CAB Minutes: March 2006

7 pm, Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The New York Society for Ethical Culture

MEMBERS PRESENT: Neal Zuckerman, Alex Senchak, Fred Friedland, Emily Gertz, Sallie Gouveneur, Judy Hellman, John DiBlasi, Dave Hall, K.C. Sahl, Jenn Batterton, Basya Weisman, Shawn Williams, Toby Butterfield

APOLOGIES: Barbara Genco, Nick Arture, Dave Weinstock, Inge Reist, Mary O’Hara, Simran Sethi, Chris Small, Ed Sawchuk, Lisa Nam
WNYC STAFF: Lori Ann Krushefski, Phil Redo

NON–MEMBERS: Approximately 7 members of the general public attended.

Meeting Business

Neal Zuckerman called the meeting to order, and asked members of the public if they would like to offer any comments. One member of the public introduced himself as Daniel Goode and commented that he was glad to hear the station got a grant to fund a new performance space in West SoHo. He then stated that he didn’t understand why WNYC runs branding promos on their own air, and felt that it was becoming almost embarrassing.

Neal Zuckerman then moved on to meeting agenda items. First, he announced that elections for new officers would take place at the CAB’s May meeting. He also noted that the terms of Toby Butterfield, Barbara Genco and his own term would end in September 2006. He reminded members that Sallie Gouveneur and Ed Sawchuk are the current co-vice chairs, and that he himself is chair. The positions are one-year terms.

Neal reported that Dave Weinstock is working on recruiting new CAB members to fill the spots that will become vacant.

KC Sahl reported that changes to the CAB’s page on WNYC’s website were underway, and that the group was waiting on WNYC’s Information Technology team for a timeframe on when the changes would be implemented.

Sallie Gouveneur reported she had been reaching out to other CABs across the country. Neal said he would be interested in having a conference call with a selected group of these CABs in May. He wanted to find out about how they run themselves, and the role they play at their stations. He also suggested asking how they see their role in terms of reaching new and existing listeners. Sallie said she had begun a draft of questions such as these, and she said Lisa Nam and Mary O’Hara had also been assisting in this effort.

The group then moved on to provide their reviews of each of the music programs produced by WNYC.

Soundcheck (reviewed by John DiBlasi): John noted he enjoyed the show, and found it to be fascinating. He offered one piece of criticism, but stated that it was about WNYC in general, not Soundcheck specifically: He felt WNYC is not giving a voice to independent music or youth involved in independent music.

Soundcheck (reviewed by Toby Butterfield): Toby said he felt Soundcheck was put together very professionally, and that the show is always interesting. He felt there were few areas on the radio dial where one could hear people talking in an intellectually stimulating way about music. He noted that Soundcheck was the only place to hear any conversation about theory. He noted he personally would like to hear more performance on the show, and felt it’s now more a talk show about music than a music show with analysis. He also would like to hear more performances of longer pieces. He also noted he felt Soundcheck has an “establishment” air, and that a bit of counterculture would be good.

KC Sahl said he felt people aren’t hearing new music from terrestrial radio, but rather that they’re getting their radio from the internet. He also suggested listeners could hear a lot of independent music on New Sounds. Neal Zuckerman mentioned that Spinning on Air also gives time to independent musicians, and said he felt WNYC gives as good a chance as they could at providing airtime for independent music. Dave Hall said he felt it would be great if WNYC could find an hour or two to give independent music more time.

Sallie Gouveneur mentioned she felt younger people in particular (children, teens) don’t utilize radio. She said she felt they got their music constantly from every other conceivable source but radio.

Alex Senchak said he felt Soundcheck diverts our attention from the talk radio we hear all day. From 2 – 3 p.m., he feels WNYC does a really good job of holding listeners who had just finished listening to talk (Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate’s shows). He said WNYC walks a fine line of going towards music when everyone else is listening to talk. Emily Gertz said she’s been liking that Soundcheck has been covering the music business in a way that’s a lot more substantial than she thinks most of the media does. Since New York is a town with a lot of musicians, she felt this is a service this show provides that is pretty unique.

The group was polled on whether they felt Soundcheck met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 11 for / 0 against.

