I was contacted last week by someone from current.org because I have been nominated as an up and coming star in the world of people who work in public media - specifically people of color in this industry. I'm very honored by this nomination, and gave my official response to the organization today, which I encourage you to read here:
Classical music is the most important thing to have ever happened to me. Many school-aged children find themselves involved in school music programs, including orchestras, bands, and choirs, but this interest seems to drop off with most of them by the time they reach college. I began my college career as an International Studies major, but after experiencing life without music as my focus I decided that a career in classical music was what I was meant to pursue. Because I believe in the importance of the arts in our society, I always looked to spread my love for classical music in as many ways as possible, whether that be teaching bassoon lessons, performing as a professional bassoonist (which I’ve continued to do since 2007), or most recently, becoming one of the voices of classical music in Knoxville, TN.
When I applied for the position of host of “The Afternoon Concert” I had zero experience in radio. What may have set me apart from other applicants, in my opinion, was my “hands on” knowledge of classical music. As someone who’s performed classical music for the past decade, my ears are well tuned to the trends and patterns in the programming of classical music, both live and through vehicles like YouTube and public radio. This knowledge is important for me, because it’s an integral part of how I program music – both continuing important traditions and exposing listeners to things I know are obscure in classical music, but still important. Fully aware of the challenges of introducing the genre to new listeners, and more importantly, keeping those new listeners interested, I shape each of my shows around a theme or a concept that listeners, both new and seasoned, can attach themselves to and make relevant in their own lives. As I write this, in fact, listeners to WUOT are enjoying music that falls into the theme of composer-to-composer tributes, or pieces of music written by composers who were highly inspired by other composers. I do research on each and every piece, and expose listeners to a more “behind the scenes” look at the music I air. Some of my more popular shows in the past have surrounded themes including rivalries in classical music, the musical lineage (teacher/student) of composers, and of course, music with ties to holidays (music by Mexican composers on Cinco de Mayo, American composers on July 4th, etc.). Recently, I even programmed and wrote a show on the topic of Russian influence on classical music written in the United States, as an homage to the current state of affairs. Relevancy is what I strive for every single day, and my supporters never cease to let me know how much they appreciate it.
With the idea of “relevancy” in mind, what I hope for my listeners to take away from my work is a more well-rounded perspective and appreciation of the genre of classical music. I come across people every day that either think classical music is something too esoteric for them, or believe that it simply isn’t very interesting. I work tirelessly to kill these rumors in my work, and I hope for all listeners, both young and old, to at least understand what they’ve heard, and even enjoy it. I also work to present myself on-air, through social media, and in “real life” as both someone who understands the tradition of the predominantly white, male face of classical music, and someone who foresees the diversity of the industry. I see classical music as something that has ties to every aspect of life, and every person therein – regardless of race, sex, orientation, etc. My over-riding goal within those things is to maintain and grow classical music’s existence and role in our society, which will in turn make classical music more diverse both on and off stage, and make our society one in which the arts will never die.