Steve Robinson on the Mozart Celebration
January 27, 2006 marked the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth and WFMT was set to celebrate all month long. One of the most ambitious broadcasting and programming projects occurred during the week of January 23-27, when 98.7WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network worked in partnership with XM Satellite Radio and classical radio stations WQXR in New York and KMZT in Los Angeles to bring the world live and recorded broadcasts from Salzburg. Steve Robinson, Senior Vice President for Radio provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how this momentous project came together.
Q & A with Steve Robinson
Q: It's January of 2006...when did you actually begin thinking of and planning for the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth?
ROBINSON: Like millions of music lovers, I've had a life-long love affair with Mozart so, in a certain sense, the 250th birthday has been on my mind for a long time. The idea to originate a broadcast from Salzburg to join in the celebration of this epochal moment in Western culture began last summer during an informal discussion with my long-time friend, Martin Goldsmith, the director of classical programming at XM Satellite Radio. We both thought a broadcast was in order and we kept discussing it throughout 2004.
Q: How many stations will be carrying the WFMT Radio Network programming around the country?
ROBINSON: In addition to WFMT, WQXR, KMZT, and XM, all of whom will of course be taking the broadcasts, we've offered the Mozart Week programs to hundreds of public radio stations throughout the country. It's difficult at this juncture to say how many stations will be airing the programs but it's safe to say that stations in at least 100 markets will be on board.
Q: In October, you did a site visit to Salzburg and Vienna. Are their any good behind-the-scenes stories from that trip you'd like to share?
ROBINSON: It was my first trip to Salzburg and I can say that it was thrilling to spend four days in Mozart's home town. Walking up the stairs to the Mozart apartment, where he was born nearly 250 years ago, was a magical moment. We also visited the world renowned Mozarteum, the little cemetary where Mozart's father, sister, and wife are buried, and other Mozart sites in Salzburg. One of our most interesting visits was to a new museum devoted to Mozart that will open on the big day, January 27, 2006. The museum will be devoted to Salzburg's most famous son and will feature a variety of exhibits about his life and music. One highlight will be an audio tape commissioned by the museum featuring actors portraying Mozart and other people from his life. The audio will be heard throughout the museum and the theme is a surprise party for Mozart. As it happened, the play was being recorded in Vienna that very week and the director promised to send us a copy as soon as it's edited. With a little luck, we'll be able to use part of the tape on the broadcast.
Q: Given all your time and research on this project, have you uncovered any information about Mozart that surprised you, or that you didn't already know?
ROBINSON: I've listened to Mozart's music all my life and have read countless books about him and I feel I know him as well as anyone I've ever actually met so, except for one interesting piece of trivia, I can't say I learned anything new. What was new, of course, was the experience of being in his home town. I don't have the words to describe that feeling. (The new information was learning that, contrary to what had been thought until last year, Mozart's father, Leopold, is in fact not buried right next to Mozart's wife, Constanze. The two were arch enemies so it was ironic they were buried next to each other. But they weren't, so Leopold is resting in peace after all.)
Q: Lisa Flynn is WFMT's host in Austria. What will we hear from her?
ROBINSON: Lisa will be a very busy lady! She'll not only co-host the national broadcasts with Martin Goldsmith of XM and Jeff Spurgeon from WQXR, she'll be on-the-air with Carl Grapentine every morning on WFMT. Her challenge will be to give listeners throughout the country, and our own WFMT listeners, a sense of what's taking place during this historic week. We view the Mozart 250th birthday as an historic moment in Western culture and there is no broadcaster better qualified to convey the spirit of the moment than Lisa.
Q: What about the bells?
ROBINSON: Ah, the bells! That's going to be a magical moment, when more than 100 churches in Salzburg ring their bells at the moment Mozart was born 250 years. We're told this incredible moment will last for seven minutes and we'll broadcast all of it.
Q: What's the next big project on the horizon for WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network?
ROBINSON: Too many to mention! But I'll single out one project. Almost by accident, we discovered that a professor at the University of Kansas, John Tibbetts, had produced an astounding 15-hour radio documentary on the life and music of Robert Schumann. It's a wonderful series, and unlike anything I've ever heard. We're excited to work with John to distribute it all over the world. Stay tuned.