Donuts and Roses
Dozen seem like 12 years is a lot, compared to 100.
Nevertheless, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to have 12 years of Classic Mornings with thousands of listeners. And the program is a part of the most recent history of WILL Radio, which celebrated 100 years within the same week!
I brought to mind some famous associations with the number 12 in anticipation of the anniversary. Given that it’s a morning program, I thought of donuts, which many acquire by the dozen. Hopefully, they don’t consume that many. I’m not sure that you can have too much of Classic Mornings, though it might sometimes distract you from things you need to do.
One of the reasons I wanted to make donuts a part of the 12th anniversary celebration is that there’s such a variety of them. It seems like an appropriate metaphor in describing the pieces of music you hear on Classic Mornings. We listen to so many well-known and lesser-known composers and performers. There are lots of crowd pleasers, as there are with donuts! And sometimes there’s the pleasant surprise of something you haven’t tried before.
But that wasn’t enough. I don’t just open large boxes of music selections for listeners to reach in. I arrange them in a very special way each morning, add a touch of introduction and listen right along with them to that music. That reminded me of a bouquet. Though I really don’t think that Classic Mornings can have the effect of a dozen roses, listeners have been deeply moved by music they’ve heard on the program.
With the two celebrations occurring within a week of each other, it made me reflect on the idea of radio, which is something I like to do. I’m not just a radio host and producer. I’m a radio listener and have been ever since I was a kid. So, having been inside and outside the radio, it made me think about what I find special about this invention.
Radio is a traditional social medium. From its very beginning, it has brought people together. Whether it’s the transmission of speech, music, or a combination of the two, many can experience it at the same time, though in their own spaces. And afterward, many will pass along stories they’ve heard, mimic lines or hum a tune that was on the radio. Whether or not it’s close to the way they heard it, they’ve been moved or inspired. And they want to share that with others.
From the beginning of radio, listeners have had to use their imaginations, since they can’t see the speakers, actors, or musicians they’re hearing. The folks on radio are voices. And many listeners have discovered that the people behind those voices don’t look the way they had imagined. I’ve had listeners tell me that. And I too have been surprised when I’ve seen a photo of a person I’ve been listening to for a while. In fact, I try to avoid seeing pictures of those I listen to, just to preserve that aspect of radio.
Radio is a patient sort of social medium too. You may have to wait for a program, but if you look forward to it, it’s like an anticipated telephone call or letter. Sometimes you stand by even during signal outages. Yes, you have the option of turning the dial. But when something’s good, it’s worth the wait.
It’s like waiting for a friend since radio can be a companion. There are as many radio personalities as there are people you hear on the radio. So, you get to choose from among many. And you can look forward to getting together with those with whom you feel most comfortable and who have something special to share with you.
There’s a playfulness to radio, whether in scripted works that are staged on radio or just in the course of all sorts of presentations. Even in news programs, musical and dramatic elements have long been standard ingredients. It’s no wonder that sponsors have turned to them in their attempts to boost sales. And, in turn, commercials have become a part of the theatre of radio for some. A successful public radio program parodied and made use of all that with great success.
While technology has expanded the opportunities to listen to broadcasts from around the world, radio’s greatest strength still lies in the simple elements that made it unique from the outset. It’s the imaginative use of those elements that have brought about stand-out programs. And that’s the ongoing challenge.
I continue to be guided by those qualities which have made radio special for more than a century. And I invite you to join me for Classic Mornings, Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu.