WFMT 70th



On December 13, 1951, WFMT made its debut on Chicago’s airwaves. Founders Bernie and Rita Jacobs had a vision: to create a station they themselves could enjoy, respect, and share with others.

Today, 70 years later, this idea still guides WFMT, a world-renowned brand with a reputation as a champion of classical music that presents world-class performances from Chicago and around the world accompanied by enlightening context from its knowledgeable hosts.

In honor of our 70 years, WFMT will present a Day of Celebration on December 13, 2021 with a day of exciting performances featuring an impressive roster of special guests. Please find the schedule of performances below. During this all-day celebration, we will air and stream nine live audio and video performances from Northeastern Illinois University’s “Jewel Box” Recital Hall right here on, on 98.7WFMT FM and on the WFMT app.

Thanks for listening to WFMT, and here’s to the next 70 years.

Support WFMT's legacy and future:


Live starting at 10:00 am

Ravinia Festival/Steans Piano Trio – violinist Eunice Kim, cellist Oliver Aldort, and pianist Xiaohui Yang – will perform Brahms Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87
Hosted by George Preston, WFMT

Or Listen Live

Schedule of Performances

Ravinia Festival’s Steans Piano Trio

Ravinia Festival’s Steans Piano Trio

10:00 am
Ravinia Festival/Steans Piano Trio – violinist Eunice Kim, cellist Oliver Aldort, and pianist Xiaohui Yang – will perform Brahms Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Op. 87
Hosted by George Preston, WFMT

Brandon Acker, plucking at a guitar, stands in the bright sunlight with the Chicago skyline in the background

Plucked string player Brandon Acker (Photo: Ken Carl)

11:00 am
Haymarket Opera Company instrumentalists Craig Trompeter on viola da gamba and Brandon Acker on theorbo perform music by Marin Marais
Hosted by Dennis Moore, WFMT


The Omaggio String Quartet of the Music Institute of Chicago

12:00 pm
Music Institute of Chicago – Academy students and faculty will present works by Beethoven, Liszt, and Haydn
Hosted by Dennis Moore, WFMT

Mei-Ann Chen conducting the Chicago Sinfonietta

Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta

1:00 pm
Chicago Sinfonietta Wind Quintet perform Libertango by Astor Piazzolla and Valerie Coleman’s Portraits of Josephine
Hosted by George Preston, WFMT

Anne Harris blues and roots singer songwriter violinist

Anne Harris (Photo: Laura Carbone)

2:00 pm
Roots and blues singer-songwriter and fiddle player Anne Harris, with guitarist Ernie Hendrickson, cellist Ryan Carney, and multi-instrumentalist Scott Tipping
Hosted by Marilyn Rea Beyer, WFMT

Choral members of Music of the Baroque are in song while onstage

The Music of the Baroque Chorus

3:00 pm
Music of the Baroque Chorus, conducted by Andrew Megill, will share excerpts from their Holiday program
Hosted by LaRob K. Rafael, WFMT


The Lincoln Quartet (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

4:00 pm
Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Lincoln Quartet – violinists Qing Hou and Lei Hou, violist Lawrence Neuman, and cellist Kenneth Olsen -- will play Mozart’s String Quartet in D Major, K. 499
Hosted by Kerry Frumkin, WFMT


Violinists Esmé Arias-Kim [L] and Ella Saputra [R]

5:00 pm
Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative String Quartet – violinist/violists Esmé Arias-Kim and Ella Saputra, violinist Sameer Agrawal, and cellist Jonathan Miller – will perform String Quartet No. 1 by George Walker and Jessie Montgomery’s Strum
Hosted by Robbie Ellis, WFMT


Mezzo-soprano Katherine DeYoung; tenor Lunga Eric Hallam

6:00 pm
Ryan Opera Center of Lyric Opera of Chicago – mezzo-soprano Katherine DeYoung, tenor Lunga Eric Hallam, and pianist Chris Reynolds
Hosted by George Preston, WFMT

WFMT's History

December 13, 1951
October 1956
June 1958
July 6,1962
June 1969
September 24, 1971
June 14,1973
October 20, 1977
July 3, 1978
June 8, 1982
January 9, 1986
Feb 1988
July 1990
May 2002
January 27, 2006
August 31, 2007
April 5, 2008
October 3, 2010
September 15, 2015
October 2015
May 1, 2018
July 23, 2018
August 25, 2018
March 2019
January 5, 2020
April 7, 2020
July 25, 2020
August 2020
October 1, 2021
October 5, 2021
December 13, 2021
WFMT is founded

On December 13th, Bernard and Rita Jacobs, having pawned their car and luggage, acquire full ownership of a struggling station, now called WFMT. Broadcasting eight hours a day, they are the station’s only staff: Bernie, the engineer; Rita, the announcer. Their vision: to create a station they themselves could enjoy and respect and share with others.

42 dollars

Following the station's first full month on air, advertisers are billed $42

Mike Nichols joins the station

Nichols, then a student at the University of Chicago, joins the station as an announcer, sharing the booth with Norm Pellegrini. Nichols would go on to enjoy a successful career in comedy and an Oscar-winning career in filmmaking.

