Is there a future for the historic musical genre on radio?
By Ernesto Aguilar ⋅
The author is director of the membership program of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. NFCB comments are posted regularly on www.radioworld.com.
One of my favorite memories as a student was meeting John Coltrane. Like generations before mine, I was dazzled by his virtuoso styles on “My Favorite Things”. The stories of his all-night jam sessions and once-in-a-lifetime life were pieces of musical history that will likely never be repeated. Just as his jazz contemporaries forged bold paths, Coltrane has also proven to be a standard bearer. He, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and others have undoubtedly introduced many people to the timeless sound of jazz.
However, every classic song comes to an end. And there is more than a small indication that the days of jazz radio are numbered.
Jazz has seen such a turn of events since it ruled commercial radio in the 1940s until the 1950s. But by the mid-1950s tastes in popular music changed. Even with the rise of the Beatles, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley, jazz enjoyed a huge following. Offshoots such as New Age music and smooth jazz kept the genre in public consciousness just a few years ago. However, with its aging core audience and longtime jazz radio pioneers exploring other avenues, one has to openly wonder how long non-commercial media will continue to elevate the genre.
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While the news does not yet point to a mass extinction, it appears that jazz on the tower faces some challenges. Recently, Current shed light on the situation of veteran jazz channel WUMR, which will abandon its 40-year history of jazz radio in favor of a mixed format. In 2018, three jazz stations – KUVO in Denver and Historically Black College and University licensees KPVU and WNSB – were approved to continue the urban alternative effort supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The new format gives stations the opportunity to connect with new audiences with R&B and hip-hop, although their traditional jazz offerings are (or are) impacted, now and in the future.
While jazz education groups will tell you that there is an increasingly younger population very interested in jazz, I can’t find anyone who says the public perception is where jazz is the first choice. musical of a young person. With pressures to increase listenership and increase the donor base, managers of public and community stations will therefore find little traction with boards of directors or other stakeholders in favor of making jazz a centerpiece of the community. programming. Without champions to expose new listeners to jazz, it’s hard to say what jazz will be on the air 20 years from now. The future does not look bright.
This is not to criticize the value of jazz to the nation, nor does this comment intrude on a musical genre largely vanished from commercial and non-commercial radio. The change is nobody’s fault. On the contrary, the gradual demise of jazz radio could be the clear call to its most ardent supporters to think creatively about community engagement and jazz education at large.
WNCU is one of many jazz stations involved in educating students about jazz and the importance of these stations to their communities and the history of music. KDHX is famous for its folk school, where music lessons introduce new generations to appreciate folk and bluegrass. Undoubtedly, a station could do the same with jazz.
Then, of course, there are the dozens of community radio jazz shows that bring you old and new music in the genre. These efforts are wonderful. Whether this is enough to save jazz from radio silence can be left to history.
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Eric Jackson (CAS’72): a staple of the WGBH for over 30 years
The wavy and melodic strains of “Blue Monk” fill Eric Jackson’s WGBH studio in Brighton. Skillfully performed by contemporary pianist Eric Reed, it is a tribute to jazz giant Thelonious Monk. Jackson (CAS’72) continues with Monk’s band paying homage to Duke Ellington, another legendary composer and pianist. Jackson gives listeners his signature greeting in a soft and familiar baritone: “My name is Eric. Let’s listen.
For more than three decades, as the host of Jazz with Eric in the evening (recently renamed Jazz on WGBH with Eric Jackson), the dean of Boston jazz radio, as Jackson is widely regarded, presented listeners with a seamless blend of established talent and the latest in jazz talent. He has broadcast some 3,000 interviews, with many of the biggest names in jazz, from Dizzy Gillespie to the Marsalis family.
He only thinks of the first recording he’ll play on any given night, says Jackson. He then works with the flow, articulating his show as it goes, through sound. He chooses a series of tracks based on “moods, feelings, colors, emotions, rhythms, more than style labels,” he says. With the spontaneity of a jazz soloist, he improvises his set list. “I hope I learned from the musicians I play; I hope there is a flow in the sets and the whole program.
Music permeates his life. He’s on the air from eight to midnight, Monday through Thursday, and when he’s not, he listens to music “almost all the time,” he admits. “I’m still reading and learning something that makes me switch to the CD player. All day long, I listen to music; it’s a physical process — some people would go crazy. But it’s part of me, I grow up with it. A frequent speaker and author, Jackson teaches the African-American experience through music at Northeastern University and has also developed exhibits for the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City.
Raised in a music-loving family (Father Samuel was a “big fan of jazz” and the first African-American radio announcer in New England), he went from the popular Motown music of his teenage years to the innovative jazz of Miles and Trane (Jackson calls Miles Davis and John Coltrane “the pillars of their time”) as a student. During his freshman year at the College of Arts & Sciences, Jackson applied to student radio station WTBU – “no experience needed” read the ad – and made his debut as an announcer in 1969. His first show was R&B, which he quickly expanded to three shows, adding jazz and mixed music. When he asked his program director why he was on the air more than anyone else, the director replied, “Because when you’re on the radio, I get quality radio.
Although Jackson came to BU with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist, he says he “fell more and more in love with music and decided to do something around music.” During his next two years in college, he did more radio concerts, including a jazz program at WBUR. He left BU and worked at the Harvard WHRB for the 1971-1972 academic year, then ventured into commercial radio, hosting a Sunday afternoon jazz show on WILD, “Sunrise to Sunset. He remembers. The next five years, posting to the WBCN were pivotal in exposing him to a wide variety of music, “a ton of music,” he says.
Jackson joined WGBH in 1977, and in addition to playing mixed music, he took over the animation of a weekly timeline of African American music history, Essays on black music. In 1981, when an evening shift announcer went on tour to play bass for a few weeks, Jackson replaced him. When the host did not return, WGBH offered him a spot and he launched what has become the jazz radio program in Boston, for 30+ years.
Last spring, the Boston jazz community, including impresario Fred Taylor (CAS’51) and radio personality Ron Della Chiesa (CGS’57, COM’59), along with musicians and many enthusiastic fans, came together for “Eric in Two Evenings,” hosted by the nonprofit JazzBoston in honor of esteemed jazz dean Eric Jackson.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of arts + sciences.
Chris Evans, the British celebrity radio DJ, will present his latest show for BBC Radio 2 on Christmas Eve before moving on to Virgin Radio, where a pioneering deal with Sky means the commercial station will air his new show without any commercials.
Wireless, owner of Virgin Radio as well as around 30 commercial radio brands in the UK and Ireland, said in a report that the partnership between Virgin Radio and Sky will allow listeners to have “the same uninterrupted audio experience” as listeners to Evans’ popular Radio 2 show.
In a partnership that it called “groundbreaking,” Wireless explained that Sky’s sponsorship of the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, which launches January 21, will be used to create branded content, competitions and events for the. program.
“So much has changed in broadcasting since I was last on Virgin Radio that now, thanks to Sky, we can do the show without commercial breaks,” Evans said in the statement.
He also has told the BBC, where he’s worked at Radio 2 for 13 years, that “so many people are advertising everywhere. You turn on your phone and there is an advertisement ”.
“There are so many of them now that we kind of get numbed to them, and so if you actually turn your business partner into a storyteller… we’re trying this thing, it’s never been done before, it’s pretty revolutionary. “
Roy Martin, editor-in-chief of RadioToday, said of Virgin’s plans: “There have been many attempts by commercial radio stations to ditch ads for sponsor credits in the past, including radio stations. whole, but nothing on this scale.
“It’s a bet that will probably pay off for News UK [the parent company of Wireless], especially if BBC Radio 2 listeners, who are not used to advertising breaks, follow him on Virgin.
Listeners to the new show will be judging whether Sky’s content sponsorship works or not, but earlier this year ARM reported on the success Wickes, the home improvement chain, has had with its sponsorship of the Breakfast Show d ‘Absolute Radio.
