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Advice To A Classical Music Radio Hosting Novice

December 19, 2008

As I ramp up for my classical radio hosting debut this Sunday on KALW 91.7 FM, I've been exchanging emails with Chris Van Hof (pictured left) the afternoon host on WXXI Classical 91.5 FM in Rochester New York about programing ideas. Chris (who also happens to be a professional trombonist, educator and music arranger) also sent me a list of very useful pointers about hosting a classical music radio show -- his advice is invaluable to a novice such as myself. Chris tells me that he has only been in the radio business for a year. But his advice is so simply and eloquently put and makes such perfect sense that I asked if I could share his thoughts on my blog. He kindly agreed.

So without further ado, here is the Chris Van Hof Guide to Classical Music Radio Hosting:

When it comes to announcing, my biggest rule is to picture someone you know very well, and speak as though you're speaking to just that one person. Don't talk to "all those out in radio land" but instead talk personally to just one person.

As for programming, here are some simple concepts that are easy to apply to your music selection and planning:
- Seek variety of instrumentation (chamber, solo, orchestral, concerto, etc.)
- Seek variety of style (Baroque, modern, Romantic, traditional, etc.)
- Try to follow minor with major and vice versa in terms of tonalities, although major after major is fine.
- Look for clean transitions piece to piece. Unless you're going for a surprise effect, for example, seek to follow a quiet ending with a pastoral beginning. Even with a talk break between pieces, this helps the listeners' ears along. At the very least, temper your tone and delivery to either gear us up for the fast start, or calm us down for the quiet opening. In other words, match your speech to the music closest to it.
- Play music you like.
- Play artists you know (either know their work well, or know personally.)
- Once again, variety. As prevelant as it is nationwide, the Mozart Lunch Hour sucks.

Thanks to Chris. This advice couldn't come at a better time as far as I'm concerned. It also strikes me that a lot of his points apply to other forms of radio broadcasting, not just classical music. Hope to put as much of the ideas into practice as I can this weekend.

For Chris' blog, click here. To hear a live stream of his afternoon classical music show at WXXI, click here.

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