), “…I think this place is like home for a lot of people because we’re just here for so long, without a break, in the middle of nowhere. So it becomes like a family.”

I’m working on producing a video now that will incorporate the photos, some video footage and many of the Marlboro voices we recorded this summer. It’ll be done soon. Update coming soon here.

Further reading:

Alex Ross’ Marlboro tribute from his blog, The Rest is Noise

NPR’s “Deceptive Cadence” blog: New recordings from Marlboro

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170 million americans – some with four feet.

March 6, 2011

Another week, another selection of thoughtful reflections on the need for continued federal funding for public broadcasting.

Last Monday Steve Yasko, my colleague at WTMD (“Radio for Music People”), offered his thoughts in an article for the Baltimore Sun.  WTMD is a licensee of Twoson University, just north of Baltimore with a format including indie/alt rock and country music. Steve’s argument? The radio station’s connection with the local music scene, and its vital role in the community’s cultural landscape. Yasko also looks beyond his specific region to illuminate the oft-overlooked responsibility public broadcasting has in America’s musical life.

Later in the week NPR’s media correspondent David Folkenflik (a Baltimore Sun vet reporter, by the way) talked with Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO) who authored the bill to de-fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Lamborn agrees that CPB’s ($430 million) funding allotment is a relatively small part of the larger budget picture but at a time of trillion-dollar deficits he believes it’s time for public broadcasting to be self-sustaining.

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday this morning spoke with Reps. Frank Guinta (R-NH) and Xavier Becerra (D-CA) about the stopgap funding measure passed on Friday to prevent a government shutdown. Becerra’ voted against the two-week funding measure: “We’re here to solve some big problems and in terms of the deficit, you have to have a longterm vision and this is not longterm vision to take 218 kids out of  HeadStart so you can cut deficits caused by unfunded wars and very, very bad tax policy that helped very wealthy folks.”

For some persective: this nation is 9 years into two illegal wars with $900 billion – billion – dollars spent or approved to be spent through November of last year, according to the latest stats available various think tanks including the Brookings Institution. (Every American citizen should take the time to review these monthly reports – it’s free information, it’s comprehensive, it’s eye-opening, and it’s YOUR MONEY they’re talking about.)

Can we please have an honest conversation about this as a nation and really look at the longterm picture here?

blumenauer & owens on public broadcasting

March 2, 2011

funding for public broadcasting

February 19, 2011

The House Appropriations Committee has released a Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government when the current CR expires on March 4.

The legislation includes proposed cuts of 61 billion dollars from thousands of public programs.

Early this morning the resolution passed in the House, approving the elimination of all federal support for local public television and radio stations across the nation.

I’ve worked in public radio for 26 years in various professional capacities: Program Director, Music Director, Host, Music Liaison, Assistant Music Director, Special Reporter, Board Op…and I’ve been a public radio and TV consumer for my whole life. My employment depends on the continued strong support of public broadcasting, but – even more importantly – the richness and quality of my life as an informed American does.

The radio stations I work for now receive some federal funding via the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), and the immediate elimination of that funding would certainly have devastating effects. But there are public radio and TV stations around the country, especially in rural areas, that depend on that funding much more than the ones I work for. Today’s vote in the House, if also approved next in the Senate, will change the public media landscape forever in the US and create entire populations without access to the information these media services provide. Ryan Mason talks about this in his article, “Why Cutting Public Funding for PBS Harms Poor Americans More Than Rich“.

Also dependent on these federal funds are the numerous independent producers, filmmakers, journalists, researchers and public projects whose work is funded by CPB grants. Do you know about StoryCorps, the world’s largest oral history project? This, too, is a CPB-funded project. The federal funding in question goes beyond supporting only radio and television. And all of this says nothing about funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, all of which is ALSO proposed to be eliminated.

Some numbers: the United States national deficit this year is roughly $1.27-trillion. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget is $430 million, making it roughly .037 percent of this year’s shortfall. That amounts to a little less than $1.40 per American, with more than 70 percent of that funding going to local radio and TV stations via the CPB. The remaining 30 percent supports the kinds of projects I mention above.

In her thoughtful article, “A Fan’s Case for Ending Federal Support to Public Radio and Public TV“, Jill Lawrence makes the case for eliminating federal funding but doing it gradually as a planned effort: “The most measured approach would be to put CPB on a five- to 10-year phase-out plan, gradually reducing its budget as other means of financing are developed.” That seems a reasonable enough approach to the situation, though we must keep in mind that access to foundation, underwriting, and broad membership support (common other means through which many public TV and radio stations receive funding) are still very limited in rural and lower-income regions.

Please take some time to read the articles linked here and make your own decision about the need for federal funding of public media and public producers, projects, researchers and filmmakers.

The Senate vote on this bill is scheduled to happen during the week of February 28th. You know my viewpoint. If you decide that public media should receive continued funding please join the awareness effort at 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting.  In Vermont we full Congressional support for the federal funding of public media. That’s far from being the case in every state, so if you don’t live in Vermont and you want to send a message of support for funding public media, contact your Senators.