According to a presentation given at the Radiocentre annual conference, the company’s sponsorship increased brand awareness among two distinct audiences and generated double-digit ROI.
With around nine million listeners, Evans’ breakfast show on Radio 2 has the largest audience of all radio shows in Europe.
Evans (photo, above) hosted the breakfast show on the original Virgin Radio from 1997-2001. This station was renamed Absolute Radio in 2008, after it was sold to new owners. In March 2016, Virgin Radio was relaunched by Wireless Group, which was acquired later in the year by News UK.
Rebekah Brooks, Managing Director of News UK, said the company’s ambition was to “make Virgin Radio the UK’s # 1 digital radio station,” according to Matthew Moore, media correspondent at News UK stablemate. The temperature.
Evans will perform the show from a new studio in the News Building in London Bridge, Moore added.
Rebekah Brooks, Managing Director of News UK, Owner of Virgin Radio: “Our ambition now is to make Virgin Radio the UK’s premier digital radio station.”
Chris Evans will present the Virgin Breakfast at the New Studios in the News Building.
Evans announced his departure on his show this morning, but said he would stay until after Christmas.
He said: “In many ways Virgin Radio is my spiritual home. I only see exciting and revolutionary opportunities ahead. In a medium that changes so rapidly on a daily basis, the potential for growth is unparalleled.”
Scott Taunton, Managing Director of Wireless, said the hiring was a “transformative moment” for Virgin Radio.
“Chris is the biggest name in radio and is synonymous with the brand,” he said. “He has the most exciting breakfast in the industry and has an energy that captivates audiences.
“This is the next step in our radio revolution, providing us with a world-class presenter and nationally recognized breakfast show that will drive the station’s audience growth, through DAB.” , our application and all forms of connected listening. “
Current breakfast show hosts Amy Voce and Sam Pinkman will be offered a new slot on Virgin Radio.
88.5 KNKX / Seattle-Tacoma, WA, has hired Northwest Jazz radio veteran Carol Handley as the new director of music programming, effective August 20. Handley comes to KNKX with decades of music programming, management and on-air experience in the Seattle market. . In 2011, she created Carol Handley Presents, a concert production company, online jazz radio station, and website with podcasts featuring interviews with musicians. Most recently, Handley was Interim Managing Director and on-air host of KBCS-FM at Bellevue College. She was PD on AC station KRWM-FM (Warm 106.9) from 2012-2015, and on-air host of nationally recognized contemporary jazz station KWJZ-FM from 1996 to 2010.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the wonderful team at KNKX who have been the voice of jazz, blues and NPR news in the Pacific Northwest,” said Handley. “I am proud to be a part of the community building work across the region and look forward to contributing. “
“Carol has a proven track record in building and developing teams and on-air talent, an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of storytelling,” said Matt Martinez, Director of Content at KNKX. “With her deep roots in the Seattle music scene, I have no doubts that she will redouble her commitment to supporting this vital and vibrant community. “
The sweet sounds of jazz fill the airwaves of HD Radio in Jacksonville with the launch of a new “pop-up” radio station on 89.9 FM HD4.
“We thought we were doing our part to get people in the mood for this year’s Jacksonville Jazz Festival by creating a pop-up jazz station. Over 1000 songs are in rotation celebrating America’s original art form, jazz, ”said WJCT station manager David Luckin.
HD radio is an improved, higher quality version of traditional AM and FM radio that is included with many newer car and home receivers. By 2014, HD Radio had reached nearly 25 million units in use, according to iBiquity Digital Corporation.
While many may think of HD Radio for its improved sound quality, it also means more variety with 25 HD Radio channels in Jacksonville, according to hdradio.com.
That number now rises – temporarily – to 26 with the launch of WJCT’s “pop-up” jazz station.
