Back at WUOT I themed each of my shows, and for the month of February I decided to begin each show with a black history fact, and to go on from there. For the Valentine’s Day edition, I began by reading this:
“My darling, it is a pleasure for me to pause while attending to important business which affects the welfare of this nation and attend to the most important business in the world, namely, choosing as my Valentine the sweetest and most lovely wife and mother in all the world. As the days go by my love grows ever greater, for you will always be my Valentine”.
That was a telegram message Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sent to his wife, Coretta. Isn’t that so romantic? I followed that reading with an orchestral arrangement of “My Girl”, in an effort to give the listeners something fun to experience for Valentine’s Day, along with celebrating black history, and the black musicians who made that tune famous.
After that piece was done, and as I moved further into my show, I got a note from a listener showing her appreciation for what I was doing. She felt that there was a full cohesion of current events, history, and classical music happening all at once, and suggested that I deserve an Emmy for my programming (an award I’d be more than happy to accept 😊).
I thought of this today because I’m feeling challenged.
Now that I have a national audience, the music has to reflect a much larger set of affinities and preferences within classical music. In what ways can I make the music of Bach and Beethoven topical? Is there something I’m not seeing in Mozart and Haydn that I always see in John Adams, Philip Glass, and Dmitri Shostakovich? How can I, as a host in a much larger organization, inform and help promote the communities I belong to outside of my career?
As I continue to grow into my new position at American Public Media, I’m beginning to see that it takes a lot of nuance and subtlety to present a “traditional” aesthetic in a new way. This is a challenge that I accept, but I won’t pretend there isn’t a bit of frustration at times. As you enjoy the music I play through the night, I hope you never forget that there’s nothing wrong with liking classical music that isn’t in the mainstream – instrumental music that touches on the experiences, challenges, and struggles of people living today.
With that being said, it’s always important to remember and appreciate the classics. I’m enjoying being introduced, and re-introduced, to some of the older works that I never explored much in Knoxville. Mozart is the most famous name in classical music for a reason, after all.
By the way, here’s an image of that Valentine’s Day telegram from Martin to Coretta: