Community Advisory Board

Minutes of the meeting on March 16, 2015

The Greene Space


In attendance: Joyce Lannert, John Bacon, Barbara Gerolimatos, Melissa Williams, Catherine Arcure, Judith Cholst, Lue Ann Eldar, Adam Wasserman, Merwin Kinkade, Stephanie LaFroscia, Steven Rapkin, Harriet Olson, Sue Hornik, Helen van der Voort, Andrew Greene, and Ellen Polaner (Board member)


SR opened the meeting at 6:34.

MK moved approval of the agenda and CA seconded.

CA moved approval of the minutes of February 9, 2015, seconded by MW.


SR introduced Elliott Forrest, Midday Host of WQXR, the first WQXR host to speak before the CAB. Among other accolades, he is a winner of the George Peabody award - the highest broadcasting award. In addition to his time on WQXR, he broadcasts for WNYC and is a regular substitute for Leonard Lopate.


Mr. Forrest talked about the combination of WQXR and WNYC. In 2009 when WQXR was merged with WNYC the employees were all let go by the NYT and were told to apply to WNYC - keeping in mind they were still on the air for another month. So essentially they were “auditioning” for their own jobs. Mr. Forrest’s background was in theater and he earned a degree from UT Austin after which he moved to NYC and found work in broadcasting. He is impressed by the Greene Space and the other opportunities at WNYC. He has hosted a show on A&E, and when he came to WNYC he reached out to the producer of the Leonard Lopate show to be the substitute. In addition to his on-air activities, he created the annual reading of “A Christmas Carol” by inviting a celebrity to play the role of Scrooge and bringing in Fred Newman for sound effects. Other radio personalities play the other parts.


Mr. Forrest talked about the construction of the station offices to encourage collaboration. Bathrooms are located in the center so people are forced to meet each other. In the 1970’s, WQXR had 100 employees and a performance space. Before the merger, there were 19 employees left to run the station. Now there are 400 people across the NYPR stations and there are great opportunities.


WQXR is interested in what the public thinks: SR asked if the two are fairly siloed. Mr. Forrest answered that he wishes more could be done to foster the overlap. Now in his 29th year, while he loves the station he has a drive for creativity and hopes to be more involved. MW asked if he was involved in the August Wilson cycle – yes, and he hopes something like that will occur in the future.  MOP asked about his experience, and Mr. Forrest reported that his degree in theater has led him to producing roles in locations as different as Lincoln Center and the Hollywood Bowl. He talked about directing a musical before he took directing classes - raising $5000 from banks in Austin and using his friends to put on a free show. He now enjoys the idea of putting on a show, stepping back and watching people pay for tickets. The Christmas Carol shows are sold out. MOP asked if Peter Allen was still around and was told not. CA asked Mr. Forrest to walk us through a day. He does not program his own music. He has some say in a macro way and views himself as a docent - it is someone else’s job to put the paintings on the wall and he describes them. He has a music log and an underwriting log. The music log gives the bare bones information. The playlist is decided by the program director and the music director, based on conversations and what is going on in the world. He hopes listeners are picking up on the mystery-based teases – a brain teaser to keep you listening. His job is to be informative, interesting and charming. His “job description” is to get the largest number of people to listen for the longest amount of time. Mr. Forrest asked if people listen for educational purposes, as background music, as a lifestyle choice. MK said it was a welcome alternative to other stations. JC added that she liked the combination of the education and music but complained that she doesn’t like the constant message “there is something beautiful coming up”. SK asked what could be done to encourage interest in classical music; right now there is no competition with other stations in NYC but there is big competition with the internet. Mr. Forrest wonders what we would be doing differently if there were on–air competition: How do you get the people who don’t listen to listen? His philosophy is not to address his remarks to everyone who already knows everything. He wants to welcome those who don’t know yet without alienating those who know. WQXR’s average age has dropped to the low 50’s. EP loves the festivals and asked about “comparison” programs where they play two recordings and compare them. There is the David Dubal program. Mr. Forrest said that the Bach festival did not do well. JL asked about listener input requests: requests are played every Friday at noon. These requests are curated, but Mr. Forrest asks for the “story” behind the request. Q2 is the online station highlighting contemporary living composers. JC said that she felt the programming on WQXR was getting “timid” – there is less of a feeling of discovery. LE said that her household found the Bach a little too much. HO seconded JH’s feeling that some of the sparkle is gone. She also suggested that they describe how the music is programmed together. She also said she felt the advertisements were “not directed at her”. Mr. Forrest talked about the differences between underwriting and advertising - very different worlds. MW wanted to encourage the educational “tips” to enhance the experience for people still learning classical music. Mr. Forrest said that it is a fine line on how to be helpful without turning off others. He is conscious of the “day parts” and recognizes that during the day most people are working and want music and then shorter music during commuting hours to get news, weather, and traffic. There is an ongoing conversation on what is best for the public. CA followed up on the ”educational” aspect and said it was especially welcome during the festivals. Mr. Forrest discussed creating ”modules” to expand the commentary into a “deep dive”. AW said there is a real passion for early music performances and thematic festivals on authentic instruments. EF is encouraged by the interest in classical music by young people. JC observed that musicians are getting younger, but the audiences aren’t and suggested that there be a young children’s hour. EF said they are working with the NY Philharmonic on their Young Peoples’ concerts. MOP said this was the “greatest ever” CAB meeting.


