Select a Date

August 2016
« Jul    

QUIZ: Match the Anthem to the Nation


This content is best enjoyed in a browser such as Chrome or Firefox.

20 Times Classical Musicians Got #PhelpsFace


Poem of the Week: “ode to coffee/ oda al café” by Urayoán Noel



In this episode of PoetryNow, Urayoán Noel says, “It’s almost an inside joke. You can’t be a certain kind of Caribbean poet without having a coffee poem.” Noel’s poem ode to coffee/ oda al café considers the pleasures of coffee and how those pleasures may differ between the English and Spanish languages. The poem is also a tribute. He said, “This poem is dedicated to the merengue musician Juan Luis Guerra and specifically to his song “Ojalá que llueva café,” (“Let it rain coffee”). Read his poem or hear the author read his own work in the episode of PoetryNow below.

ode to Coffee/ oda al Café

from Africa to a Caribbean hill

            de África a las lomas del Caribe

to the smiling ruin of our cities

            a la feliz ruina de ciudades

anoint the neural vessels we refill

            al matorral neural en donde vive

until your acid muse drowns our pities

            tu agria musa que ahoga soledades

return us to our tribe that grew dark beans

            devuélvenos al semillero isleño

cut through the grease of our late-night omelets

            metaboliza la grasa nocturna

and warm this empty diner by the club

            trae tu calor a nuestro desvelo

where luckless lovers stare at tiny screens

            haz que el amante no muera de sueño

and poets brew old socks into psalmlets

            tu borra es poema que embadurna

while dreaming it rains coffee from above.

            y sombría tu alegría de cielo.

More About the Author

Urayoán Noel was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and attended the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, Stanford University, and New York University. As a poet, Noel is the author of Buzzing Hemisphere/Rumor Hemisférico (2015), a Library Journal Top Fall Indie Poetry selection; Hi-Density Politics (2010), a National Book Critics Circle Small Press Highlights selection; Kool Logic/La Lógica Kool (2005), an El Nuevo Día Book of the Year; and several books of poetry in Spanish, most recently EnUncIAdOr (2014). Other works include the DVD Kool Logic Sessions (2005), a collaboration with composer Monxo López; the artist’s book/performance/website The Edgemere Luyayoan-noeletters (2011), a collaboration with artist Martha Clippinger; and the critical study In Visible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (2014), winner of the LASA Latina/o Studies Section Book Award and recipient of an honorable mention in the MLA Prize in Latina/o and Chicana/o Literary and Cultural Studies. Noel’s ongoing and forthcoming projects include the improvisational poetry vlog WOKITOKITEKI and a bilingual edition of the poems of Pablo de Rokha.

Noel has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Bronx Council on the Arts, and CantoMundo. He has served as a contributing editor of Mandorla and NACLA Report on the Americas. Formerly an assistant professor of English at SUNY Albany, Noel currently lives in the Bronx and is an assistant professor in the departments of English and Spanish and Portuguese at NYU.

Can’t Get to Rio? Escape to Brazil with “A Joyful Cry: Brazil’s Choro Music”


“Chorinho”, by Cândido Portinari (1942)

Just in time for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, WFMT will broadcast a one-hour special exploring the sounds of Brazil called A Joyful Cry: Brazil’s Choro Music on August 10, 2016 at 10:00 pm. The special is part of a new series about a unique, exciting and virtuosic musical style – all the way from Brazil. The word choro comes from the word “cry,” yet, it’s some of the happiest and most energetic music one could ever hear.

Julie Kodin

Julie Kodin

From its beginnings in the late 1860s, choro truly showcases the incredible artistry of the musicians who play it. Its distinctive rhythm and catchy melodies could only come from Brazil. While it’s a genre with its own vitality and character, choro does also have rich connections to classical music and jazz.  As many set their sights on the country and its 2016 Summer Olympic celebrations, A Joyful Cry reminds us that an airplane ticket isn’t necessary to feel and hear the vibe of a Rio night!

Geraldo de Oliveira

Geraldo de Oliveira

In the series, host Julie Koidin and co-host Geraldo de Oliveira introduce you to choro’s origins in the late 19th century and its development to the present day, through tasteful use of historic recordings and some of the stories associated with the music itself.

In the special you’ll hear on WFMT, you’ll learn how classical musicians like Heitor Villa Lobos got their start playing choro – sneaking out of the house late at night to perform! Names like Pixinguinha and Jaco will become familiar as we highlight their music and the performers playing it– Joel, Ze da Velha, Camerata Carioca and more.

Other segments in the series explore choro’s finest brass, woodwind, and string players  – with a big focus on the mandolin, guitar (both 6 and 7 string) and the cavaquinho (a Brazilian ukulele). You’ll also hear from the musicians themselves, drawn from the interviews Julie Koidin has done over the last two decade during her travels around Brazil and which have been featured in her book, Choro Conversations: Pursuing Life, Love and Brazil’s Musical Identity (2013) . They talk about the art of choro and how for them, it is the most Brazilian of all music.

A Joyful Cry is produced by the WFMT Radio Network.

20 Tattoos That Might Make Music Lovers Want Ink


After 16 Years, Steve Robinson Retires As WFMT’s Executive Vice President and General Manager



On August 8, 2016, Steve Robinson announced his retirement as WFMT’s Executive Vice President and General Manager, effective October 1, 2016. His last day at the station will be Friday, September 30.

“It is with great regret that we bid farewell to an indispensable member of our WFMT family,” said President and CEO Dan Schmidt of WFMT and WTTW. “It is difficult to imagine the station without his unflagging energy, endless creativity, and deep knowledge of classical music and radio operations. He will be greatly missed, and I know I speak for all of us when I wish him success in his future endeavors.”

“Working at WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network has been the greatest privilege and challenge of my career,” Steve said. “When people ask, ‘Oh, you run WFMT?’ I always say, ‘No, I run after it.’ And that’s because everyone at WFMT is immensely creative, knowledgeable, and passionate about their work, and all I’ve really done is try to harness this incredible talent to move the station forward. If it has progressed at all in the 16 years I’ve been there, it’s because of them, and I will always be grateful.”

Steve has led WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network since 2000. Under his leadership, WFMT diversified its programming and increased its member base, and the Network became a leading producer and syndicator of music and spoken word programs. In 2002, Steve brought to the WFMT Radio Network a live broadcast of Princess Magogo, the first indigenous South African opera and the first with a libretto in the Zulu language. Steve hosted, and the opera was heard by more than four million listeners throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Steve created Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin in 2003, a daily series heard by more than 400,000 listeners a week, and he also instituted a comprehensive subscription website. Other popular WFMT series and programs created during Steve’s tenure include include Impromptu, a daytime showcase for local and visiting artists; Introductions, a unique weekly series that features promising young pre-college musician; and the Studs Terkel Radio Archive, which was launched in 2015 in partnership with Chicago History Museum. Last year, at Steve’s direction, the Network began exporting classical music radio concerts by American ensembles for broadcast in China and importing Chinese music performances for broadcast in the West, marking the first time a cultural exchange of this kind had happened between America and China.

In 2007, the Chicago Tribune named Steve a “Chicagoan of the Year” in the arts. His many other honors include two Peter Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism; the ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award; two Westbury Awards from the Red Cross of Greater Chicago for coordinating fundraising efforts among the city’s television and radio stations in the wake of the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake; an Award of Excellence from the Chicago Sinfonietta; a special award from the Illinois Philharmonic; the first Champion Award from the Merit School of Music; and, with Bill McGlaughlin, Dushkin Award from the Music Institute of Chicago– previous winners have included Sir George Solti, Daniel Barenboim, Placido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Leon Fleischer, Sir Andrew Davis, and Mstislav Rostropovich.

