WDAV Announces New Transmitter

By Michelle Medina Villalon

After nearly two years, WDAV is pleased to announce that we are broadcasting on a brand new transmitter! This transmitter replaces a thirty-year-old analog transmitter we used as a back-up after our previous one was damaged by lightning.

We began broadcasting on the new transmitter on April 17th. Listeners may have noticed a few brief pops off the air during this process. We appreciate your patience as this important piece of equipment was installed.

You may have noticed something else that’s returned after a long time missing: the artist and title information displayed on certain types of radios when you tune to WDAV. Fortunately, our new state-of-the-art transmitter has dual digital/analog capabilities and enables us to transmit this information once again.

In addition to that helpful information we are able to broadcast sub-channels such as our HD-2, which features a continuous stream of Concierto episodes. Additionally, the new transmitter provides us with stronger, more robust signals.

We’ve spent the last month ironing out the wrinkles that are bound to happen with a change like this one. We sincerely thank those who reached out to let us know they could see artist/title information and/or noticed a change in our signal.

We are delighted to share this news with you and hope you enjoy listening to the music you love better than ever!

WDAV Makes History

Well, something happened recently that has never happened before. I’m sharing the news here because as someone who follows WDAV, you are a very important part of this story.

On Thursday, February 24th, while eating my lunch at my desk as I usually do, I got the monthly email informing me that the latest radio ratings report for WDAV was available. I opened it dutifully, prepared to scan it for insights to share with the management team here at the station about how the station performed in January 2022 as far as numbers of listeners, the amount of time they spend listening to WDAV, and when that listening occurs.

I glanced at the first page of the Market Ranker, as the report is called, which lists all the radio stations in the Charlotte region in descending order based on each station’s “share” of radio listening in the area. I found that I had to really focus and look closely to make sure I wasn’t misreading what I saw, because I was completely unprepared for what the ranking showed.

In the most recent ratings report from Nielsen Media, WDAV ranked as the Number 1 station in the Charlotte radio market based on its share of 6.5 percent, with an average of 6,100 listeners tuned in each quarter hour and averaging 102,900 individual listeners over the course of a week.*

This was exciting enough in its own right, because it had never happened before in all the years that WDAV has existed, though in recent years we have occasionally been in the top 10. But the next day, industry publications noted that this was not just a first in our area. It turned out that this was the first time a classical music station has ever led its market in the modern era of radio ratings!

We’re delighted that so many radio listeners in the Charlotte region care about classical music and turn to WDAV to experience it. Public media like WDAV isn’t traditionally driven by the ratings, but this landmark does serve to demonstrate the impact we have in the community, and the special way in which we engage with our listeners. According to this Nielsen survey, on average WDAV listeners spent seven hours and thirty minutes a week with the station – and a significant number of our audience of almost 103,000 individuals spent much more than that! It’s a commitment of time and attention that is in marked contrast to the relationship most people have with radio these days.

It’s very heartening for everyone who works at WDAV, whether on air or supporting our programming behind the scenes, to know that the effort has earned the station this milestone moment. But we are also very aware that without the loyalty of our listeners, it simply would not have happened.

Frank Dominguez

So, I write these words with deep appreciation for your role in WDAV’s ongoing growth over more than four decades. Because of it, we can continue to provide this timeless and enduring music in the coming weeks, months, and years. We truly couldn’t do it without you.

Frank Dominguez, General Manager

*Nielsen Topline Radio Ratings, January 2022, Charlotte Metro, Persons 6+, Monday – Sunday, 6 a.m. –Midnight, Average Quarter-Hour Share and Audience, and Weekly Cume.

Conductor Cottis, CSO Catch Fire with Lesser-Known Works

by Lawrence Toppman

Each guest conductor in this Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (CSO) season must be considered a candidate for Christopher Warren-Green’s job, once he steps down as music director this summer. So what they conduct may be as revealing as how they conduct it.

Jessica Cottis led the CSO through four pieces Friday at Knight Theater, all from the last 100 years and three unknown to most of the audience and probably many of the musicians. The orchestra responded with vital, colorful performances across a wide range, from Ravel’s glittering piano concerto in G to Stravinsky’s galumphing ”Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant.”

She saved the longest and best for last: Kurt Weill’s “The Seven Deadly Sins,” where the players romped through bits of symphonic swooning, parodies and Broadway-style tunes. Whatever Cottis may be like in Romantic Era works that make up so much of the CSO’s repertoire, she’s firmly at home in music of the 20th century.