Other viewpoints and related articles:

The Root: “Why Black Americans Should Fight for Public Media”

Rebekah Rast: “Time to Stop Funding Luxuries, Like Public Broadcasting” (ed. note: are investigative journalism and childhood education “luxuries”?)

Laura Walker and Jaclyn Sallee: “The Argument for Funding Public Media”

170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting on facebook

biking in the snow

February 5, 2011

Remember that story we talked about last week, where North Country Public Radio’s reporter Brian Mann went snowshoeing in subzero weather?

Today’s ‘enjoy winter!’ story comes from NPR – they talked with Jeff Clarke of Canaan, Maine. Deep snow and ice don’t even come close to keeping him from getting out for a good bike ride. It does take special bike tires to cut through all of that.

I’m there too. It’s a gorgeously sunny, blue sky morning here today. Just getting back on my feet after a couple of days of stomach flu, but rumor has it there’s a storm on its way this afternoon and I am not going to miss what promises to be some of the best x-country skiing of the year. Talk to you in a few hours, after I get back. Maybe even have some new pictures to share.

best of…

December 7, 2010

The Latin Grammys are over, and the ‘other’ 2010 Grammy nominations have just been announced. Must be early December once again. That means it’s also time for everyone’s list of top music for the year.

A couple to share with you today: NPR’s top 50 Albums of 2010 , and, Jeffrey (aka “Jay Paul”), the world music guru at Burlington’s WRUV-FM, has just  compiled the station’s top 10 world music recordings of 2010 (based on quantity of airplay over the year), here they are:

1.  Gilles Peterson: Havana Cultura Band [on Havana Cultura-Brownswood]
2.  The Souljazz Orchestra: Rising Sun [on Strut Records]
3.  Various artists: The Rough Guide to Afrobeat Revolution [on World Music Network]
4.  Caetano Veloso: Zii e Zie [on Nonesuch]
5.  Various artists: Back to Peru, Vol. 2 [on Vampi Soul Records]
6.  Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté: Ali & Toumani [on Nonesuch]
7.  Fela Kuti: The Best of the Black President [on Knitting Factory Records]
8.  Tommy T: The Prester John Sessions [on Easy Star]
9.  Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Paris Cafe [on World Music Network]
10. Luísa Maita: Lero-Lero [on Cumbancha Discovery]

More to come. The year may be old, but the month is young!

from the top

February 19, 2010

Christopher O'Riley

This time last week I was in the Tarrant Gallery, enjoying a glass of merlot with a few listeners and the producers of NPR’s From the Top.

The show’s host, Christopher O’Riley, had also come for the reception.

There was a moment over kalamata olives and herbed hummus when we realized we shared admiration of the latest Bad Plus recording. (Wendy Lewis, wow – what a great addition to the group. And the piano riffs on Comfortably Numb – Ethan’s a master!)

That’s the thing about Christopher, and in fact, the whole From the Top approach to music. Accessible, conversational, interesting, and – hip. Quite so. No wonder that the show attracts top young talent from all over the States. If you’ve seen it, you know the premise: each week the program visits a new locale and brings to light some of the emerging classical musicians from that area.

Young audience members before the show

Last week the locale was Burlington’s Flynn Center. Before the night was over we had heard from an up-and-coming soprano, a bassoon quartet, an 11-year old cellist, a highschool-aged pianist, and – the entire 93-piece Vermont Youth Orchestra, featuring percussionist Nick Bonaccio with his own improvised knock-down cadenza in the new Schwantner Concerto for Percussion. Hard to tell if he had more fun actually playing the piece, or introducing it by gleefully describing all of the different kinds of drums the piece calls for (bass drum, conga, snares,…) You can decide for yourself when you hear it.*

Besides the weekly spotlight, From the Top also partners with the New England Conservatory and Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to provide 25 scholarships annually to encourage young musicians in their careers. Good stuff all the way around.

*(The Burlington program will air Sunday, May 16th at 5pm ET on VPR Classical.)

my blood – how to help in haiti

January 14, 2010

The only good news coming out of Haiti today is that international relief is beginning to arrive in the wake of Tuesday’s devastating 7.0 earthquake.  With the initial, critical 24-hour rescue window having passed now there is increasingly little hope that more survivors will be found and rescued from the complete and widespread wreckage.

There are ways to help. A little goes a long way in Haiti, which was the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere even before the earthquake struck. NPR’s resource page is a good place to start for safe assistance options, and Haitian musician Wyclef Jean has also launched an earthquake relief website. Just a reminder NOT to respond to e-mails you may receive soliciting donations – it seems like the right thing to do, and it IS the right thing to do if you can, but please do it the right way for the sake of yourself and those who need your help.