“The deployment of numerous HD Radio compatible cars throughout 2016 and 2017 marks the continued growth in consumer demand for digital radio services in North America,” said Jeff Jury, Managing Director of HD Radio and Automotive , DTS, Inc. in a statement last year.
WJCT still occasionally receives calls from listeners who lack classical music, not realizing that WJCT HD2 at 89.9-2 FM on the HD Radio dial is broadcasting classical music 24 hours a day.
On WJCT HD3 at 89.9-3, FM listeners equipped with HD Radio receivers will find the Relax station featuring easy-to-listen musical hits from a wide variety of musicians including Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley.
Luckin encourages listeners who enjoy WJCT’s temporary “pop-up” jazz station to let him know by emailing him at [email protected]
The Jacksonville Jazz Festival takes place over Memorial Day weekend, May 24-27 on stages and venues in downtown Jacksonville.
For jazz fans in Colorado Springs, a new radio station has been a long time coming.
KCME-FM plans to launch Jazz 93.5 FM on Sunday at noon, live from the Colorado Springs Jazz Party at The Antlers. It will be the return of jazz music to local airwaves after a decade of hiatus.
Nonprofit broadcaster KCME had played jazz since its inception in 1979. About 10 years ago the station decided to focus on classical music – disappointing many local jazz fans, said George Preston, director. General of KCME for nearly four years.
“There was an uproar when they stopped playing jazz on KCME,” Preston said. “We think a jazz station is really the missing link. We didn’t want to bring it back a few hours a week.”
The new station will be “a focal point for the jazz community to come together so that people are more aware of places and times,” he said. “There are all of these venues – they just aren’t connected. And there are jazz bands within the community – both the old guard and the young. Like the Friends of Colorado Springs Jazz.”
KCME, owned by Cheyenne Mountain Public Broadcast House, is transferring an existing frequency – 93.5 FM – to Colorado Springs for the jazz station, which will also broadcast on KCME’s hybrid digital radio subchannel (a second adjacent channel on the same frequency, similar to high definition television).
“We are moving an asset from west of Woodland Park to the west side of Colorado Springs. It will be a new transmitter and also a secondary signal for HD radio. But most people here in town will only listen to frequency 93. , 5, “he said. “It will be a very good signal just for Colorado Springs, but not as strong a signal” as KCME’s 88.7 FM.
The 170-watt transmitter, a fraction of KCME’s 12,000-watt transmitter, will cover an area from Palmer Lake south of Fountain and from Rampart Range to Falcon, Preston said.
The station will be located at KCME, 1921 N. Weber St., and will use the facility and its equipment. It will play a wide range of jazz – “not just bebop and swing,” Preston said. “With jazz and classical music, there is an almost endless variety.”
The station’s initial start-up budget was $ 30,000, but it has grown to around $ 50,000, he said. The annual cost of operating the station will be $ 100,000, or about one-tenth of the cost of operating KCME, Preston said. KCME and the jazz station will share resources.
KCME has sought grants, commercial underwriters and donors to raise funds for the station’s first year of operating expenses, he said.
The new station will also save money on staff costs and overhead.
“We will have the option to put it in automatic mode overnight. This is the cheapest way to do it,” he said. “Our deejays can do a four hour shift in an hour.
“There is certainly a thirst for jazz in the community. And a jazz station carried out on a budget was viable in this city.”
He delegates some of his tasks to focus on KCME and Jazz 95.3. Longtime KCME Music Director Jana Lee Ross will be the program director for the jazz station. Keith Simon will be promoted to Program Director at KCME.
“It will be a really fun sandbox for us to play,” Preston said. “We will be playing some favorite jazz tracks, but we will also be a showcase for jazz in this community. We will be playing local music directly with the Motif Jazz Cafe and the Colorado Springs Conservatory.”
The Motif Jazz Cafe is setting up equipment this week to be able to simultaneously broadcast performances on the jazz station.
“I’m really excited for this partnership. We have a lot of great players in town who needed a place to play,” said Steve Draper, owner of Motif. “Our room is a very good acoustic room. I think it’s going to be very useful to the community.”