Steve currently serves on the boards of Cedille Records, the Merit School of Music, the Chicago College of Performing Arts, and the Rush Hour Concerts. His past board service includes the Grant Park Orchestra, Chicago Children’s Choir, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Music in the Loft.

Previously, Steve worked at WBUR, WGBH, WCRB, KPFA, WVPR, WBGO, and Nebraska Public Radio.

WFMT to Broadcast James Levine’s Return to Ravinia

James Levine leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler's "Symphony No. 2" Saturday evening at the Ravinia Festival. (Photo: Russell Jenkins/Ravinia Festival)

James Levine leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler's "Symphony No. 2" Saturday evening at the Ravinia Festival. (Photo: Russell Jenkins/Ravinia Festival)

James Levine leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler's "Symphony No. 2" Saturday evening at the Ravinia Festival. (Photo: Russell Jenkins/Ravinia Festival)

James Levine leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2” Saturday evening at the Ravinia Festival. (Photo: Russell Jenkins/Ravinia Festival)

WFMT will air the Ravinia Festival Women’s Board’s 50th Anniversary Gala Concert, which marked the long-awaited return to the Ravinia podium of renowned conductor James Levine, leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. This one-time-only broadcast will take place on Monday, August 15 at 7:00 pm on 98.7 WFMT and can also be heard via live streaming at and via the WFMT mobile app.

Maestro Levine, who served as Ravinia Festival’s Music Director from 1973 to 1993, returned on July 23 to the Ravinia stage for the first time since he completed that directorship, to lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Duain Wolfe, director) in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony #2, Resurrection, the same work he conducted at his Ravinia debut when he stepped in as a last-minute replacement at the 1971 Gala. Featured soloists are soprano Ying Fang and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill.

In honor of this special broadcast, WFMT has proclaimed August 15 James Levine Day; the station will share recordings by the Maestro throughout the day leading up to the historic broadcast, and pay tribute to the Ravinia Festival Gala’s milestone anniversary. This is the first time in more than a decade that WFMT has aired a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance recorded at Ravinia.

Considered one of the most important American conductors ever, Levine, 72, has just stepped down from an unprecedented four-decade run as Music Director of the Metropolitan Opera and has been named Music Director Emeritus.

About his return to Ravinia for this performance, Maestro Levine said, “Little did I know when I first came to Ravinia how important my time there would turn out to be, and the significant development it would stimulate in my artistic growth. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, I felt as though we were an ideal match, each provoking the other to strive for the best. For more than 20 years it was my summer home, and I’ve looked forward to returning for a long time. This summer I conduct Mahler’s Second Symphony, the masterpiece of my debut at Ravinia 45 years ago.”

“We’re thrilled and proud to be able to bring what will surely be an historic broadcast to our audience, and thankful to Maestro Levine and the Ravinia Festival for this gift to Chicago’s entire classical music community,” said David Polk, WFMT’s Program Director.

“James Levine’s homecoming was such a significant triumph that we not only wanted a historical record of the profound performance of the Mahler Resurrection Symphony, but we also wanted as many people as possible to experience it. We thank our partners at WFMT for helping to make that possible,” said Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman.

This concert and broadcast were produced and underwritten by Ravinia Festival—Welz Kauffman, President and CEO—with special thanks to James Levine, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Karen Cargill, and Ying Fang. WFMT’s broadcast will be produced and hosted by Kerry Frumkin and engineered by Hudson Fair.

Violinist Joshua Bell and Trumpeter Chris Botti Collaborate at Ravinia Festival


Chris Botti and Joshua Bell are long-time friends who will share the stage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on August 12, 2016

Violinist Joshua Bell and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti have more in common than meets the eye.  Both musicians studied at Indiana University. Both have also won Grammy Awards.  Now, they will share the stage together as a part of a national tour.  The duo will appear with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival on Friday, August 12.  Bell and Botti will present classical and jazz favorites under the leadership of conductor George Hanson.  The concert marks Botti and Hanson’s CSO debut.

