A Classic Morning Field Trip!
Those walking by Studio D during Classic Mornings probably think I’m the only one in there.
It certainly looks that way. What they don’t see is that listeners are in there too. No, they’re not hiding under the console. We’re separated, physically. But we’re all there enjoying the music together. Sometimes the telephone rings to remind me of that. A listener will ask for more information about a particular recording. Another listener will be caught up in the excitement of something I’m playing at the moment or something I said on the program moments ago. Yet another listener wants to share a memory or a personal story that was sparked by the music. The calls are occasional, but they seem to stay with me for a long time.
Now and then when I come away from the microphone and turn toward the sound-proof door of the studio, I notice faces – little faces peering through the window of the door. Indeed, they’re children, who are seen but not heard. (That’s not exactly what those who use the expression had in mind.) They’re standing there watching a radio host, who in that moment is seen and not heard. That must seem a bit odd to them.
Though it usually comes as something of a surprise, I know immediately why the children are there. It’s that time of year when school children are taking field trips. Illinois Public Media has become a destination for some of those field trips. There are staff members and volunteers who host the visitors and take them on a tour of the entire building. Once in a while they have a spare moment to stop by Studio D. I always welcome that.
“How much time do I have?” I usually ask, “a few minutes?” That’s an eternity in radio. Realize how it sounds when there’s silence on the radio for more than several seconds. There have been occasions when I’ve had to squeeze a station identification and quick weather forecast into that much time. The challenge is to use those precious seconds most effectively. I’ve had a little practice over the years – on the air and when I’ve had the chance to chat with school groups passing through now and then.
Children of all ages have come by – even college students. I introduce myself, and explain that Classic Mornings, the name of my program, is a play on words. It’s a program of classical music, but I also want listeners to have a good time when they listen - a ‘classic’ morning. Children seem to understand that. In the moment they too are listening and I get the rare chance to see the faces of listeners. All of those interested eyes in a single moment. That’s an image I hold onto the next time I’m sitting in the studio!
For obvious reasons, the mini presentations I make differ from group to group, though there are similar themes. With older students I may get into some philosophical questions – not the answers, just the questions. With the very young, I often work around spontaneous comments and questions they might ask. Their questions generally reflect an innocence about the backstage of radio. I usually have answers to those questions: “Yes, we can talk and not be heard on the radio – unless we want to be heard. Then we use the microphone.... Yes, that little light that says “on air” will light up, but not until I turn the microphone on... No, the telephone will not accidentally ring while I’m talking on the radio. When I turn the microphone on, a flashing light rather than a bell tells me there’s somebody trying to reach me on the telephone...”
I ask how many of them play instruments. I’m always thrilled to see so many hands go up. To make the others not feel left out, I sometimes mention that listening to music is a good thing too. I assure them that learning music can help them with their school work. I often tell some of the younger student groups that after I’m finished with my radio program, I do what they do after school – homework. That catches them a little off-guard. I talk about hours of preparation – reading, listening and writing. I assure them that if they are excited about radio, they should try to do the best they can in school. Radio involves reading, writing and speaking. There are radio programs that feature every subject they might learn about in school. I assure them there are many roads that can lead to radio and that what they do now is important.
Sometimes reflecting back on all the students that I’ve chatted with over the years, I think to myself: Wow, we were their field trip! I wonder whether some will be the performers on the recordings we play in the future. Will some be audio engineers that help performers sound their best? Will some design studios or the equipment in the studios? Will some be hosts of music or news programs? I’m not sure I’ll ever learn the answers to those questions. I would be content with knowing that when they went back to school or home that they thought about that animated guy at the radio station who was doing his homework. Maybe that helped them out just a bit. Perhaps they listened to me on the radio. If so, I hope it lived up to their expectations. I hope they were further inspired by a piece of music they heard. At the very least, I hope that while they were moving on from Studio D, some were thinking: We’re having a classic morning field trip! I don’t know if they were supposed to write something about their visit. I certainly wanted to.
Join me in Studio D, as it were, for Classic Mornings, Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 and streaming live at will.illinois.edu. The Classic Morning Prelude precedes the program each morning at 8:50.