A live radio broadcast series of a top-notch symphony orchestra has fallen into my lap. Why? Because it was a good idea and clearly nobody else was going to do it. There’s apparently been talk for years about potential collaboration between the Rice University student-run radio station KTRU and the Shepherd School of Music, but nobody has ever had the time or made the effort to commit to putting it together. As director of External Ventures at KTRU and a student of music composition at Shepherd, arranging live concert broadcasts of the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra seemed like an easy task. I thought all it took was just hooking up the right wires, getting the right people to say yes and then pressing play. Five broadcasts later I’ve learned my lesson that it takes far more than wires and signatures to make a successful radio show.
The process of experimentation has been exciting. There are no rules and the program is brimming with possibilities. I can be as creative as I want—I could reinvent classical radio. Which is sort of the problem: how, exactly, do you reinvent classical radio? What the hell does it even mean to do creative classical programming? For our upcoming broadcast of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, I’m opening with a mash-up of Walter Murphy’s A Fifth of Beethoven (a remix of the famous motive from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, used in the movie Saturday Night Fever) and Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” I’ll also be featuring interviews with the chorus directors from the University of Houston—Kelly Turner and Betsy Weber—and Thomas Jaber, director of the Rice Chorale. I’m expecting at least 200 listeners.
The greatest, most unexpected pleasure of this series has come from the families of Shepherd students. Giving parents from around the world the chance to be a part of their son or daughter’s university accomplishments has been extremely rewarding. I’ve received several thank-you e-mails and phone calls from parents; I’ve heard we have listeners from Canada to New Zealand. Another unexpected pleasure has been making students feel special. I ask them for an interview, I show them that their talent and their hard work is appreciated, and I give their families a chance to be proud. And, you know, it feels good to get some recognition every once in a while. For anyone curious enough to listen, I keep an archive of past interviews and special programming on our new KTRU blog.
Producing my own broadcast series has been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a ton. But I’m running low on new programming ideas. Tell me, what would you do if you had your own broadcast series of orchestra concerts? Would anybody with radio experience care to offer some advice?