How to program classical music, in ten easy lessons!
Having opined about another radio station's classical programming philosophy in a recent post, I thought it only fair that I put my own programming ideas out there for similar scrutiny. So, derived from talks I've given to listener groups over the years, and with apologies to David Letterman and his Top Ten lists, here goes...
1. Our goal at WFCR is to play the best music possible for the most listeners possible. And we take both parts of that statement equally seriously.
2. Every time we play a piece of music, someone is hearing it for the first time. Beethoven's 5th, the Four Seasons, Pachelbel's Canon...you name it, someone hadn't heard it before. And if we don't play such pieces, chances are that lots of people will never hear them.
3. Each piece, from the grandest symphony down to the tiniest encore, should be as a gift to the listeners — so good that, if it's the only thing a listener will have time to hear that day, it will still have been worthwhile to tune in.
4. Your music, like your veggies, are best when fresh and local. So play lots of new music and new releases, and plenty of music made in or coming to our listening area.
5. Pieces and performances do not have an inherent right to be heard. Rather, they earn airplay by having something to offer the listener.
6. Make every day different, every day special, and every day as appealing as the last. The listeners don't take days off; neither should we.
7. Anything worth playing once is worth repeating. So, if something sounds good, play it again. And again. Each play reaches a mostly different audience.
8. Play at least one piece (ideally, more than one) by a living composer every day. WFCR, like every classical music institution, should do its part to keep classical music moving forward.
9. Play at least one "golden age" performer every day. The music of the immortals must never be allowed to fall silent.
10. Keep it fun! While some of us are or may have been reluctant to admit it, we classical broadcasters are in the entertainment business.
And a bonus point that trumps all of the above: It's the listener's show, not WFCR's. Everything must be done with the listener in mind.
Photo: An unidentified programmer at New York's WQXR, from back when radio folks dressed better than they do now.