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NY Times is selling its classical radio station, WQXR


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The NY Times reports that it is selling WQXR to WNYC and Univision in a deal which will shift the station's location on the fm dial and reduce its reach, but will keep it classical. Most likely it will be run by WNYC and become listener-supported.

As someone who grew up with QXR in the background, but who now lives far away, I wonder how New Yorkers on Ballet Talk are dealing with the news. What do you think about it? What do you expect will happen?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/arts/music/15radio.html?hp

Note: vipa was responding to my first draft at the same time that I was editing to add the WNYC info. Thus the duplication of information in our two posts.

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The NY Times reports that it is selling WQXR in a deal which will move the station's location on the radio dial, decrease its listenership area BUT keep it classical.

As someone who grew up with QXR in the background, but who now lives far away, I wonder how New Yorkers on Ballet Talk are dealing with the news. What do you think about it? What do you expect will happen?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/arts/music/15radio.html?hp

The good news is, as I read today, that WNYC is buying WQXR. I expect the station to continue its classical music mission, but perhaps improve. Personally I've found the programing a bit boring and unadventurous, so this might be an improvement.

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WQXR was a constant presence in my life. From as far back as I can remember, to this day, my mother turns it on in the morning and off late at night (although the radio next to her bed stays on 24/7). The only time it wasn't turned on was the day after my father died in 1991. It stayed off for a few days, then returned as routine life returned to the house. When Gregg Whiteside was fired, it was a personal tragedy for my mom.

I surely hope the programs will continue to present lots of wonderful music to fill the day and that the reception on Long Island will remain clear. Living in Canada and listening to Toronto's main classical station gives quite a contrast as one perceives how limited Toronto's selection of music is. The same pieces are played over and over. When I go home to New York, it is refreshing to hear an enormously wider range of classical music, as well as show tunes, jazz, pops, etc.

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The NY Times reports that it is selling WQXR in a deal which will move the station's location on the radio dial, decrease its listenership area BUT keep it classical.

As someone who grew up with QXR in the background, but who now lives far away, I wonder how New Yorkers on Ballet Talk are dealing with the news. What do you think about it? What do you expect will happen?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/arts/music/15radio.html?hp

The good news is, as I read today, that WNYC is buying WQXR. I expect the station to continue its classical music mission, but perhaps improve. Personally I've found the programing a bit boring and unadventurous, so this might be an improvement.

The programming of the classical station in my area isn't what you'd call daring, either, but it's the only classical channel so you take what you can get. It will be interesting to see how the station does in its new position on the dial. In radio as in real estate, location matters.

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Incredibly, I thought that had folded years ago. I never listen to the radio, it's as simple as that, I guess. But I never liked the station all that much when I did. I believe Bob Sherman's show was on WQXR, wasn't it? If so, I played something with the cellist Kermit Moore on there around 1974. Of the classical radio stations of the last few decades here, I thought WNCN was the smartest. I do remember with amusement WQXR as doing a lof of Carl Ditters Von Dittersdorf and other rather obscure composers more than I thought they would at some point in the 80s. There's another compser I never heard of otherwise that they were always playing, maybe he will come to me. Yes, I believe it was Max Reger, they did put him on the map for me. And a fairly good amount of Smetana and a tendency to schmaltz.

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For me, WQXR was George Jellinek's "The Vocal Scene", Boris Goldovsky's program on Thursday nights -- I remember listening to it on the car radio (my dad's) on my way home from my Girl Scout meeting! -- the Met Opera Broadcasts, and the Sunday night opera. I, too, found the programming pretty staid, much like Seattle's KING-FM, which also does local arts broadcasts (Seattle Opera, live; Seattle Symphony and Seattle Chamber Music series, recorded live and broadcast later.) When I was growing up, though, there were three stations dedicated to classical music: WQXR, WNCN, and WNYC, and the latter had two back-to-back new and contemporary music programs in the afternoons, hosted by Tim Page and John Schaeffer.

In an online discussion in The Washington Post in 2002, Tim Page spoke to this:

Alexandria:

Have you seen the article (by Stephen Budiansky) about WGMS and WETA's classical music programming in this month's (March 2002) "Atlantic" magazine? Basically it gets the station managers to admit that they provide background music, more than a classical music listening experience. Your thoughts?

