Radio Hosting

Fred with Cherry Tree


Fred props cherry tree at MIT’s Walker Memorial Hall (WMBR-FM). Photo by pianist Donal Fox, 2001.

On The Air

I was a radio host (aka disc jockey or ‘dee-jay’) for 13 years (1990-2003) on WMBR-FM (88.1 mHz), the all-volunteer, student-run radio station of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, MA. Drummer George Schuller and record promoter Al Julian, then both on-air hosts, got me interested, and Dave Palmater good-humoredly engineered for me for way-too-long until I finally passed the (by then much simplified) engineering test. Back then all producer-announcers, community members and students alike, aired a weekly 2-hour show. Though I usually had a ball gathering tracks from my LPs and CDs and playing them on the air, often with studio guests, I regarded my program as a public service and an educational resource.

For 10 years I hosted “Changes”, an eclectic all-jazz show. Then I decided to reinvent the show. My thinking was: “Since I’ve sung in choruses since I was 11, why not mix in a little classical music?” So “Crosscurrents” attempted an uneasy synthesis of jazz and classical, with occasional dashes of ‘world’, electronica and other genres; ran specials like May Tributes to the Birds (with Wayne Petersen of Mass Audubon), Sun Ra-ra; annuals (Frank Zappa birthday bash, Thanksgiving Turkey Trot), string quartet marathon [see programming below].

I got kicks in the 80s co-hosting a Saturday-night jazz show with veterans Jack Lazare (WHDH-AM), and guesting on Ron Della Chiesa’s Music America (WGBH-FM). I wrote articles on the dedicated work of fellow radio hosts:

  • Willis Conover (Voice of America), Downbeat Magazine
  • Steve Schwartz (WGBH-FM), Downbeat Magazine
  • Ray Smith (WGBH-FM), Downbeat Magazine
  • Eric Jackson (WGBH-FM), Downbeat Magazine
  • Michael Haggerty (WHRB-FM), New England Jazz Radio News
  • Jeff Turton (WFNX-FM), New England Jazz Radio News
  • Tony Cennamo (WBUR-FM), Boston Herald
  • Mae Cramer (WGBH-FM), Boston Herald

WMBR Link: Please tune into MIT’s eclectic, genre-hopping student-run station, WMBR-FM {audio link at www. org}.

Radio Programming

Sample playlists illustrate my eclectic approach to presenting jazz with ‘contemporary classical’ music. My celebration of Bach’s 250th anniversary, for example, interwove performances of Well-tempered Clavier by Helmut Walcha and John Lewis, and Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations with Uri Caine’s. Annual specials included a springtime Tribute to the Birds, co-hosted with Wayne Peterson, ornithologist and Massachusetts Audubon Society spokesman. Finally, here’s a partial list of the musicians I interviewed on my show.  Musicians Interviewed on WMBR