Cottis started with a piece from our own time, Jessie Montgomery’s seven-minute “Strum” for string orchestra. Players plucked and bowed through fragments of melody that ebbed and flowed, changing in mood from celebratory to plaintive to astringent. The orchestra became a big guitar in Montgomery’s hands, right up to the warm-hearted conclusion.

Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear, who released an album of Ravel’s piano music in 2017, soloed in Ravel’s concerto. He took at face value the composer’s statement that he wanted not to be profound but to entertain, as Mozart and Saint-Saens did.

Goodyear brought out the first movement’s breezy, jazzy flavor, stressing associations with the piano concerto Gershwin had written four years earlier in 1925; meanwhile, brass and woodwinds made ripely raucous interjections. The slow movement, meditative and dreamy in other hands, moved steadily forward with reserved dignity, and the speedy finale sparkled.

The London-based Cottis introduced the Circus Polka after intermission in a voice bearing traces of her native Australia, telling us George Balanchine choreographed it for 50 humans and 50 elephants in pink tutus. Its elephantine wit always seems labored to me, but for once it bounced along in high spirits, right up to the polka-style quotation from Schubert’s “Marche Militaire.”

Cottis neglected to say that Balanchine also choreographed “Deadly Sins” for its 1933 debut in Paris, creating a “ballet chanté.” The leading role of Anna was both sung by Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, and danced by Tilly Losch to indicate facets of the character’s personality. (Losch, who reportedly resembled Lenya, was married to the impresario who paid for the production. Draw your own conclusions.)

The CSO didn’t use a dancer, letting soprano Lindsay Kesselman sing Anna I and the small part of Anna II. She steered away from Lenya’s sardonic bitterness, taking Anna instead from cheerful naivete to tamped-down desperation and finally resignation, as experiences with grasping and acquisitive men beat her down. She and the four singers depicting Anna’s finger-wagging family – William Edwards, Reginald Powell, Zachary Taylor and Robert Wells – all come from North Carolina, a pleasant touch.

Yet even here, the orchestra remained the star. The acidic nature of Weill’s score came out, with hints of “The Threepenny Opera” and “Mahagonny” seeping through. (Bertolt Brecht supplied texts for all three.) The players seemed at home in the jazzy cabaret style – how rare that is for them! – and gave the appearance of improvisation, so fresh were their snarky sounds. Kudos to Cottis for showing them the way.

The concert repeats Saturday, January 29, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to charlottesymphony.org.

Pictured: The Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center; Courtesy Charlotte Symphony.

The Birth of Brevard

When Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival began in 1936, I’m not sure even the founder could have foreseen what a cultural treasure the program would become. Now, 79 years later, Brevard is a hub for quality music education and performance, and WDAV gladly returns each summer to share the experience with our listeners. But this 180-acre camp nestled in the North Carolina Mountains didn’t always exist in the form we know and love today. It actually began in WDAV’s own (future) backyard!

Dr. James Christian Pfohl conducting

Dr. James Christian Pfohl

Brevard was the brainchild of Dr. James Christian Pfohl, Davidson College Director of Music circa late 1930s. Originally named the Davidson College Music School Camp, the program’s first summer had fifty male high-school instrumentalists.

The music camp remained at Davidson until 1943, when – fun college fact – the army repurposed the campus as a training ground. After a summer spent becoming co-ed at Queens College in Charlotte, NC, the program came to rest at its final home:  an abandoned boys’ camp in Brevard, NC.

Pfohl wasted no time in expanding “Transylvania Music Camp.” And no, the new name isn’t as odd as it sounds. Brevard is in Transylvania county. Takes some of mystique out of it, right?

Just two years after the big move, Pfohl tacked on a three week music festival to the end of the six week camp. The festival featured high-quality concerts by students, faculty, and guest artists, much like we see today. Ten years passed before the camp’s name was officially changed to Brevard Music Center.

Today, the Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival trains, houses, and feeds over 400 students, age 14 to post-college, each year. During the seven week intensive camp, more than 80 concerts are presented, featuring everything from symphonic classics and chamber music to opera and movie scores.

Sound like a magical, musical summer you would like to experience for yourself? That’s where WDAV comes in! We’ll be presenting concert highlights each week on Open Air Brevard, beginning July 4. Tune in Saturdays at 3pm and Thursdays at 9pm to hear renowned soloists and conductor, dedicated faculty from leading orchestra, and talented students from across the country do what they love most – perform!


