Monday, February 17, 2014

Radio and the Symphony

Classical music has long been seen as an art form that runs on public support (ticket sales typically comprise less than half an orchestra’s revenue). So it seems natural that many of the nation’s symphonies have partnerships with their cities’ public radio stations to broadcast and archive their concerts. In other cities, the “commercial” classical stations – most of which are partially listener-supported – broadcast the local orchestra’s performances. And while nothing beats a live performance, these radio broadcasts help their orchestras reach a wider audience and give their listeners the opportunity to hear music with minimal editing that was created live in front of an audience instead of in a studio.

For over a half century, Boston public radio has broadcasted Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) concerts live and now offers them on-demand via online streaming. This partnership started in 1951 when WGBH radio signed onto the air for the first time - broadcasting a symphony concert.  WGBH and later WCRB 99.5 FM Classical New England (a WGBH station) have broadcast BSO concerts live almost uninterrupted since. Classical New England and the BSO, in a groundbreaking partnership called BSO Concert Channel, offer an online archive of a full year’s worth of performances streamed in high-quality 192 kbps audio (150% industry standard). More information about the BSO/Classical New England partnership is available at

The BSO/WGBH association is certainly unique in scope, but other major orchestras broadcast on their local radio stations and offer some sort of online archive or periodic podcasts. For example, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) can be heard at 1 pm on Sundays on WFMT 98.7 FM, with live broadcasts during the subscription season and selections from the orchestra’s extensive commercial recording output at other times. The CSO also produces a two-week concert archive available at

Even less well known and regional orchestras can be heard on the airwaves. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, broadcasts of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra are available on some Mondays at 8 pm on WRR 101.1 FM Classical 101 (see Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Spotlight program offers broadcasts of orchestras from throughout Colorado on KVOD 88.1 FM in Denver and state-wide relays. Featured orchestras include the Denver-based Colorado Symphony (the state’s only full time professional orchestra), the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra (see In Idaho, Boise State Public Radio presents seasonal broadcasts of the Boise Philharmonic’s Masterworks concerts (see

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