The rich history of volunteer service at Jefferson Public Radio stretches back to the earliest days of the station. As we evolved into three separate services, there was need for folks willing to come in to run things for a few hours a week or to host programs like the Jazz Sunday and Folk Show. Part of my job when I arrived at JPR in 1998 was to supervise about 30 volunteers to do just that; but as the station has become more automated, fewer opportunities were available for people to help out off the air. However, JPR is always looking for folks who might like to be on the air on an occasional basis and especially for classical music announcers. Whenever Valerie Ing or I take a vacation day, that live air shift must be covered and it has been volunteers who have filled that need.
Being a classical announcer in 2017 means you will need two somewhat unrelated skill sets. The first is pretty obvious: an understanding of classical music and the ability to pronounce names and terms which are often in a foreign language. This can be more challenging than it seems because while many classical music lovers know the names of many composers, seeing them written out and speaking them clearly and accurately can be an unexpected challenge.
The second is an ability to interact with computers, CD players and the radio control board. The elements that make up the programs you hear every day on your radio require that the announcer create a continuous flow from music on CDs, to underwriting announcements that are played from a computer, to live text to read - including information about upcoming programming, the weather forecast and more. All of the information pertaining to the music that you choose must be entered into a different computer so that listeners can find out about the music that they hear. Listeners online will also be able to see the information posted at our website, ijpr.org about the current recording including the album cover.
There are currently only three substitute volunteer hosts of classical music and the longest serving is Jim McIntosh. He started with us 10 years ago and so I thought that he might have some insight into his expectations and how they were met by his experiences.
Jim had spent some time with the BBC when he was younger and so had some previous experience in radio and he guessed that he was just going to come in a play records of music that he loves. In a broader sense that is true in that Jim loves classical music and will be able to share that with others but when choosing music for an on-air program, one cannot really just play what one wants. It is important to make sure that the program has a large variety of music and that may include something that at home, you might not play, but as part of the program, would be included. For Jim, this was an easy adjustment to make since he enjoys finding things in the JPR library and has become more interested in looking for new and unfamiliar pieces.
The technical aspects of the position were a challenge for a bit longer which made him nervous. Jim got past his nervousness by familiarity with the equipment over time and he was afforded all the time he needed in a studio off the air until he was ready to greet you as a substitute host on First Concert or Siskiyou Music Hall.
While I finished speaking with Jim for this article I asked him how he originally came to JPR. “I responded to the notice in a Jefferson Monthly from 10 years ago that my wife Eirlys pointed out”. He admitted that he wouldn’t have thought of it if she hadn’t prompted him. Maybe you know someone who would like to share their love of classical music with a larger group of friends. If you would like a chance to be our newest host on the Classics and News service of Jefferson Public Radio, send an email to JPRinfo@sou.edu or call 541-552-6301. We look forward to meeting you.
Don Matthews is JPR’s Classical Music Director and hosts First Concert on the Classics & News service