Preston said, “I hope the station will attract and keep talent in town, so that Colorado Springs becomes a hotbed of jazz. With this station, we will be able to provide a whole new additional service to the city and to add a deep opportunity for music. “
Gazette economics reporter Wayne Heilman contributed to this report.
An unassuming one-story brick building on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus at Princess Anne is the source of the only traditional jazz radio station on the Delmarva Peninsula – WESM 91.3, a subsidiary of NPR and a public radio station supported by listeners.
The music – punctuated by NPR reporting – airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is the 30th year that WESM has aired, and there has been quite a bit of change over the decades.
For example, thanks to automation technology, radio staff no longer need to argue over who will come to work on weekends or holidays. Everything is pre-recorded and a generator ensures that the station is on the air even in the event of a power failure.
Gerry Weston recently took office as CEO, after Stephen A. Williams moved in 2016 to a station at Western Michigan University.
Weston is no stranger to Delmarva, having served as General Manager of the WSCL from 2007-2011 before returning to his native Massachusetts for a few years.
“I’ve been here for about six weeks now,” Weston said. “Other stations broadcast NPR programs, including WSCL and WAMU, but what separates us is the music. Jazz is what will propel us to greater success, as an alternative to all that exists. .
“Jazz is one of America’s art forms,” he said. “Not the only one, but perhaps the most popular. Somewhere on the dial, jazz should have a home. That’s why I took on this job, and I’m delighted to be here.”
Weston said he plans to step out of the office and visit the beach areas, businesses in Salisbury, Easton and the Delaware Coast, to build personal connections.
Background:UMES named one of the top 20 HBCUs by US News & World Report, its highest ranking ever
“Local advertising companies should also take a look at us,” he said. “There are many businesses in the region that would really benefit from subscribing to WESM. “
The station has a strong signal, he said, covering Easton and St. Michael’s, across the Lower Coast and into southern Delaware.
“Jazz is great for people who want to get away from what’s going on in the world for a while, that’s what I love about it,” he said. In addition to its broadcast area, WESM is broadcast from its website, www.wesm913.org.
This ability to broadcast anywhere in the world is why WESM is able to say that it is heard around the world – in California, Chicago, New York, as well as Japan, Canada. , in Germany, Spain and South America.
Yancy Carrigan, Brian Daniels and Angel Resto share on-air personality status with other key station functions.
Angel Resto, 61, is an operations manager and has worked at the resort for 17 years.
In addition to jazz shows, he hosts Radio Mundo, a world music show, on Sunday evenings. One of his shows features Latin jazz.
“I use the name Luisito Ortez for the Latin show,” said Resto, “and people don’t seem to realize it’s me because I’m using a different name, even though the voice is the same. “
Resto said he enjoys both aspects of his job – troubleshooting and hosting on-air music programs.
“I coordinate all of the station’s programming and promotions. And because I’m in charge of the automation, I have to come in if it breaks and fix it,” he explained.
“I love working here,” he said, sitting in his small office, clad in well-worn jeans and Converse sneakers.
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“I hope people here realize how much of a gem it is,” he said. “I have had visits from people in New York State who have told me they would like to have a station like this where they live. They have a station, but it broadcasts from Newark, New Jersey.
The life of Resto has revolved around music and radio.
“I did radio in college, but when I was in high school in Pemberton, New Jersey, I skipped high school and went to community college, where I hosted a radio show,” did he declare. “I pretended to be a community college student and they gave me this show.”
Carrigan, 72, has worked full time for WESM since June 1998; prior to that, he volunteered at the station for seven and a half years before accepting a part-time position which took him after about a year to his full-time position as Music Director.
“We report our playlists to Jazz Week magazine, where we also follow the current jazz that is being played and also chat with radio promoters who are trying to persuade us to play their CDs,” Carrigan said, alternating between picking the next one. CD to play, sporadically injecting messages on the air on the album which has just ended, and reporting the date, time and temperature as well as a short promo from the station.
