Film maker Robert Snyder make a movie short, “A Day in the Life of Pablo Casals.” Snyder asked Casals, the world’s foremost cellist, why he continues to practice four and five hours a day. Casals answered: “Because I think I am making progress.”
So exactly what are “best practices” for classical music radio and the performing arts?
a. whatever I say they are based on my 35 years of experience: I’m the Deciderer.
b. whatever I say they are based on my instincts.
c. programming based on trial and error, experience, instinct and the semi-divine.
d. playing music we know that people like, including the Pachelbel Canon.
e. playing music we know that people like, and inviting them to discover music we think shares the sensibilities of that music we know they like.
f. playing only the hits. (What’s a “hit”?) See a – c.
g. a 500 title play list. A 1,500 title play list; a 3,000 title play list.
h. a 3 – 7-day play rotation; a two week play rotation; 1 one month play rotation.
i. knowing the audience. Understanding that, to be successful, professional musicians and music academics come in second, and maybe even third in our programming choices.
j. avoiding the academic music that will thrill the academics for theoretical or historical reasons; avoiding academic announcing introductions that are best geared towards the most knowledgeable classical music listeners.
k. realizing music is for the heart and the mind – the right and the left brain. For some, it’s more left than right or more right than left. That’s why Bach pleases all.
l. none of the above (except a)
For me, Best Practices in classical music radio are c, d, e, I, j and k.
I would add these additional thoughts and values.
Inherent in the term “Best Practices,” but perhaps overlooked, is that we are still practicing – still trying to find the best way. (See Casals quote at the top.)
Talk like a human being; use listener language; be yourself (the right amount).
For me, Best Practices also means,
Asking “why” and “will this” a lot:
Why am I playing this?
Why am I playing this after playing that?
Is this the right time of day to play a Mahler symphony?
Why am I mentioning this aspect of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in my Intro?
Will this music please, inspire, entertain and move listeners?
Will this music, and music like it, make them like us, and keep them listening today, tomorrow, all week…all year?
Programming classical music on the radio is hard, and rightly so.
“There is no such thing as perfection. There are only standards, and after you learn that it was not high enough. You want to surpass it.” (Jascha Heifetz)