It might have become an endangered joke. That would have been sad, since it probably belongs in a humor hall of fame.
I know I’ve told it before: Visitor asks a New York City cab driver: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Cabbie responds: “Practice, practice, practice!”
New York almost lost Carnegie Hall. It had been scheduled for demolition on March 31, 1960. Thanks to the efforts of violinist Isaac Stern and the Citizens Committee for Carnegie Hall, it’s still standing. And during the half century or so since its rescue, it enjoyed a restoration, expansion and both centennial and quasquicentennial (125th anniversary) celebrations. Needless to say, the joke survived as well.
There’s no way I’ll ever pen a legendary joke, even with lots of practice. But inspired by the one-liner that Stern and company indirectly rescued, let’s try this: Visitor in central Illinois asks an MTD driver: "Do you know the way to a great music venue?” The response: “Where there’s WILL. There’s the way!”
I already warned you not to expect Second City-league material. I’m surprised that with all the pun potential in our call letters, there aren’t more attempts to play on them. Nevertheless, every time we conclude another successful fund drive (as in willpledge.org), I’m convinced that WILL-FM is indeed a well-known music “venue” in central Illinois. And it’s obvious than many have found their way to it.
It’s a unique sort of venue. It has a place in the community, but no clearly defined space like a concert hall. Yes, the studios and transmitter have set locations. But the venue that they help us create is an imaginative one. Listeners have it in mind as a “place” where they can go. And when it does take on a physical space – actually, thousands of spaces, some of those are stationary while others are ever-changing.
Radio and computer technology have resulted in the music on WILL-FM being heard in so many kinds of spaces. And because the station’s venue character really lives in the imaginations of thousands of listeners, that allows it to defy a single visual image, like that of a concert hall.
Not even Carnegie Hall could manage to bring its patrons the continuous lineup of internationally known performers and ensembles that appear on WILL-FM day and night. And something else that is unique to this fantasy venue is performers of the past sharing the stage with those of the present. That seems to be a fitting tribute to a station that has enjoyed the support of generations of listeners.
Now let me pause here to assure you that there’s nothing like the live concert hall experience. What listeners hear on WILL-FM may well prepare or excite them for what they might be able to hear at an upcoming concert. Or a concert may spark interest in hearing on the radio a particular performer or the music of a certain composer.
Let me go further and say that there’s nothing more satisfying than learning to play instruments and making music. I would hope that WILL-FM, along with other music venues, might help encourage a return to music making. I’m excited to let you know that a violin teacher recently heard a piece on Classic Mornings that he wants to share with his students. Another listener thanked me for playing a piece that she’s in the process of learning. And a fourth grader on a station tour with his classmates was excited to tell me that he’s learning how to play the recorder.
One of the joys of attending programs in traditional venues is to share that experience with others who have come to the same space. But even with our “place” spread out among many spaces, thousands of listeners are “attending” the same performance at a given moment. And I, the program host, am like a friend or neighbor sitting there with them and enjoying each piece of music. We always have great “seats.” Instead of a printed program, I bring along some fun facts and stories. They can be sure that I won’t be distracting or get in the way of the music. And I hush up once it begins.
Music venues are known for consistently hosting memorable concerts. With that in mind, I spend hours preparing for what I hope will be a great show each morning. I want it to be an extravaganza with memorable pieces and fine performances, though with the intimacy of a program being presented just for you.
Every time I try to explain in words the excitement of bringing classical music to radio listeners in central Illinois I still feel as though I have to practice, practice, practice. But in the meantime, know that I’m determined to do my part to keep this treasured music venue in the hearts of those in the community. That’s no joke!
And you’ve demonstrated how serious you are about supporting the music on WILL-FM. Thank you for doing your part in another successful WILL Marathon!