Check out this short 1937 clip of the Davidson College Music School Camp, provided by longtime supporter and listener Bill Vinson, who is hidden in there somewhere playing the cornet:

Remembering Film Composer James Horner

Cinema has lost one of its best. James Horner, composer of more than a hundred film scores, died Monday, June 22, 2015 when the plane he was piloting crashed in southern California. Horner had been working steadily in Hollywood since the late 1970s, getting his big break in 1982 with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and later picking up two Oscars (Best Score and Best Song) for the 1997 James Cameron epic Titanic.

If John Williams was the composer of my childhood, then James Horner was that of my adolescence. I certainly knew of Horner early on, thanks to his work on Star Trek II and III (I was a big Trekkie), but it was Horner’s scores for Glory, Field of Dreams, Braveheart, and Titanic that most affected me. Horner was known for his ability to combine orchestra and choir in a way that evoked feelings of longing and melancholy, which my daydreaming, somewhat angsty young adult self-identified with on a deep level.

In interviews, James Horner has always struck me as a gentle, sensitive composer, aware of what was happening on the surface of the story—what you see on screen—but also very tuned in to what was happening beneath the surface, the tensions and motivations of the characters. Below are some clips of James Horner talking about his work.

Tune in Friday, June 26 at 9pm for Reel Music: Remembering James Horner.


Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Field of Dreams (1989)

Titanic (1997)

Karate Kid (2010)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

Classical Driveway Moments: Our Fall Membership Campaign Highlight

campaign-celebrationWe did it! As of 7:41 last night, we met our goal: by raising $216, 635 and welcoming 209 new members to WDAV, we had another successful membership campaign. It was a group effort — our supporters, our volunteers, our staff — and one that makes all of us at WDAV incredibly thankful to be a part of this wonderful family of Classical Public Radio.

One of our favorite parts of this campaign was hearing Classical Driveway Moments from our listeners. During the campaign, they shared stories of classical music pieces that stirred them so much that they’d prefer to sit in a parked car rather than turn off the music prematurely. The stories reminded us of the power of classical public radio — of how classical public radio allows the music of a symphony, perhaps in Berlin or Prague or New York, to stop us in our tracks as we go about our errands in Charlotte, Boone, or Winston-Salem.

We’d like to share some of these stories with you, stories when classical music stopped us in our tracks. Some are literally driveway moments; some are treadmill, desk, or kitchen moments. You’ll read stories of three-year-old twins who conduct Tchaikovsky from the back seat; of a driveway moment that inspired a walking-down-the aisle moment; and — perhaps my favorite — of a man who blows his leaves to the tune of Wagner, transforming the mundane into magnificence.

“My moment was in the car but wasn’t limited to the driveway. I was driving a 5-speed sports car on a winding mountain road in a driving rain and listening to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. The music added to the exhilaration of the drive in a way I’ve never forgotten. Whenever I hear the Ride of the Valkyries on WDAV, I think of that memorable drive.”
Frank Dominguez, General Manager and Content Director of WDAV

“Last year, my three-year-old twins made me stop in the driveway and wait while they finished listening to and conducting the 1812 Overture finale. They loved it and were giggling the whole time. WDAV is the only station we listen to in the car — they love ‘music without words’ and if I forget to turn on your station, they remind me!”
Nancy P.

“I was close to the driveway so I hope this counts. I had just mowed the lawn.  I was then blowing leaves.  To my delight, the Ride of the Valkyries came on. It is absolutely the perfect music to blow leaves by!!! The leaves swirled in the air in unison with this great piece of music.  That just isn’t going to happen anywhere but on WDAV!!!!!  Thanks and let’s keep this music coming!!”
Tony C.

“I’ve been working as a maid since I was fifteen, and the winter I was eighteen, I was driving to work listening to the Gadfly Suite on WDAV. I got there just as the Romance came on, and at the expense of being late, I finished it. A few months later, I walked down the church aisle to that piece, and married the love of my life.”
Leah V.

“My most recent ‘moment’ was the playing of ‘Crown Imperial’ – a wonderful reminder of a child’s seminary graduation in Princeton Chapel. I could practically feel the floorboard rumble again!  How great to relive that powerful experience sitting in my car!”
Becca C.

“It was in the parking lot of Starbucks listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis-Ralph Vaughan Williams. Tears were rolling down my cheeks with the volume on high. I opened my eyes at the end to see a barista watching me. I rolled down the window to find out she was coming to work and heard the song coming out of my car and had to stop and listen along. It was her driveway moment as well!”
Allison P.