In anticipation of his performance with Chris Botti and the CSO, Joshua Bell spoke about this unique program.

“The reason for this collaboration is as much musical as it is personal,” Bell said. “I’ve known Chris since I was 16 years old.  Over the years, we’ve performed at some events, but we never really did a full concert together.  We said we should just do a double bill, and we’re finally doing it this summer.”

The duo has already performed in Orlando, Atlanta, and Denver.   With limited rehearsal time and different orchestras in each city, Bell and Botti continue to finish arrangements and decide repertoire on the go.

“I wanted to bring some truly classical pieces,” Bell confessed, “but ones that are readily accessible, such as The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, Piazolla tangos, and film music.”

He continued, “Chris tends to bring a violinist with him on tours, and we have a couple jazz standards that we perform.  I’m not going to claim to be a jazz violinist, but making these arrangements our own is a lot of the fun.  It’s really a variety show with a different vibe.”


Chris Botti

Bell noted that while both classical and jazz music require attentive listening, the relationship between artist and audience is relaxed during these performances.

“You talk to the audience and make jokes, you keep it casual,” Bell said.  “The audience feels more connected to the performers on stage.  It’s fun to be in that sort of environment.”

Are mixed format concerts the key to attract new audiences?

“It’s not a direction that absolutely must be taken, but there are so many opportunities to explore,” he stated.  “This tour was not forced and put together by managers, so it’s very natural.”

He continued, “There’s a time and place for these things.   There’s no place I enjoy more than Wigmore Hall in London.  It’s so serious, with hardcore classical music lovers that might scare away other audiences, but you know the audience appreciates it—there’s a place for that.

“There’s also a place for mixed format concerts.  We need these concerts for people to come in jeans and to also welcome children.  It’s not dumbing down the music.  You can still play great music, but you can play around with how it’s presented.”

By reaching new audiences, Bell ultimately hopes that “people leave saying, ‘I love Chris Botti and jazz, but I want to hear your Beethoven album.’  Classical music should be accessible to all.”




5 Reasons Why W.A. Mozart’s “Great” Mass in C minor is Just As Great As His Requiem


W.A. Mozart has composed some of the most beloved works of music in history. Many are familiar with some of his sacred music, in particular his Requiem. But his last setting of the Catholic Mass, his Mass in C minor (K 427) may also be his greatest. It’s so great, in fact, that people today refer to it as his “Great Mass.” Here are just 5 reasons to love Mozart’s last Mass. Do you think it’s his greatest? Tell us in the comments.

  1.   Mozart composes the craziest coloratura for his wife, Constanze, to sing in the Et incarnatus est.

  3. He shows his respect for the contrapuntal masters who came before him in the Cum sancto spiritu.

  5. Traversing 2 octaves in 2 measures? 0 problems

  7. The Great Mass uses the largest orchestral forces in any Mozart sacred work (besides his Kyrie in D minor), and you sure can hear it in the Sanctus!

  9. Mozart never finished composing the “Great Mass,” but it’s great just the way it is.

Hear Mozart’s “Great” Mass in C minor performed live at the Grant Park Music Festival from anywhere in the world by streaming from or our apps for Apple and Android.

Titus Burgess Reveals His Vocal Hero’s An Opera Singer



Titus Burgess has won over the hearts of millions for portraying Titus Andromedon on Netflix’s series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  Titus Andromedon is an aspiring entertainer and the roommate of the title character, Kimmy. He never needs encouragement to bust out into song. Titus Burgess revealed in an interview with Vanity Fair that he is an opera fan.

His vocal hero? None other than American soprano Renée Fleming. He even had the chance to perform for Fleming once. In Vanity Fair, he said that after he sang for her, they had, “a pedagogical conversation that she prompted. She said, ‘How do you produce that noise?’ And I started to talk her through my process. I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation.”

While unfortunately, no media has surfaced of Burgess singing for Fleming, we can enjoy this clip of him singing “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

YouTube Preview Image