Tim Page: I haven't seen the article. But I know that this is true at most of the classical radio stations in the country. I think it's awful -- in my day, when I hosted a program on WNYC-FM, we could play anything we wanted. But that's not even true at WNYC any more. It is sad but a lot of stations provide Muzak for people who are too sophisticated to listen to Muzak.

(I couldn't find the Budiansky article on the Atlantic website.)

and

Tim Page: What we have to remember is that classical music radio really isn't aimed at us anymore. It's a "lifestyle" accessory on too many stations. Awful...

http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/z.../page022002.htm

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With IPods and other MP3 players it's easy to make one's own, "personalized" playlist. What's missing, however, is relationship with those oldtime hosts, the commentary that often opened new doors, and the chance to experience the serendipity of a piece of music you'd never heard of before.

We're fortunate in Palm Beach County to have 2 public radio stations: one primarily talk, the other locally-produced classical (for most of the day).

Very important for me in those long-ago days in New York City was knowing that many OTHER people were listening at the same time. Friends actually talked about what they heard on classical music radio. Programs were frequently tied to an upcoming concert.

In New York in the 60s and 70s, my favorite was NCN. I did listen to Jellinick and (especially) Goldovsky when possible. Thanks, Helene, for reminding me about them.

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Very important for me in those long-ago days in New York City was knowing that many OTHER people were listening at the same time. Friends actually talked about what they heard on classical music radio. Programs were frequently tied to an upcoming concert.

I think this is one of the triumphs of the Met broadcasts on Sirius/XM/Rhapsody: when I was on the Opera-L list, the curtain hadn't even hit the stage before the emails would start to fly to discuss the previous act.

In those days, you knew you were part of an audience by feel. With the Internet, there's an immediate, direct response.

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Very important for me in those long-ago days in New York City was knowing that many OTHER people were listening at the same time. Friends actually talked about what they heard on classical music radio. Programs were frequently tied to an upcoming concert.

And that reminds me that I did value WQXR very much, because there were two older ladies, sisters and both deceased by now, who listened to it every day for 35 years or more. It was such a tinny radio I forgot that that was indeed why they knew such a lot about classical music. They always wanted to hear 'Les Preludes' and 'tone poems', as they called them. They were French and disliked Debussy and Ravel, though! Loved 'The Planets' and 'Til Euilenspiegal'. I miss them. And Helene does remind me that I did enjoy the Met broadcasts (always at their apartment.)

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Living in Canada and listening to Toronto's main classical station gives quite a contrast as one perceives how limited Toronto's selection of music is.

Marga, perhaps you'd be able to comment on how Toronto's Classical FM fared when it changed ownership. I don't live in Toronto, and 96.3 FM isn't included in my satellite TV package--Montreal's Radio-Classique is--but I have to admit that I felt some trepidation when I learned that Moses Znaimer had bought the station. I was afraid it would deteriorate the same way Bravo had, as is changed from a supposed arts channel into a depository for Law & Order re-runs. That was a deterioration that Znaimer, apparently, did little to stop. (I have to admit that Bravo has improved ever so slightly since it was bought by CTV.)

What's missing, however, is relationship with those oldtime hosts, the commentary that often opened new doors, and the chance to experience the serendipity of a piece of music you'd never heard of before.

It's interesting that you felt this way toward the radio hosts. (I'm glad you do, given that I'm a radio announcer myself!) Several years ago the employees of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation went on strike, so programming on its FM channel, which has since jettisoned most of its classical music programming, consisted of wall-to-wall classical music. I loved it. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's self-important radio hosts in love with the sound of their own voices. (It's why I aim to talk as little on the air as humanly possible.) Honestly, I was sorry when the talking resumed.

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Volcanohunter, the people I'm thinking of -- and I can't remember most of the names -- provided an education. With some shows, like Goldovsky's, you listened to learn. These guys knew a lot. There were interviews, too. It was a lot more than just introduction to or brief commentary on the piece. There were, of course, shows like that too. Helene and others, those who have amazing memories, will be able to talk about specifics.

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I. for one, am looking forward to the change. As a long time listener I have been put off these last few years with the quality and frequency of their commercials. I have had enough of offensive seafood restaurant commercials and hospital ads for dreaded diseases, and end of life care. My only hope is that they take most of their staff with them.