“My mother was recently in the hospital, and one afternoon as I arrived at the hospital The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was playing. I sat in the car, reclined my seat, and listened until the end. I went on to visit my mother in a happier mood.”
Amy M.

“I listen on my tablet almost every morning as I do my exercises. Warm music from North Carolina helps me face the cold weather in Saskatchewan! Thank you.”
Blake A.

“My classical driveway moment actually happened at the movie theater. The year was 1984, and the movie was Amadeus. I was so moved by Mozart’s Symphony 25 in G minor 1st Movement. Its power forever changed my appreciation and enjoyment of listening to classical music.”
Werner G.

“Anytime you play Rusalka’s Song to the Moon or Camille Saint-Saens The Swan, thank you!  Since I hear you via wdav.org on my work computer here in Charleston, my ‘drive-way moment’ is spent lingering at my desk . . . down-the-hall chores can wait! Thank you WDAV, for filling my office and my workday with a classical soundtrack.  You brighten every work day!”
Sue B.

“I have had many driveway moments for numerous pieces but my favorites are when my now six-year-old granddaughter asks to stay in the car to finish listening to a piece as she has numerous times.  She is playing the violin and likes bluegrass and classics.”
Elizabeth H.

“I am a member of the Vivaci Club and have the radio in my shop tuned to WDAV all the time. One morning the Allegretto Palladio had just come on, and I went to sit in front of the radio to listen to it when a customer pulled into my parking lot. I thought ‘Darn, I won’t get to hear all of it.’ Well he just sat out in his car and didn’t come in, and I was beginning to think something was wrong. When the music ended on my radio, he finally came in, listened to my radio and said, ‘If I had known you were listening to WDAV I would have come in, but wanted to hear the end of the Palladio!’ So I guess you could say we both had a driveway moment!”
Tricia H.

“Every Thursday my neighbor drives me to Harris Teeter.  Her car radio is always tuned to WDAV, and we try to identify the music playing at that time. The same thing happens on the way home. We’re seldom in the car at the time somebody announces either the upcoming selection or the one that has just been played. So after she has brought me home and gone on to unload her own groceries, we each turn to WDAV.org, and check the playlist.  This is usually followed by an e-mail message (from her to me, or vice versa) that goes something like, ‘Aha!  I was right!’ or ‘You were right (again).’ Thanks for keeping us on our toes.
Mary T.

“About a year ago, I was driving home one evening when the andante doloroso from Kreisler’s Violin Concerto in the Style of Vivaldi came on. It was the saddest music I had ever heard. Had I not been near home, I would have had to pull over and stop, as the music was that arresting. I let the piece end and came inside with tears in my eyes, in a hurry to go online to learn what it was. Now the entire concerto is one of my favorite pieces. An added joy was to find that the violinist was Gil Shaham, whom I had enjoyed seeing play at the Aspen Music Festival just a few months before. Thanks again for a wonderful experience, WDAV!”
George B.

“I lived in Fort Worth then. I was driving home from Dallas late one night. I heard a violin playing a melody that seemed unable to be contained. It rose and coalesced and wouldn’t end. Well, it did finally, and I learned I was hearing Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. That was the first time I experienced Messian’s glimpse of the ecstatic.”
Jai J.

“What stops me from getting out of the car is The Lark Ascending.  I have to wait until the lark has flown away!  It is perhaps one of the most beautiful tone poems.  I remember attending a Charlotte Symphony concert with Hilary Hahn playing it. Her interpretation and bow skill relative to the lark appearing and then its final ascent made me hold my breath.”
John K.

“We lived in Denver and had taken a road trip to Wyoming.  A CD changer was on “random” in the trunk, so we were listening to whatever came on.  As we rounded the curve into the valley facing the Grand Tetons, Beethoven’s Ninth started to play.  Every time we hear any part of the Ninth, we remember that spectacular coincidence of accompaniment to the scenery.”
Kris M.

“The radio in my kitchen is tuned into WDAV 24/7… it is never turned off… ever. I can honestly say that it is part of and as important as the air that I breathe. If I don’t get enough oxygen, I feel blah, and if I don’t get enough of WDAV, I feel blah! Keep up the great work and know that you are very appreciated and loved by many!”
Holly F.

“This week, I’ve had two [driveway moments] already… one was Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings; the other was Grieg’s Piano Concerto.”
Joan T.

Debussy Turns 150 Years Old!

“Music is the silence between the notes.”