Studs Terkel joins WFMT

Terkel's interviews become a weekday fixture through his retirement in 1997

The Midnight Special begins

The influential folk program continues to this day

Norm Pellegrini becomes program director of WFMT

He'd serve in the role until the 1990s

98.7 FM

WFMT switches its frequency from 105.9 Mhz to its current 98.7

Broonzy and Seeger

The first major remote taping of a folk music concert –Big Bill Broonzy and Pete Seeger at Northwestern University – is the first of hundreds to follow.

Wright, Sandburg, and WTTW

A discussion between Frank Lloyd Wright and Carl Sandburg simulcast with WTTW becomes the first collaboration between the two stations.

Daily programming now runs from 6:00 am to 1:00 am
WFMT offers its first multiplex stereo broadcast.
WFMT presents the first live concert series to be broadcast in stereo with the Fine Arts Quartet
"Born to Live," a Studs Terkel-hosted, Jim Unrath-co-produced documentary that still is aired every New Year's Day, is aired for the first time
The station begins 24-hour broadcasting
WFMT is the first station to broadcast a live concert with Dolby noise reduction, during a performance by the Fine Arts Quartet.
Andi Lamoreaux joins WFMT, kicking off a 52-year run at the station
An Award-Winning Lyric Opening Night

WFMT broadcasts an opening night performance from Lyric Opera of Chicago for the first time, live and in four-channel (quadraphonic) sound. The broadcast of Semiramide wins WFMT a Peabody award.

Shostakovich at WFMT

Dmitri Shostakovich visits WFMT as part of a trip to Chicago

From the Recording Horn

Andy Karzas resumes his From the Recording Horn series of rare vocal recordings, first heard in 1957.

Kerry Frumkin joins the station as an announcer
WFMT Radio Network founded

Originally called the WFMT Fine Arts Network, the effort was first focused on bringing Chicago performances to nationwide stations before expanding its scope.

WFMT and the CSO

The then-39-week CSO radio series is broadcast nationwide

WFMT broadcasts the first-ever Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert

The series continues to this day

WFMT programs are first heard abroad

The station's live broadcast of Lyric Opera of Chicago's premiere of Penderecki's opera Paradise Lost is distributed throughout Europe

WFMT broadcasts the first live July 3rd concert from Grant Park.
WFMT becomes the first U.S. radio station to join the European Broadcasting Union

First offering – a live broadcast of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra heard live in the U.S., Britain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and West Germany.

WFMT becomes the first station in the world to broadcast a new technology called a compact disc.
WFMT becomes the national distributor for the SF Symphony, the Canadian National Opera, and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
Carl Grapentine joins announcing staff
Peter Van De Graaff joins WFMT
Dennis Moore joins WFMT
The Fine Arts Circle, the WFMT member support group, is formed.
Lisa Flynn joins WFMT
WFMT moves into a new wing of the WTTW building on Chicago’s northwest side with the engineering staff creating the plans to accommodate the needs of a broadcast and production facility, featuring a larger and better music performance studio.
Studs Terkel retires

Terkel had joined the station in 1952

Andrew Patner becomes WFMT's critic-at-large and begins weekly "Critical Thinking" program
WFMT inaugurates new main antenna at the then Sears Tower, topping off at 1,541 feet above street level.
WFMT launches the Impromptu series, which gives local and visiting artists and ensembles an opportunity to be heard in “mini recitals” during peak listening times. Since its inception, over 500 artists and ensembles have been featured.
Andi Lamoreaux becomes WFMT music director
Princess Magogo, the first indigenous South African opera and the first opera with a libretto in the Zulu language is broadcast live from Durban, South Africa. The broadcast was heard on WFMT and on 150 stations throughout the United States. It was also live on state networks in 17 European countries. An estimated 4 million listeners heard the broadcast.
Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin debuts on WFMT and the WFMT Radio Network. Each weekly theme consists of five one-hour programs.
WFMT premieres The Best of Studs Terkel
The WFMT Radio Network along with WQXR/New York and XM Satellite Radio come together to broadcast three days of live music from the Mozart at 250 celebrations in Salzburg.
Free streaming launches on the WFMT website
Introductions, WFMT's weekly young artists program, launches
WFMT broadcasts the 16th International Chopin Competition from Warsaw, Poland
Host Candice Agree joins WFMT
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visits WFMT
WFMT broadcasts the 17th International Chopin Competition from Warsaw, Poland
The Studs Terkel Radio Archive, a free digital platform housing many of Studs Terkel's over 5600 radio interviews, launches
Dennis Moore is named new Morning Host
Leonard Bernstein centenary

WFMT presents a day of programming composed, conducted, and inspired by Bernstein

George Preston becomes WFMT general manager
WFMT launches new programs: Soundtrack and Saturday Morning Listener's Choice
From the CSO's Archives: Maestro's Choice

With live performances on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, WFMT partners with the CSO for a new broadcast series.

Rich Warren retires as the host of The Midnight Special
Marilyn Rea Beyer becomes host of The Midnight Special
Andi Lamoreaux retires, concluding her 52 year tenure at WFMT
Oliver Camacho is named music director

He succeeds Andi Lamoreaux, who was at WFMT for more than 50 years and was music director for 20 years.

WFMT holds Day of Celebration to mark 70 years

From 10am to 7pm, WFMT invites you to an on-air celebration featuring memories, highlights, and live performances from some of Chicago's finest arts organizations


Programming in celebration of WFMT’s 70th Anniversary is made possible by The Grainger Foundation.
A special thanks to BMO Harris Bank for their lead sponsorship of WFMT’s 70th Anniversary.