Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Marathons and Traditions

I'm writing this on the eve of our fall fund-raising marathon. If you're not familiar with WTJU's history, the term "marathon" might not mean much. But it's a long-standing tradition at this 50-year old station.

For many years, regardless of what was regularly scheduled, WTJU would play classical music non-stop the first week in December. That was the week before mid-terms, and the station did so as a study aid.

Over time, the all-classical week (or marathon) took on a life of its own, and eventually became independent of the scholastic year. The other music departments at WTJU (folk, jazz, and rock) wanted marathons of their own, and so four times a year a different department would mount its own music marathon.

Eventually the marathons, being special events, morphed into fund drives. In an effort to make things a little less chaotic for the listeners (and easier for the volunteer announcers -- these marthons are incredibly labor-intensive undertakings) the classical and jazz marathons were consolidated into a single fall event, and the folk and rock marathons into a single spring fund-raiser.

So if, next week, you tune in and hear classical or jazz music when you've not heard it before, don't panic. We're just carrying on a long-standing tradition. And you can help by calling in your pledge to support WTJU.

I like to think a nice $100 pledge would be a good way to further the tradition.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Marathons, Music, and Money

It's about that time of year again. Non-commercial radio stations all across the country are coming to their listeners, had in hand, to ask for their financial support.

We've all heard the pitches, and I suspect we've all ignored them (I know I did for years). But here's the thing. It's not an exaggeration when stations say they can't survive without direct listener contributions. Unlike other countries, which fund their public broadcasters, America's official stance is sink or swim.

And that's certainly the case here at WTJU. Our fall fund-raising marathon is coming up on October 23, and we will be looking to you, gentle listener, for a financial contribution.

I understand there's a perception that WTJU really doesn't need the money. After all, isn't it owned by the University of Virginia? (They do hold the license) Don't they pay for everything? (Partially. About half of the station's operating costs are covered by UVa). Don't public radio stations get huge government handouts? (Hardly. Our share of money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is only a few thousand dollars) What about all those underwriting announcements WTJU airs? Doesn't that pay the bills? (Partially, but we'd have to do pretty much non-stop underwriting announcements occasionally interrupted by a song or two to cover everything)

So it comes back to you, the listener. About half of our operating budget has to be raised from the community. A small part is covered by community-minded businesses through underwriting, but the bulk of it rests with you.

Will you call in with a pledge this time? Or go to our website and do so?

Ask yourself how important WTJU is to you, and pledge accordingly. Personally, I'm looking for a lot of big boy and big girl pledges this time around -- $100 and higher.

For the quality of music we provide day in and day out, I don't think that's unreasonable.

And here's something to consider: if every single listener pledged $100 this fund drive would be over before it started -- and so would the next one. But not everyone will pledge.

What about you? Will you help keep WTJU going?

- Ralph

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Calling for Counterpoint

Personally, I don't like cell phone ring tones. I agree with the comedian who pointed out that ring tones, like pictures of your pets, may be cute to you but they're annoying to everyone else.

Nevertheless, I just heard a work that I wouldn't mind having as a ring tone. Composer and pianist Vincent Lo has taken the standard Nokia ring, and used it as the motif for a short fugue.

As you can hear (and see, if you read music), Lo's counterpoint is very inventive, yet logical. I think it works well as a piece of music.

You may here me air it on "Gamut" some fine Wednesday morning. But probably not on my person. Great as Lo's composition is, I'll most likely be keeping my phone in vibrate mode -- it's easier to ignore that way.

- Ralph