SR thanked Mr. Forrest for coming.


SR announced that the election of CAB officers -- Chairman, two Vice Chairs and a secretary -- will be held at the June 22nd meeting. In preparation for that, we will have presentations at the May meeting to have people announce their intention to run for a position.


SR then moved on to a discussion of the relationship between the CAB and the Board of Trustees. He met recently with Cynthia Vance, Chairman of NYPR. The CAB’S mission is to advise the Board of Trustees, and SR wanted to see how the CAB can improve the relationship. There was a discussion of how to bring the important issues to the Board and it was suggested that we distill the minutes for the board so the most important issues are brought to their attention. Members of the CAB expressed concern that it is not adding any value. LE pointed out that the BOT meetings are open to the public. MOP asked what the BOT does and was told that the management of the station answers to them and makes budgetary decisions among other things. HO pointed out that we exist for legal reasons. LE suggested that we invite someone from the board to make a presentation. JL suggested that SR send a monthly email with attachment and bullet point summary of highlights to Laura Walker and Cynthia Vance.


The CAB moved on to discuss topics for next year. JH moved a proposal to hold a meeting in Queens, JL seconded. All approved. MW suggested New Jersey and offered to look into places at NJPAC. There was discussion about other convenient places to meet in NJ. JC suggested a place in Staten Island near the ferry.


The CAB then held a discussion on the number of meetings to be held next year. The CAB By-laws require at least six meetings but recently there have been nine. SR opined that the number should be decreased. JL suggested that rather than relying on the station for the presenters, the CAB should create their own topics and bring in outside speakers. MOP suggested that it was good to have regular meetings, and that it is not necessary to bring in a speaker to encourage continuity and cohesiveness of the Board itself. LE suggested the CAB have a meeting where it can be the sounding board for the station, using the example of the Super-storm Sandy station presentation. JL wondered where the station’s reporting was on the “grand” plans developed by the Bloomberg and DiBlasio administrations.


The Recruitment Committee asked the CAB to identify people it thinks would be good applicants to increase the cultural diversity of the CAB. They will also be using the radio station for ads. They are looking for four people. Sarah Lenigan will not be seeking a second term. SR asked that the deadline for applications be April 17th in order to give time to interview and prepare for the presentation to the BOT.


MW told the CAB that the Station’s Legal Department needs to do a couple of tweaks to the proposal put forth by the Public Response committee.


AW spoke for the digital committee and said they are working on ways to increase the frequency and usefulness of our communications through social media.


Public comment: MOPs said they heard announcements of meetings on radio. MOP asked how many Board of Trustee members attend and was told it can be any number. He suggested that there be a member of the CAB on the Board of Trustees. MOP offered a friends’ Italian villa for a fundraising prize. MOP suggested that the chairman of the CAB send thank you notes to presenters. SR said we do send thank you notes via email. MOP expressed concerned about the influence of the Board of Trustees on the programming based on their financial interests.


HV moved to adjourn, and JL seconded.


Respectfully submitted,

Helen C. van der Voort