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Thanks, atm711. On a radio station the frequency of commercials often reflects the financial health of the station, alas. Generally, the more commercials the better the station is doing, unless it's getting public money.

The listener demographic is often reflected in the type of commercials run, as well. End of life ads are not a good sign, I fear. Reminds me of all those ads for restoratives of lost manhood they run on the Golf Channel.

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As a long time listener I have been put off these last few years with the quality and frequency of their commercials.

I wonder whether this will change under the conditions of their new license. Are listener-supported stations even allowed to play that many ads?

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I loved George Jellinek's "The Vocal Scene" and used to listen to Nimet Habachy's overnight program. I was took part in 2-3 broadcasts of McGraw-Hill Young Artists Showcase. It was a great opportunity. There was, on either WNYC or WQXR, a program I really loved. It had a panel of 3 or so experts and then the host played the same piece played by different musicians. The panel weighed in. It reminds me very much of what we do here with dancers or what you read in the comments section on YouTube.

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Bart, what you say really hits home with me. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, I felt like a complete freak because of my obsession with classical music. But on the radio, there were voices talking passionately and knowledgeably about it, and I think I realized too, somewhere in the back of my mind, that there must be other people out there like me, silently listening in their bedrooms, an invisible community. I'm glad that it will continue at least a little while longer in New York.

But times change. I have to admit, aside from waking up to WQXR, I never listen to the radio anymore. And while it's fitting to lament the loss of something that was so meaningful to so many of us, it seems something will always come along to fill the void. Nowadays, for me, aside from a few blogs I keep up with, it's largely online forums like this one. And one of the best things about them is that we no longer have to be invisible--if we choose, every single one of us can add your own voice to the community discussion. It turns out there are many, many people out there just as knowledgeable as those radio announcers, and now they don't have to make a career out of it to share their insight and passion. I myself mostly lurk on this and various other sites, but I can't tell you how much I've learned from all of you, and how many performances I've been roused to go out and see that I otherwise would have skipped. Really, it's a fantastic phenomenon for which I'm incredibly grateful.

And when I'm here, I sometimes think about a boy in some far-flung place, with no classical radio or local ballet, obsessively logging in to this site over and over each day, spending hours on YouTube, feeding his brain and his soul and--I fervently hope--feeling a little less lonely in the world.

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WQXR used to have another excellent program called "Music at First Hearing" -- a panel of 3 music critics (occasionally a musician among them) would listen to and "judge" parts or all of a couple of new recordings, without being told who was performing until after they delivered their verdicts. It was really interesting to hear the different "takes" and seeing how they matched up with either received wisdom or the critics' previous opinions about the artists. And, yes, George Jellinek's show was pretty wonderful - it was really sad hearing his final broadcast, which ended poignantly with the "farewell" section of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony. I confess I haven't listened much to the station lately - too many short, lightweight pieces and too much grade B Baroque "elevator" music. I hope things change for the better.

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WQXR used to have another excellent program called "Music at First Hearing" -- a panel of 3 music critics (occasionally a musician among them) would listen to and "judge" parts or all of a couple of new recordings, without being told who was performing until after they delivered their verdicts. It was really interesting to hear the different "takes" and seeing how they matched up with either received wisdom or the critics' previous opinions about the artists. And, yes, George Jellinek's show was pretty wonderful - it was really sad hearing his final broadcast, which ended poignantly with the "farewell" section of Haydn's "Farewell" Symphony. I confess I haven't listened much to the station lately - too many short, lightweight pieces and too much grade B Baroque "elevator" music. I hope things change for the better.

Yes, that's it! Thanks.

I miss all these shows - most of which the hosts have retired. The current station was not one that I listened to, except when there were Met broadcasts or the broadcasts of full symphony programs.

Reading about Jellinek sent me to google, where I found a cool feature on his last broadcast:

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/11/2...currentPage=all

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I love those ads because they have surpassed the 'feminine hygiene' ads. That is true liberation.

Oh yes, I remember those.....

Bart, what you say really hits home with me. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, I felt like a complete freak because of my obsession with classical music. But on the radio, there were voices talking passionately and knowledgeably about it, and I think I realized too, somewhere in the back of my mind, that there must be other people out there like me, silently listening in their bedrooms, an invisible community. I'm glad that it will continue at least a little while longer in New York.