Carrigan doesn’t work from a pre-planned playlist while on air.
“I work out of spontaneity,” he explained. “When you make plans, things go wrong. That’s how it works a lot, so rather than spending time planning, I just go with it.”
Once he’s changed CDs, he enters the previous CD into a playlist that appears online, allowing listeners to look up a number they might be interested in rather than calling the station to find out.
“I know what kind of music we’re playing here,” Carrigan continued. “So far this year we have received 470 jazz CDs. I am reviewing and trying to choose which ones are released for us.”
Carrigan is on the air five days a week.
Saturday afternoons from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., he hosts the R&B Music program at the Wax Museum, followed by the Blues Train
Brian Daniels, 47, has been at the station for 17 years. He started listening to WESM when he was in high school, in 1987 when the station opened.
“One thing I remember is how different this station was from other stations I had heard on the radio,” Daniels said. “The music I heard and the information it played felt different from other stations I listened to.”
Back then, the station would go offline at midnight and come back on air at 6 a.m., gradually shifting to the 24-hour broadcast format it uses today.
He started as an on-air host for several programs after a stint as a volunteer. His job title is now Program Specialist. He served as interim general manager for just over a year, until Weston was hired.
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He has hosted Music from the Wax Museum, Evening Jazz and currently does afternoon jazz Tuesday through Thursday.
“I got hired as a local host for Morning Edition for NPR News,” he said, adding that for him being on air is the best job at the station.
“Several years ago,” he said, “I ended up inheriting the job of curating our website and social media. I created a Facebook page for WESM probably around. six or seven. Currently we have up to 583 likes and about 548 subscribers. “
It posts on social media and also engages page visitors quite regularly. Some of the followers are jazz artists, some of national renown, and so he befriended.
Daniels, like Carrigan, said the only thing that hasn’t changed in three decades is jazz, explaining that the focus is on traditional jazz (as opposed to urban or smooth jazz), blues and a comeback. recent to gospel music after a short hiatus.
“These are the three things our listeners gravitate towards,” he said.
The station is also looking for community partnerships, like the one with a Rehoboth Beach organization known as True Blue Jazz that promotes mainstream jazz performances on Delmarva.
“Sadly, many people who live here still don’t know we exist,” Weston said. “We have to do a better job of marketing ourselves. That’s one of the reasons I got hired, to get the word out.”
Weston regrets the lack of development positions at the station.
“It’s a challenge, not having any development members or staff at all,” he said. “I would love to have a membership director.”
Gem 106 breakfast duo, Sam and Amy, join national digital station Virgin Radio for the same time slot, replacing Edith Bowman.
Their appointment was announced at a special Virgin Radio party in London tonight.
Edith announced earlier today that she was leaving Virgin after 18 months, while Bauer revealed Sam and Amy’s departure as well as news that Jo and Sparky would replace them on the East Midlands regional station.
Sam Pinkham and Amy Voce have been on Gem 106 and its predecessor Heart for 11 years and have also done covers on Radio 2 and Magic. They won gold at the Radio Academy Awards in 2013 and 2014.
They will begin on Virgin on Monday, October 2 and will air from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Sam said, “Once you figure out who Sam is and who Amy is, we hope you enjoy the show we’re so excited to host. Amy is the rough around here. She’s sarcastic and has never been kind enough to call herself Sam.
Amy said, “After working together for ten years Sam and I can’t wait to bring our show nationwide and Virgin Radio is the perfect home. The music and the lined up guests are so exciting and as soon as Sam finds out who half of them are it will be a great show.
Francis Currie, group wireless content director for Music Radio, told RadioToday: “The virgin breakfast with Sam and Amy is going to rock! You’d better set your alarm clocks for more music in the morning. Be prepared to be impressed… if they don’t forget to set their own alarm! “
Edith Bowman does her last Virgin Radio breakfast show on Friday, September 29, while Jo and Sparky resume breakfast at Gem 106 from October 16.