West Windsor, N.J. -- You haven't heard how great classical music can sound on the radio until you've heard HD radio, according to WWFM General Manager Peter Fretwell. That fact has spurred WWFM, based at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, New Jersey, to extend its reach. Starting in early September, New Yorkers who own an HD radio -- a radio which receives digital audio embedded in regular analog FM broadcasts -- will be able to listen to The Classical Network on 89.9 HD2. WWFM is partnering with WKCR-FM, the legendary student station at Columbia University, in the new venture. In Philadelphia, there will be one fully digital, full genre classical station, WWFM The Classical Network, on 89.5 HD2.
With music education as the heart of its mission, WWFM is dedicated to presenting the full breadth and depth of classical music. “Most classical stations present the ‘greatest hits’ of the past 300 years,” Fretwell says. “WWFM covers 1,600 years of music, including the Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance eras, opera, and even Broadway and movie scores.”
With its extended reach will come a wider variety of programming, Fretwell promises. “In addition to works of famed composers, WWFM currently showcases the talents of approximately 50 regional groups.” That number is likely to grow into hundreds as the station plans to air the music of New York performers such as the Orchestra of St. Lukes, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, musicians from the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College The New School for Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Fretwell notes that the station will still carry performances from venues such as Princeton University, Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and Rutgers University.
“There are huge areas of classical music that are no longer explored on the radio,” Fretwell said. “HD presents an opportunity for classical and jazz music stations nationwide to reinvigorate themselves by offering programming that is unavailable elsewhere.” While only 22% of U.S. radio stations offer HD broadcasts, more than 90 percent of the U.S. population live in metropolitan regions that offer HD signals. “WWFM is ideally located to pick up thousands of new listeners,” Fretwell says.
Fretwell believes in the future of digital radio. “It’s clear that people are open to buying HD radios if they have a reason to do so. We expect that as word spreads about the incredible quality of the HD listening experience, and the diverse programming they can expect on WWFM, people will buy them. We envision this as a 10 to 20- year progression, not unlike the long acceptance curve for FM. It started in the late 1930s, and FM did not really begin gaining dominant market share until the 1970s.”
Fretwell reports that the current base of listeners is enthused about the expansion plans. “Those who love classical music want to spread it. They are excited to see us grow.”
HD radios and tuners are available in tabletop, stereo component, and car models from many electronic retailers and on-line sites.