But times change. I have to admit, aside from waking up to WQXR, I never listen to the radio anymore. And while it's fitting to lament the loss of something that was so meaningful to so many of us, it seems something will always come along to fill the void. Nowadays, for me, aside from a few blogs I keep up with, it's largely online forums like this one. And one of the best things about them is that we no longer have to be invisible--if we choose, every single one of us can add your own voice to the community discussion. It turns out there are many, many people out there just as knowledgeable as those radio announcers, and now they don't have to make a career out of it to share their insight and passion. I myself mostly lurk on this and various other sites, but I can't tell you how much I've learned from all of you, and how many performances I've been roused to go out and see that I otherwise would have skipped. Really, it's a fantastic phenomenon for which I'm incredibly grateful.

And when I'm here, I sometimes think about a boy in some far-flung place, with no classical radio or local ballet, obsessively logging in to this site over and over each day, spending hours on YouTube, feeding his brain and his soul and--I fervently hope--feeling a little less lonely in the world.

What a lovely post (and compliment to Ballet Talk). Thank you for that.

It's cliched but true, nothing stays the same.

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I. for one, am looking forward to the change. As a long time listener I have been put off these last few years with the quality and frequency of their commercials. I have had enough of offensive seafood restaurant commercials and hospital ads for dreaded diseases, and end of life care. My only hope is that they take most of their staff with them.

My main problem with the radio ads on stations like WQXR and KING is that they use horrific, loud music that is jarring compared to any of the classical music they play (which is, generally, less than risky). It's rarely rock, but it's often muzaky or pseudo-jazz, like most commercials it's louder, and it makes me switch the station off immediately, maybe or maybe not to return. I used to listen to WQXR over the Internet, and they used to pick a piece to play during the commercials over the radio waves.

I was amused though when my dad, who used to tape "The Vocal Scene" onto cassette when he was home, forgot to turn off the recorder for the few minutes of commercials in the middle of one program, and there was an ad for Swiss Air business class that was a throwback to the 70's.

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WQXR gets me through my work day. I am fortunate enough to have my own office, and I play WQXR on low volume from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave the office. I hope they keep the same hosts when the changeover occurs. One thing I will miss is having an announcer provide the news from the NY Times at the top of every hour. My only criticism of the playlists is that they rarely play an entire symphony, except for the office hour at 10 AM. In these difficult economic times, I hope it can survive as a listener supported station.

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WNYC president/CEO, Laura Walker, sent this mailing to members and/or subscribers:

I am delighted to share the news that WNYC will preserve classical music radio on the New York radio dial through an agreement with The New York Times to acquire WQXR radio, which we will operate as a public radio station. Because we feel very strongly that New York needs a full-time station dedicated to classical music, when the New York Times decided to sell WQXR, we worked with them to develop an agreement that will preserve classical music on the radio dial in New York for years to come.

WQXR (currently broadcast on 96.3 FM) will move to its new frequency on 105.9 FM, in October. Univision Radio, which currently broadcasts on 105.9 will move to 96.3 FM. Although the 105.9 signal is weaker than the 96.3 signal, we will look for ways to enhance the signal and add repeater signals throughout the metropolitan area.

Under the stewardship of WNYC, WQXR will continue to be a trusted curator of classical music, rooted in and reflecting New York’s vibrant classical music community. We’ll continue and even enhance the on-air connection to the most diverse and talent-filled concert halls in the world, and the presence of their artists and impresarios on-air alongside live concerts. Through digital streaming, WNYC will also extend a great classical music station’s reach not just to all parts of the City, but throughout the United States, and the world.

By joining the WNYC family, WQXR will be preserved and will benefit from our stewardship. Pianist Emanuel Ax, called preserving WQXR as a classical station “the sonic equivalent of saving Carnegie Hall from the wrecker’s ball.” I am delighted and honored that WNYC will be part of this exciting venture.

Please visit
for more details about the acquisition, and information about what you as a listener can expect to see and hear in the coming months. We also look forward to hearing your thoughts - you can
to join the conversation about this news.

I know many listeners felt disappointment and anger when WNYC dropped its daytime classical music programming sometime (if I recall accurately) after 9/11. While the purchase does keep a viable classical niche in the New York (and national) market, it is too bad that we are left with only one. I pretty much stopped listening to classical music broadcasts when WNCN changed format, lo those many years ago.

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