I’m reminded of My Blood – the great song that opens the Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon album:  “That’s my blood down there – Jah, turn your head to Haiti – please keep the people strong. Jah, please go down to Haiti – hear my Brothers’ freedom song. That’s my blood down there, oh, on the island, that’s my blood down there…”

the “decade’s” best

December 26, 2009

"Father Time" engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi (circa 1470)

Is it purely pendantic? Or, a mere matter of semantics? I don’t think so.

I know it’s not that folks can’t count, and I’m convinced it’s not a simple matter of mass delusion, either. Although that explanation may actually come closer to the truth than anything else.

What else accounts for the curious phenomena of premature celebration that happens every time the calendar approaches a new decade or century (or millennium)?

Think back to the buildup to the year 2000. Yes, it was certainly something to be alive at a time when we went from noting the year in “19s” to “20s”. It felt special. It was special. But despite the misinformation that many sources kept pushing out, I hold with the camp that the year 2000 was NOT the beginning of the new century NOR the new millennium. That did not happen until the big silver ball in Times Square dropped a year later, at the start of 2001.

(Funny, but I’d swear I can actually hear the sound of eyes rolling right now! Bear with me. Please.)

So here we are at the end of 2009 and the “end of the first decade of the new millennium” lists have already started appearing, even though we still have a whole year ahead before the first decade actually ends. That’s all fine and well, in a sense – a lot of remarkable music and art has been created in the last nine years. It should be acknowledged. But before we can start creating these definitive “best of the first decade” lists, shouldn’t we give the final year of this decade a chance to make its mark first? Who knows WHAT will happen in 2010? It would be a shame to categorically exclude 2010’s contributions because all of the surveys happened a year early, here at the end of 2009.

It is a bit surprising how widespread the “2009-is-the-end-of-the-first-decade” buzz actually is among some fairly high profile media and pop culture contributors, like these:

– From WBUR, the On Point program from this past week devoted to “The End of the ’00s” (which is true, we are coming to the end of the years marked by an ‘0’. That does NOT make the end of 2009 the end of the millennium’s first decade! Come on, Tom, we expect better journalism from you.)

– From NPR, The Decade’s 50 Most Important Recordings (whose introductory paragraph begins with this erroneous opening statement, “With the first decade of the new millennium coming to a close, we decided to compile a list of the 50 most important recordings of the past 10 years…” )

…and then there are also the regular ol’ “end of the decade lists”, here are a few:

– WNYC’s program Soundcheck, reviewing the Decade in Jazz and World music

– From the Guardian UK, The Observer Music Monthly’s Top 50 Albums of the Decade

– ABC News’ “End of the Decade” survey

Personally I advocate celebrating the beginning of every new year like it’s the new millennium. Calendars are just another relatively meaningless form of subjective, human-designed time management anyway, right? And life itself is reason enough to celebrate. But in the effort of consistency (and acknowledging the indisputable fact that we’ve universally accepted the Gregorian calendar to keep track of our time) I’m not sure why, as a society, we’d consciously choose to stop short on this not insignificant point of accuracy: the second millennium’s first decade does not conclude until Dec. 31st, 2010.

Best wishes to you for the new year, starting later this week, and for the start of the millennium’s second decade – when it arrives a year from now.


  • Celebrating the start of the new millennium in 2001 may have been accurate, but you may recall it was far from being the popular position. Douglas Adams approached the topic in his own, typically wry way: check out Adams’ “timeline” of millennial celebrations.
  • As the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke would seem a natural expert on the topic. He celebrated the start of the new millenium on Jan. 1, 2001 at his home in Sri Lanka
  • Australia’s prime minister John Howard was voted “biggest party pooper of the century” by many of the country’s newspapers, when he advocated for national millennial celebrations to be scheduled for new year’s eve on Dec. 31st, 2000. Love that!

Ed. NOTE, 12/31/09: Just to be clear, the problem here is not someone stating that Dec. 31st, 2009 is the “end of a decade”. By definition, a “decade” is a ten-year period of time. Any 10-year period. Feel free to claim the “end of a decade” every Dec. 31st if you need to hang on to that milestone to create a “best of” music list, or for any other reason you choose. BUT – Dec. 31st, 2009 is NOT the “end of the first decade of this millennium“. That’s where the declamation runs an indisputable factual roadblock…we have another year to enjoy the first decade of the second millennium, so let’s just relax, hold off on the “best of the first decade of the second millennium” surveys for now and let’s see what the next year has in store for us. Around this time next year, we can take a look back with the full perspective of 10 years time and assess what the “best of” lists should hold as we review the first decade of the millennium. Happy new year!

heard on the radio

December 11, 2009

A couple of interesting music stories in the news this week:

::  Recreating the harpsichord/viola , a hybrid instrument of Leonardo DaVinci’s design from 1488. (Yes, but now what will we do with all the jokes for SOLO viola?)

::  And, from On Point with Tom Ashbrook, a discussion with author Eric Siblin about the enduring mystery and allure of Bach’s Cello Suites.

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