Al Arkus: The Music Maestro

Al Arkus started at WNYC by producing, directing and reading newscasts. He also directed and announced for Edward Tatnall Canby, David Randolph and Oscar Brand. Children’s programming became one of his favorite genres: he wrote, produced and narrated The Music Maestro, a weekly educational music program, and appeared regularly on The Children’s Story Fair, a show with a cast of 'kids' wandering on a magic midway to adventures in an opera house, a record room, a side show, a concert hall and similar locations. Al also wrote, directed and produced Here's Heidy, a children's program with storyteller Heidy Mayer that moved to WOR in 1949.

The November 26, 1947, edition of Variety reviewed the Sunday morning program when it was on WNYC, calling it a "slick job of yarn-spinning for wee moppets." The program typically had two stories: the first was a modern fantasy with an educational focus over a musical background with sound effects, while the second was usually a whimsical tale based on invited letters written by children about things they've lost. A classic story from the first half of one episode is Breezy the Bee and the Laws of Aerodynamics, where a B-29 bomber named 'Buzzy' tells Breezy the Bee that he can't fly according to the laws of aerodynamics since he doesn't have enough wingspan. Believing this, Breezy stops flying but finds his wings again when Buzzy crashes and needs help. Variety's reviewer said it was a tale "calculated to keep knee-high tikes...glued to the loudspeaker."

Al Arkus was best known as the namesake character in The Music Maestro: a great conductor who leads the world's largest orchestra and colorfully describes and deconstructs the various elements of symphonic works like Wagner's Grand March from the opera Tannhauser, Prokofiev's Petite Gouroute and Offenbach's Gaîté Parisienne (listen to it above). After The Music Maestro  had been on the air for 18 months, Al drafted a proposal to turn it into a television program "directed toward any age group whatsoever." The show would "present to the audience and acquaint them with classical music in a delightful manner which contains sparkle and meaning...The instruments are treated as persons, individuals who are independent...The Maestro speaks to the instruments of his orchestra and tells a story in music with their assistance." Below you will find a sampling of the radio requests made to The Music Maestro from young and not-so-young listeners. (Thanks to Deborah and Rob Arkus)

After WNYC, Al produced a number of commercial children's records and had a successful career at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where he was the Broadcast Operations Director for the New York office until 1994.  

Mary Dalton - November 25, 1947 (postmark)
Mary Dalton - November 25, 1947 (postmark)
Stanley Goldfarb - March 27, 1948 (postmark)
Stanley Goldfarb - March 27, 1948 (postmark)
Theodosia Gioumousis - April 11, 1950 (postmark)
Theodosia Gioumousis - April 11, 1950 (postmark)
Francis Kenny - no date
Francis Kenny - no date
S. Thomas Jenkins - no date
S. Thomas Jenkins - no date
Audrey Bellin - July 2, 1949 (postmark)
Audrey Bellin - July 2, 1949 (postmark)
Murray Cohen - May 8, 1948 (postmark)
Murray Cohen - May 8, 1948 (postmark)
Sara Robine - May 8, 1948 (postmark)
Sara Robine - May 8, 1948 (postmark)
Judy Oyler - January 8, 1950 (postmark)
Judy Oyler - January 8, 1950 (postmark)
Yale Meltzer - March 25, 1950 (postmark)
Yale Meltzer - March 25, 1950 (postmark)
Marilyn V. Lax - December 31, 1949 (postmark)
Marilyn V. Lax - December 31, 1949 (postmark)
Alan Rosenbaum - November 26, 1947 (postmark)
Alan Rosenbaum - November 26, 1947 (postmark)
Sylvia Romm - April 12, 1948 (postmark)
Sylvia Romm - April 12, 1948 (postmark)
Gary Gittleson - May 8, 19?? (postmark)
Gary Gittleson - May 8, 19?? (postmark)
Gloria Gerstum - April 22, 1950 (postmark)
Gloria Gerstum - April 22, 1950 (postmark)
Mrs. Ernie Stern - October 16, 1949 (postmark)
Mrs. Ernie Stern - October 16, 1949 (postmark)
Mrs. S. Nauen - April 10, 1949 (postmark)
Mrs. S. Nauen - April 10, 1949 (postmark)
E. Siegel - February 26, 1949 (postmark)
E. Siegel - February 26, 1949 (postmark)
Benjy Klein - April 19, 1948 (postmark)
Benjy Klein - April 19, 1948 (postmark)
Mrs. E. Pomerance - February 20, 1950 (postmark)
Mrs. E. Pomerance - February 20, 1950 (postmark)
Mrs. J. Macateer - April 14, 1948 (postmark)
Mrs. J. Macateer - April 14, 1948 (postmark)
Peggy Tucker - December 18, 1948 (postmark)
Peggy Tucker - December 18, 1948 (postmark)
Carolyn Lewis - 1948 (postmark)
Carolyn Lewis - 1948 (postmark)
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