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Parker from Orpheus to WQXR

For the past eight years, Graham Parker has been the Executive Director of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Now, he’s going to work for New York’s classical music radio station.

It was announced today that Parker will be the new Vice President of Classical WQXR 105.9 FM and WQXR online. It appears that he’s been tasked with helping the station to develop its brand identity. For those who aren’t “New Yawkers,” this may require some explanation.

In 2009, New York’s National Public Radio Station WNYC acquired WQXR from the New York Times. WQXR’s frequency, 96.3 FM, was in turn traded to Univision’s WCAA, moving the classical station further up the bandwidth to 105.9. For those of us out in the ‘burbs, this has made it more difficult in many areas to get the station. Coverage routinely goes in and out on my commute down to Princeton as I get further from the city.

While signal weakness has been a concern for many listeners, there have been other growing pains associated with the move as well. Some of the music programming previously on WNYC, which was considered the station for more cutting edge fare, has been moved over to WQXR. Some longtime DJs from WQXR were kept on; others were let go to make room for their counterparts on WNYC. As a public radio station, WQXR also jettisoned commercials and religious programs.

The marriage of mainstream classical and public radio’s eclecticism has been a challenging balance to negotiate. The station’s 2009-’10 programming doubtless left a number of longtime WQXR listeners unhappy at the increased incorporation of new music into its mainstream broadcasts. WNYC listeners who hoped for the eclectic and innovative types of music heard on programs such as Soundcheck and New Sounds to be writ large on the rest of the schedule have probably been bummed out too. They’ve been subjected to far more Vivaldi and Telemann than they consider healthy!

A bright spot has been the station’s online new music programing at Q2. This week, they’re spotlighting the music of Xenakis. While one understands that this probably isn’t their best bet for “drive-time” fare, its too bad that more of Q2 hasn’t infiltrated the airwaves.

One hopes that enlisting Mr. Parker helps the station to find its footing and reassert the importance of classical radio – contemporary music and repertory favorites alike – in New York.

So, Sequenza 21 readers, its your turn. What should Parker focus on to make WQXR a better station?

A) Better signal quality/range/accessibility.

B) A more coherent vision for music programming.

C) Local identity and live events.

D) Limiting the amount of Vivaldi bassoon concerti played during any given four-hour period to no more than three.

E) More Nadia Sirota, all the time.


Comment from Richard Mitnick
Time: June 21, 2010, 6:41 pm

First, yes, yes, to Nadia, she is an absolute treasure. We must, however, realize that she is a passionate musician. We cannot have her all of the time.

New Music, even recent music, has really been lost at WQXR’s 105.9FM and its web stream for the FM. I would love to see a move back toward the kind of programming we had on WNYC’s 93.9FM before the acquisition of WQXR. I really do not see that happening. The WQXR audience was out in droves on the blogs and comment pages during the transitional period. When I was doing the internet march for WNYC’s music programming, I felt really quite alone. So, WQXR’s audience must be respected. A Symphony Hall broadcast of Glass’ 8th symphony a few months ago brought a wave of negative sresponse to the WQXR Comment pages.

Q2 is doing well with “festivals” and live events in the New Music area. There is a whole celebration of events recorded live in and around NYC being streamed, see “Cued upon Q2″ .

105.9 continues with things like the Frick, they have always done them and they will continue.

On signals, i can only comment on Central New Jersey: there are simply no frequencies available. I ran the whole dial, I wanted WDVR, Seargentsville, NJ to find a spot for a repeater in the New Brunswick, NJ area, nothin’ doin’.

All I can hope is that the new guy leaves Q2 alone.

Comment from Richard Friedman
Time: June 26, 2010, 2:47 am

I agree with Mr Mitnick. I listen to Q2 a lot .. I work at home and either Q2 or Pandora are on my internet-activated sound system. (I live in Oakland, CA .. local radio here is awful, except for KALW)

I’ve noticed that around 2 or 3pm Pacific Time (5 or 6 Eastern) there is a major switch to choral music on Q2. Most of it is pretty lame choral music. I hope that goes away.

But I rely on Q2 to help me find music I’ve never heard before, and composers I don’t know about.

The mainstream WQXR stream is a disaster as far as I’m concerned. The same top 40 classical “hits” over and over again, with the most inane commentary rivals our own KDFC here in San Francisco. “That Mozart! … whatta guy!” (That’s a quote.)

Don’t touch Q2! And Nadia is the best! Her recent programs of Scandinavian composers was a revelation. This is radio at its best!