Classical 91.5

Evan Dawson

Evan Dawson joined WXXI in January 2014 after working at 13WHAM-TV, where he served as morning news anchor. He was hired as a reporter for 13WHAM-TV in 2003 before being promoted to anchor in 2007.

Evan is also the author of Summer in a Glass: The Coming Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes and is the managing editor/Finger Lakes editor for the New York Cork Report, a web site that offers independent news, reviews, and commentary about the New York wine industry.

He has written freelance articles on topics including politics, wine, travel, and Major League Baseball.

What is the future of classical music in America?

The Eastman School of Music is hosting three guest scholars this weekend who will help answer that question. They join us in studio for a preview of their presentations about teaching classical music in the digital age and the challenges future music leaders will face. Our guests:

  • Robert Winter, distinguished professor of music at UCLA
  • Robert Freeman, pianist, author, former director of the Eastman School of Music and the New England Conservatory, and former dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Jim Doser, director of the Institute for Music Leadership at the Eastman School of Music

It’s our annual Fringe Festival preview. The 11-day festival includes more than 500 performances. We sit down with the festival’s producer and artists from a range of acts to talk about what’s on stage at this year’s event.

In studio:

We have a conversation about the challenges of bringing the arts to rural areas. Shake on the Lake is a professional Shakespeare touring company based in Silver Lake. The founders created the organization after observing the disparity in arts and cultural opportunities in rural communities. They’re one of a few local organizations that bring theater and the arts to underserved rural groups, including the prison population.

We discuss their work and how it impacts cultural and economic development in the areas they serve. Our guests:

It’s a “singing intervention!” Do you want to sing, but feel nervous or dislike the sound of your voice? Did you play and instrument as a child, but haven’t picked it up in years?

Today is Make Music Day, so we spend the hour celebrating music in all its forms, including the human voice. We also discuss the science behind singing, and how it can change your brain. Our guests:

What should we do when artists misbehave? In other words, when an author, actor, director, or artist does something offensive, acts inappropriately, or steps over the line in some way, should we stop consuming their art? When do we give them a pass?

The founder of Writers & Books, Joe Flaherty, dealt with this question when he was arranging for Philip Roth to visit Rochester. The late writer was considered a misogynist by many readers. But, as Flaherty wrote in an essay on the incident, “you have to separate the writer from his characters.”

What do you think? Should we consume and share the work of Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Harvey Weinstein, Philip Roth, and others? Should the work of artists in question stand on its own? Where do we draw the line? Our panel discusses those questions. Our guests:

  • Joe Flaherty, founder of Writers & Books
  • Patti Lewis, local actor, director, and teaching artist
  • Jonathan Ntheketha, senior assistant director of student success and outreach in the Multicultural Center for Academic Success at RIT
  • Bob Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University

An expert in Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia says there are a number of misconceptions about the conditions, and he wants families to understand that people can live well with those diagnoses. One method proven to be effective in engaging people with dementia is personalized music. It's the subject of a remarkable documentary called "Alive Inside," part of the Reel Mind Theatre and Film Series

The film follows a social worker who brings iPods to people living with dementia at nursing homes; once many of the patients hear music from their past, it sparks memories in ways human interaction could not. We'll discuss the role music has in opening pathways in the brain, and the latest in Alzheimer's and dementia research with our guests: 

  • Dr. Al Power, M.D., Schlegel Chair in aging and dementia innovation at the Schlegel--U. Waterloo Research Institute for Aging
  • Brian LeBlanc, Alzheimer's advocate who is living well with Alzheimer's disease
  • Robin Lombardo, northeast regional director for Music & Memory

When's the last time you gave someone a standing ovation? We have a little debate over when to stand, and when to stay seated. The critics say that we stand too often, and that has removed the meaning of standing ovations. It's the adult version of "everyone gets a trophy." Or is it?

Our guests:

The RPO's 96th season will include music from the classic repertoire, as well as programming aimed at the family. We sit down with music director Ward Stare and Curt Long, the new CEO.

Our conversation includes the criticism that some orchestras have received for not featuring enough music by women and people of color -- something the RPO says it is addressing this season. Our guests:

Monroe County and the City of Rochester are teaming up with a number of local organizations to celebrate the legacy of abolitionist and Rochester resident Frederick Douglass. Douglass never knew the exact date of his own birth, but he eventually determined that he was born in February 1818. Now, 200 years later, the “Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass” project will help the community explore his life and work.

This hour, we discuss Douglass’ legacy and his impact on Rochester, we preview the events and activities tied to the year-long program, and we discuss what Douglass would think about the politics of today. Our guests:

  • Carvin Eison, co-director of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project; associate professor of journalism, broadcasting and public relations at the College at Brockport; and general manager of Rochester Community Media
  • Bleu Cease, co-director of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project; and executive director of Rochester Contemporary Art Center
  • Christine Ridarsky, Rochester city historian


The Rochester Gay Men's Chorus is celebrating 35 years of performances and community activism. The group promotes social change and LGBTQ pride through the choral arts.

We listen to some music and talk to members about how the group has fostered change through its grassroots efforts.

  • Ted Smith, board chair for the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
  • Thomas Warfield, Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus alumnus    
  • Robert Strauss, artistic director of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus
  • John Williams, longtime supporter of the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus

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