Staying in Touch with Non-Listeners

Wow, it’s been a while.  Life/work has been very busy, but that’s no excuse for not pumping out a blog or two….or twenty.

What has been so busy?  Well, at WFIU I’ve been expanding existing programs and creating new ones.  Our classical music service, produced at hosted by me, is called ClassicalWorks and has been getting modest carriage.  I wish I had more time and resources devoted to promoting it, but we’ll get there eventually.  I’d also like to get a website for the service up and running, but that’s proving to be a difficult task given an IT issue that has affected WFIU’s entire web presence over the past year and is still being ironed out.  One of these months it’ll get done…I’ll just have to devote a good portion of a week to it.  In the meantime, you can check out ClassicalWorks here on PRX.  I’m looking forward to adding more to it in the coming months, including hours with longer pieces and fewer segments, and a regular new release show that will air occasionally (hopefully once a month, but more realistically on a quarterly basis).

A particularly exciting development at WFIU in the past year has been the addition of Grammy-winning soprano Sylvia McNair to our airwaves.  Sylvia attended IU for graduate school in the early 1980s and actually worked at WFIU as a board-op during that time, but then she had to leave to do some singing, I guess.  She’s been retired from teaching at IU for a few years and got the radio itch again, and I was more than happy to accommodate.  We huddle up once a week to record her weekly Saturday morning show and she’s absolutely fantastic.  I’d recommend tuning in from 10-1 on Saturdays on WFIU2 to hear what an asset she’s been for the station.

So yeah, it’s been busy.  Combine that with having a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old at home, plus a new house as of a few months ago, and there isn’t a lot of time for much of anything, let alone blogging.  One thing that HAS been taken off my plate, much to my chagrin, is my side gig recording overnights or KBAQ in Phoenix.  I was informed that due to budget cuts, my contract would not be renewed, so I only have three more shows to record this week before that ends.  It was quite the surprise and I’ll miss the work (and the much-needed financial padding it gave our household), but such is the nature of contract work.  So if anyone else needs a remote host for their station, let me know – that part of my professional slate is currently clean and open to new opportunities!

All the business surrounding work and life makes down time and social time all the more valuable.  I was thinking the other day about how much life has changed OUTSIDE my career since I moved to Bloomington from Vermont in 2014.  In Vermont, our friends skewed older; rarely did we hang out with people our age (we were in our 20s then).  And I think that’s because of the nature of my work and my wife’s work.  She was pursuing her master’s degree in education and entered the classroom as a young teacher among much older peers.  I worked at Vermont Public Radio and was one of the youngest people on staff there – and those that were closer to my age had nothing to do with classical music (at least until my last few years there when Kari Anderson arrived – and now she’s largely moved on from the day-to-day of classical music on VPR as well).  So our friends tended to be older and more closely associated with the classical music scene in Vermont.  They were choir folks from the various choruses I sang in, instrumentalists from the Vermont Symphony, and their families.  They were well-heeled patrons of VPR and various arts organizations.  We didn’t go out to dive bars as much as we did to dinners at higher-end restaurants (our credit card bills were idiotic).  While I valued (and continue to value) my relationships with these people, I also think that it created a very insular worldview that affected my outlook on radio programming and presentation.  To many of these folks, I was the young kid doing classical radio when everyone else doing it was old.  I was something of a novelty.  And I think I tailored my presentation with those people in mind, thinking that they were representative of the audience as a whole.  Which, of course, they were not.   That’s not to say that they were not important, but they were certainly not an accurate cross section of the audience for classical radio.

In Bloomington, everything changed.  My wife got pregnant not long after we arrived here, so one of our first “social” activities was a ten week birthing class.  There were six  or seven other couples in the class, all except one expecting their first child.  We could not have been more different.  The closest couple to us in terms of life experience was a young Chinese couple, both musicians, pursuing higher degrees at the Jacobs School.  Aside from them, there was a Montessori teacher and her husband who worked for the Department of Child Services, a Mormon couple in which the father-to-be ran an excavation business, an unmarried couple with one child already but these classes were intended for the father-to-be who was going through this for the first time, a professor and her husband, and a recording studio owner who also happened to own one of the world’s most famous internet cats.   These wildly different people were now OUR people, as were more couples we would meet later through new parent support groups.  Despite our radically different lives and career pursuits, we had the common bond of “oh shit, we have to take care of a tiny human!”

None of them ever listened to classical music on the radio.  In fact, most of them don’t listen to the radio, period.  I’ve been able to convert them a bit, though, and sometimes I’ll get a text from someone telling me they heard my morning show and really enjoyed it.  I don’t expect that any one of them will become a habitual listener.  But I try to present myself on the radio with them in mind, more than those who I know are reliable listeners, because it’s people like them that represent that audience we need to attract to keep classical radio alive.

We do have plenty of friends in Bloomington who are public radio-obsessed and music lovers and performers.  I love them dearly, of course.  But I’ve found that as far as the mixing of professional and social life goes, it’s a lot less now than it was in my “former life.”  And that’s quite fine with me, really.  I’ve found that’s it’s been incredibly important to me to not let my social circle insulate me from the realities of our wider audience, but rather to open my eyes and ears to those who MIGHT listen if we just throw them a bone.



About Joe Goetz

Joe Goetz is Music Director for WFIU 103.7 FM in Bloomington, Indiana, and has eleven years of experience hosting and producing classical music programming for public radio. While completing his B.A. in Music at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO, Joe worked part time as a classical music host at KCME 88.7 FM. Following graduation, he worked as a classical music host and producer at Vermont Public Radio, developing new and engaging programming in addition to programming and hosting a daily afternoon air shift. He is an accomplished pianist with several chamber music performances to his credit, an occasional choir singer, and an avid golfer. He lives with his wife, Meghann, their son William, daughter Allison, and cats Ollie and Blanche.

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