As we enter the summer months, our gardens are flourishing, our children and grandchildren are swimming and the programming on WAMC changes ever so subtly. For example, WAMC is proud to play every Boston Symphony Orchestra concert from Tanglewood. What could possible be better than sitting under the stars, listening to the best music ever composed?
We are extraordinarily grateful to the best orchestra in the world for allowing us to broadcast these magnificent concerts live. Some listeners will tell you that we broadcast too much classical music – others will say there’s too little. There are “professionals” in broadcasting who have told us from the beginning that the proper way to do things is to stick to one thing -- all music or all news. That gets us into a conversation about what the public in public radio is. To me, a great public radio station means the best of each art and spoken form, whether that is music or information.
Every year we hear from people who say that we shouldn’t be playing the Boston Symphony or the Metropolitan Opera because the listenership is so small. There is no doubt that when the program changes during those times, there are a few people who write us and say, “Ditch the opera,” or “Ditch the BSO.” I always respond that it is the job of a great public radio station to elevate and to offer the best of all worlds.
Look, I personally don’t like the opera and I don’t listen. But if that great art form is to continue, it is incumbent on us to provide opera lovers with the music they treasure. If this were a commercial radio station, we would not break format. We would add up the digits and see how to get the most listeners at any given time.
Our model is so successful and frankly, it is why we are able to raise a million dollars in every drive. People respect diversity. Over and over again we hear from people during our fund drives who say, “I can’t stand the opera but it is important that people who want it get a chance to hear it.” Some say that they are so addicted to WAMC that the opera offers them a time to get out and do their shopping. What I bring away from all of that is the spirit of tolerance that the WAMC community has always exhibited.
I have always told the story of my boy Jonas. He is now forty and he leads an outstanding national educational not-for-profit, Leading Educators. When he was a little child, Jonas would be at home where WAMC was on the radio twenty-four hours a day. He would hear the concerts and one day in his teens he came in and proudly announced that he was taking a date to Tanglewood. It was a great victory for parenthood, for WAMC and for the Boston Symphony. Why? Because the wisdom of the BSO was showing then. We need more people to appreciate the good things like classical music. People who hear it on the radio will want to see it for themselves. It turns out that playing the concerts is a win for our audience and for the BSO itself.
It doesn’t stop there. Every year the wonderful people at the BSO give us a lot of tickets to give away for the concerts. Frankly, their generosity is one of the reasons why we can make a million dollars in a drive. I always look forward every year to our “Roundtables on the Road” programs where we go and sit on the summer-camp-like “Press Porch” and talk to the greatest conductors and musicians of all times. What extraordinary times we have all had as we come face to face with the greatest of the great.
WAMC really has it all. You make that happen.