Evening Music (reviewed by Jenn Batterton): Jenn said she typically does not listen to the show, so she was approaching it from a fresh perspective. She said she felt there was a clear purpose to the show. She said she felt the target audience is a group with substantial knowledge and interest in classical music. She imagined that despite the perfect hours it occupies (people getting home from work), it likely loses a lot of daytime listeners. She said that when she gets home from work, she wants to hear news, so she tunes to AM 820 or puts the TV on. On rare occasion, she’ll turn FM on for background music while cooking dinner. She said that she herself doesn’t know a lot about classical. When she turns it on, she feels like she’s overhearing people speaking in a foreign language: she wants to understand, thinks it’s beautiful, but eventually zones out. She felt the program would need to be more overtly educational in order to keep her attention. She needs more of an explanation, and hears very little narrative. She also said she knew there was a theme for each program, but she never gets to see the thread through each. She reiterated that she wants to like the program, feels like she’s “supposed” to, but needs more from the program in order to draw her in. She also said she felt she was representative of young people.

Evening Music (reviewed by Emily Gertz): Emily said she thought the show was very good. She thinks Margaret Juntwait is an excellent host, and she likes that there is a female host occupying such a prominent spot on the station. She remarked that after the recent schedule change (Margaret now hosts weeknights; David Garland now hosts weekends) she feels the program has become a little more conventional. She went on to say that if the station has knowledge that that’s what WNYC’s membership wants, then she thinks that is fine. But Emily said she missed the more innovative approach taken by David Garland. Emily went on to remark that she felt Margaret does a good job setting music up over the course of the evening, and said Margaret can really take the listener down a path. While she felt the program is not always playing the most cutting edge classical music programming, she reiterated that it is always done very well, very professionally.

The group was polled on whether they felt Soundcheck met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 6 for / 5 against.

Evening Music (reviewed by Sallie Gouveneur): Sallie said she loves listening to classical music on the radio, but is not an evening classical music listener by nature. She said she’s very happy WNYC does not program in the way that WQXR does, which she finds to be predictable and conventional.

Dave Hall said he felt pained by the 6/5 vote for Evening Music. He felt there were quite a bit of negative comments expressed. He explained that he is a classically-trained musician himself, and was one of the people who were disappointed with change from all music to talk all day. He said he felt at heart that talk radio is a lesser form of entertainment than airing some of the world’s best art to enter the ears and souls of WNYC’s listenership. He said that as much as he is a fan of WNYC’s talk radio, he feels the music programming is more interesting. Dave also mentioned he felt Spinning on Air is less consistently strong than WNYC’s classical music programming. He thought that show might be more event driven, meaning that musicians who have performances coming up often got spots on the show. He said he felt that some of the live performances just don’t stack up to the overall quality of music programming on the station.

New Sounds (reviewed by Judy Hellman): Judy said she exclusively listens to WNYC AM 820, and that this was her first introduction to WNYC FM 93.9. She said she felt the program embodied WNYC’s commitment to presenting a broad range of cultural and educational programming. She said she assumed people who listened to New Sounds are really hungry to experience an eclectic and challenging array of music. Judy found the content and structure of the program to be to be very challenging. Judy wondered if teachers could use the program to explore global studies. Judy also mentioned she hadn’t been aware of New Sounds’ Live concerts. She thought the live concerts were a good way to promote John Schaefer and his shows, and WNYC in general. She asked whether WNYC should consider doing New Sounds Live series for young people, and suggested it may be a way to get young people interested in the station.

Toby Butterfield said that he is not a regular listener to New Sounds, but that he always enjoys it when he hears it. He also said that whenever he tells people he’s a member of WNYC’s CAB, New Sounds is one of the shows people mention most often. He said he gets the feeling that some people who don’t regularly listen to the station do listen to New Sounds. Toby wondered if there might be an opportunity to co-brand the program with MySpace in order to draw in new listeners.

Emily Gertz said she became a member of the station when she was 21 solely because of New Sounds. She said that John Schaefer is on to the “darlings of the new music set” long before they become popular.

The group was polled on whether they felt New Sounds met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 12 for / 1 against.

Jonathan Schwartz (reviewed by KC Sahl): KC said he is a big fan of the show, and said he wasn’t a fan of the type of music played until he started listening to WNYC. He said he felt Schwartz’s personality orients the listener to what he’s trying to bring to his audience. KC felt there is a slight educational component to Schwartz’s efforts. KC also felt Schwartz introduces music to an older audience, because he teases out of today’s music what he recognizes as quality or adding to the great American songbook. Even as a great fan, KC says he’s always been confused about why Schwartz gets the tremendous amount of time he has on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Dave Hall said he was not a fan of the show. He felt that while Schwartz does play some classic songs and classic artists, he also felt Schwartz chooses to play some insipid cabaret. Dave also finds the commentary to be annoying on occasion. Dave said that while he likes pretty much everything on WNYC, he can’t listen to this.