“I love music passionately. And because I love it, I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it.”

“Art is the most beautiful of all lies.”

Claude Debussy was a man of powerful words, daring music, and poignant nuances. The father of musical Impressionism – although Debussy loathed the title – this French pianist turned the very foundations of composition on its head. According to a recent article by The New York Times, however, Debussy is not receiving the honor he is due as he approaches his 150th birthday:

“Perhaps Debussy is not considered enough of an audience draw, but I suspect that the real reason may be more complicated. We like to think we know and admire Debussy. Ah, Debussy the great Impressionist! … “La Mer,” how gorgeous. … Yet the alluring surfaces of Debussy’s works can mask the utter daring of the music. … I think we take Debussy for granted, and this may explain the lack of celebration this year.”

Conversely, here at WDAV, you should expect to hear an extra helping of Debussy for his sesquicentennial on August 22.

But what about the man himself?


Achille-Claude Debussy, the son of a china shop owner and a seamstress, was born in 1862 to a poor French family. When he showed a natural talent for music, Debussy’s aunt began paying for piano lessons when he was just seven years old. By eleven, he was studying piano and composition at the Paris Conservatory. His time at the conservatory foreshadowed the direction he would go with his composing; while his peers acknowledged that he was gifted, they found his compositional experiments strange.

In 1880, Debussy fell under the patronage of Nadezhda von Meck, a Russian woman who was also a large sponsor of Tchaikovsky’s. Meck hired Debussy as a piano teacher for her children, and he spent years traveling around Europe with them. His time at Meck’s estate also allowed him to become familiar with Russia’s musical greats, specifically Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin. These exposures would later greatly influence his works.

At age twenty-two, Debussy won the “Prix de Rome,” a composition competition, and was awarded a scholarship for two-years of musical study in Rome. While at school, he studied the opera Tristan and Isolde and came to greatly respect the show’s composer Wagner – Debussy loved his ambition but not his flashy approach. He would later model his one and only opera Pelleas et Melisande after Wagner’s work.

Based on a play by Maurice Maeterlinck, Debussy’s opera was an immediate success, although it had a polarizing effect on its audiences – you either loved it or hated it. The show had a gloomy tone, which was periodically interrupted by surges of terror. As one writer noted, “[the opera’s] rule of understatement and deceptively simple declamation, also brought an entirely new tone to opera – but an unrepeatable one.”

Yet another influence soon followed as Debussy returned to Paris for the 1887 World Exhibition. He fell in love with the music of the Javanese gamelan, an ensemble that included bells, gongs, xylophones, and sometimes vocals. The composer incorporated these sounds into many of his mature works.

The inclusion of Javanese Gamelan music was not the only technique that made Debussy stand apart from his contemporary composers. He used Eastern traditions in his works, such as pentatonicism (only using five notes in a scale), modality (the creation of mood), parallelism (the parallel movement of two or more lines of music) and the whole tone scale (each note in the scale is separated by a whole step). Debussy also challenged how instruments were characterized in composition. He believed strings did not have to be merely lyrical and thus instructed players to pluck their strings – instead of using their bow – where written in the music. He began including more clarinet in his works to take advantage of the instrument’s rich tone. He even experimented with the use of piano in various genres.

Unfortunately, the late part of Debussy’s career was rather stagnant. His pieces became less relatable and harder to deconstruct. Other up-and-coming composers such as Igor Stravinsky began to overshadow him, using his own techniques to do so. Debussy also began a public dialogue about art and music with his alter ego Monsieur Croche.

As with many great artists, Debussy died early – at only fifty-six years of age – of colon cancer.

A Few “Debussyisms”

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun 

Clair de Lune 

Children’s Corner


WDAV Says Goodbye to Beloved Colleague and Friend Ruskin Cooper.

On Wednesday, July 18, Davidson lost a kindhearted and talented member of its community. Ruskin Cooper, Artist Associate for piano at Davidson College, passed away peacefully among his family after losing consciousness due to cardiac arrest.

To honor our friend, WDAV will be playing two of Ruskin’s own recordings in tribute:

Graceful Ghost Rag, by William Bolcom on Friday 7/20/12  at 4:53pm                      Rhapsody in Blue, by George Gershwin on Saturday 7/21/12 at 11am

Please join us in honoring this wonderful man. Ruskin will be greatly missed, and our condolences go out to his family.

To learn more about Ruskin’s many accomplishments and how to pay tribute to him yourself, check out this article from the Winston Salem Journal.