Classical Music Rocks
WWFM The Classical Network just got
stronger with a new general manager.
By Susan Van Dongen
Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 2:18 PM EDT
"If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” as the saying goes. For WWFM The Classical Network, new General Manager Peter Fretwell isn’t so much concerned about “fixing” the radio station, he just wants to make it even better by enhancing the technology. And while classical music stations across the country are switching formats — often to news and talk — Mr. Fretwell is enthusiastic about finding new audiences through fresh platforms, including high definition (HD/digital) radio and podcasts.
”Younger listeners — the iPod generation — apparently do care about classical music,” Mr. Fretwell says. “‘The New York Times’ recently reported that 12 percent of all iTune downloads are classical music, a far greater percentage of downloads than classical music’s share of CD sales.
”We’re purveyors of great music, not just a radio station,” he continues. “If we thought of ourselves just as a ‘radio station,’ that kind of marketing myopia, we might be looking at what’s coming — with iPods and the Internet and whatnot — with fear. But when you’re someone who wants to share great classical music, this new technology means opportunities. If you were strictly approaching things as a radio person, yes, you could be anxious, because technology will change radio. It’s already changed television, newspapers and magazines. But we feel that the Internet provides opportunities, not demise. We have a 25-year track record and I think the next 25 years will be even better because of digital media.”
Arriving in Mercer County from Spokane, Wash., last spring, Mr. Fretwell also feels the radio station and network is placed in one of the most ideal locations in the nation — between two major centers for classical music and the fine arts, New York and Philadelphia.
”This corridor between
”You can’t separate this area from
”We truly benefit from the college, which has a remarkable record of supporting the arts in this area, and we live in a region of the country noted for its vigorous support of the arts,” he says. “We’re confident that classical music has a strong future here because of these two supporting pillars.”
The staff members at WWFM put together their own shows, drawing from the station’s extensive classical library, but also bringing in their own CDs. Program Director
”The announcers have quite a bit of leeway
because each person chooses his or her own selections, but they do so keeping
in mind what time of day it is,” Ms. Weiss says. “We’re going to reserve the
big Mahler symphonies or Bruckner symphonies for later on in the day,
particularly for the late afternoon and evening hours. Because we have
different listeners tuning in and out all the time, we want to give a nice
variety of music. That’s been our claim to fame, that we play such a great
variety of music... There is so much to enjoy, so we try to have something for
Without a “musical bone in my body,” to his admission, Mr. Fretwell points instead to his business background, particularly his studies at
”Radio has become a commodity,” he says. “You can drive across the
The WWFM network is heard on four full-power stations in
With the rise of HD radio, Mr. Fretwell wants to get back into
”As the digital age fully comes to fruition, our format will be extremely strong,” Mr. Fretwell says. “WWFM already offers high-quality classical music programming around the world via Internet streaming. We only expect our webcasting to grow in importance. To add to our 24/7 programming, we plan to also offer educational podcasts on a variety of musical topics, and blogs by some of our on-air hosts. In fact, some of our employees who aren’t announcers but support staff are enthusiastic about doing podcasts.”
Even as Mr. Fretwell was taking the reins
of the station in June, rumors circulated that he was coming east with a big
format change in mind. In his career, Mr. Fretwell was program director for a
conservative Christian radio station. He also worked in news-talk for a number
for years. One of the rumors floating around was that WWFM was going to be
changed to a full-time news and talk station.
”That one was particularly funny to me because of all the formats, news and talk is the most expensive and difficult to do because it’s very human resources intensive,” Mr. Fretwell says. “But these are fair questions. Our supporters need to know that what they’ve given to will remain what they’ve given to. There’s a commitment to myself and the college that this will remain what it is and hopefully get better. I didn’t move from
”And even though I can barely play a note, it’s fun to be surrounded by people who are light years ahead of me, with musical talent and ability,” he continues. “These people (the on-air staff) are passionate about their music. It’s what makes them do what they do. And that’s rare.”
WWFM The Classical Network, can be heard locally at 89.1 FM, or on the Web at www.wwfm.org