Neal Zuckerman said he didn’t like the show for a long time, but now he’s starting to like Schwartz a little bit. He does find Jonathan to be annoying, because of what Neal cited as being “incessant personal commentary.” However, Neal also said there is something about Schwartz that becomes very addictive.

The group took two votes on the show:

Does the show meet the specialized educational needs of our community? 9 for / 2 against / 2 abstentions.

Does the group feel the length of time Schwartz occupies on the schedule is appropriate? 0 for / 11 against / 2 abstentions

Overnight Music (reviewed by Alex Senchak): Alex said that he felt the show offered a wide variety of wonderful music, but he wasn’t sure what the show was trying to accomplish. Ultimately, Alex felt the show does a great job for listeners who are sitting at work or going to sleep.

Emily Gertz said she interpreted the show as the station kind of unbuttoning its coat a bit. She felt the host was on a “slightly longer leash.” Fred Friedland said he detects a palpable informality that sets in at night, and he enjoys that. Alex mentioned that he heard a lot of errors. He heard the wrong music played, so the host would have to stop and change the CD.

The group was polled on whether they felt Overnight Music met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 6 for / 0 against / 7 abstentions.

Folksong Festival (reviewed by Fred Friedland): Fred said that Folksong Festival was the first program he’s consciously aware of having listened to as young child. He said that Oscar Brand has known and worked with the giants of folk of the last century and this. Fred finds the program to be intelligent, and thinks the music is hugely important. Fred said that at age 85, Oscar Brand is doing a marvelous job of putting together a well-thought out, well-prepared program that he hopes continues for a long time to come.

Judy Hellman said she listens to the program on a regular basis, and that she would hate to see it leave the dial. She thinks that given Oscar’s age, WNYC should consider mentoring someone else who would be connected to Oscar who could carry on the tradition.

The group was polled on whether they felt Folksong Festival met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 9 for / 1 against / 3 abstentions.

Big Band Sounds (reviewed by Judy Hellman): Judy said she found Danny Stiles to be an offbeat character. She said he obviously has a cult following that extends far beyond NYC, because he makes constant references to requests from listeners all over the country.

The group was polled on whether they felt Big Band Sounds met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 7 for / 1 against / 5 abstentions.

Spinning on Air (reviewed by Shawn Williams): Shawn said she was not a regular listener to the show, and initially found it to be hard on the ears. She said David Garland’s commentary helped her understand his rationale and gave some guidance. She said she felt the show exists to offer an alternative listening experience…that it’s clearly not a corporate-composed playlist. She said it was clearly made up of really unique artists “out there doing their thing.” Shawn said that David Garland doesn’t fawn over his guests, or seem self-important. She said his guests have a variety of artistic talents from which they draw. She said David seems to be interested in finding out about their creative process, and Shawn found that refreshing. Shawn said that while she wouldn’t listen to the show, she did feel there was a place for it on WNYC for a certain group of people.

Neal Zuckerman said he found the show to be unique, and that he enjoyed what he heard. He felt it was a lot like New Sounds, or like World Café on WFUV. He felt it was a fine, good show, but not that unique. He said it seemed somewhat duplicative of what WNYC already has.

Dave Hall said he felt David Garland doesn’t get in the way during interviews, and that he had a great sense of letting the guest do the talking. He felt that was a nice, rare quality.

The group was polled on whether they felt Spinning on Air met the specialized educational needs of our community, and the group voted 6 for / 2 against / 5 abstentions.

The floor was then reopened for public comment.

One member of the public stated he felt that sometimes the recorded news reports on the station weren’t fresh. He also stated that he felt some of the items reported were too frivolous, like a report on a $20 million suit about bedbugs.

Another member of the public said he found it informative to listen to the CAB’s comments on music. He said he was a news and information listener, and hadn’t heard any of the music shows. He also said that he had a concern about Leonard Lopate’s show, and specifically cited a January 24th interview with the author of Jawbreaker. He felt that the book contained multiple errors, and that Leonard did not ask enough critical questions.

Basya Weissman and John DiBlasi then gave details on the CAB’s April 27th meeting scheduled in Westchester at Sarah Lawrence College. They invited leaders in the community to come to the meeting to speak with CAB members about issues facing Westchester County. The auditorium will hold up to 200 people.

The CAB then decided to cancel their April 12th meeting since this April 27th meeting was new on the schedule.

The meeting was adjourned.