Classical 91.5

Brenda Tremblay

Classical Morning Host and Producer

Brenda keeps a finger on the pulse of the arts as musicians start to emerge after more than a year of mostly silence.  Join her for classical music every weekend morning starting at 6:00 a.m. with the sounds of birds.

A native of Albion, New York, NEA Fellow Brenda has tried her hand at almost every job in public radio, from hosting overnight blues shows to freelancing for National Public Radio. Her NPR reports and local documentaries earned three Gracies from the Association of Women in Radio and Television, many AP awards, and a national Gabriel Award.

She became Rochester’s weekday morning host in 2009.  In addition to waking up super early, Brenda produces and hosts Performance Upstate and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s regular season concert series.

Her love of opera was fostered by her parents, who took her to her first opera – a world premiere – when she was thirteen.  (It was an obscure production based on the life of John Wesley by William Allen, then composer-in-residence at Houghton College.)  In the 1980s, her father treated her to the entire Ring cycle at Artpark, and since then she has been enjoyed the annual Glimmerglass Festival, Eastman Opera Theatre, Finger Lakes Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  Just before the 2020 pandemic struck, she saw Mark Padmore star in Britten’s Death in Venice in Covent Garden in London.  She has interviewed Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, Christine Goerke, Jamie Barton, Kathryn Lewek, and Gregory Kunde, among other luminaries.

Outside the broadcast studio, singing is Brenda’s passion. She’s performed with choirs in Carnegie Hall, Westminster Abbey, and in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.  In Rochester, some of her best memories have been made with friends in chamber choirs Madrigalia and First Inversion.  She sang with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the choruses during semi-staged productions of Bizet’s Carmen and Puccini’s La bohème.  Currently she serves as Music Director at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Brockport, New York.

Among the many lessons we’ve learned this past year is this: most of us will never take live music for granted again. The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra used the time off from live concerts during the pandemic to reevaluate its leadership role in a community frayed by racial strife.  

Here’s a little perspective.

Scott Pukos

Tune in for the energy and peace of classical music and brief updates from NPR and WXXI news.  If you switch on before 6:40 a.m. most days, you’ll hear the daily Mystery Piece.   The theme?     


Welcome back, Little Theatre! 

Editor's note: As soon as I read this essay by conductor Ramona Wis, I wanted to share it with you.  Dr. Wis's ideas offer comfort for everyone, not just musicians.  We can all face an uncertain future with grace and courage.  We're all in this together. ~  Brenda Tremblay

The Conductor as Yogi: From Holding Space to Making Space

By Ramona M. Wis

The first time I heard the phrase “holding space” was from a colleague describing her experience with someone going through a tough time.  “I just held space for her,” she said.  It was a phrase I was not familiar with but soon started seeing everywhere (or maybe it was just “blue car syndrome,” where my increased awareness led to noticing what was always there).

Alexander Lloyd Blake

American conductor Alexander Lloyd Blake has launched an effort to encourage musicians to sign a pledge of anti-racisim in choral practice.

Blake is the Founding Artistic Director of Tonality, Director of Classical Choirs at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, and Principal Associate Conductor at the National Children's Chorus.  He also offers consulting work for organizations wanting to increase equity and diversity in the arts.

(Photo Bettina Stoss)

Gregory Kunde is supposed to be singing in Europe.  

The internationally-acclaimed tenor had just finished a run as Jean de Leyde in Giacomo Meyerbeer's grand opera Le Prophète at the Deutsche Oper Berlin when the pandemic hit.

Now he finds himself at home in Rochester with time to clean the garage and croon his favorite Frank Sinatra standards.

Aaron Winters

The Public Media Journalists Association (PMJA) has announced awards for outstanding journalism, and two WXXI staffers have earned accolades for their work.

Mona Seghatoleslami won 2nd place in the ‘Best use of Sound’ category for a feature she did called “New Sounds from Ossia” about student-run ensemble at the Eastman School of Music.

Listen to Mona’s feature.  

Christine Lavin video

A community of neighbors and music lovers has produced a video tribute to essential workers.  It's focused on daily life on Mulberry Street, home of Mary Slothower Lavin.  She took photos of essential workers doing their jobs, and her sister Christine Lavin (a folk singer and  Rochester Music Hall of Fame inductee) wrote original music for a slideshow.   Christine edited the video with a performance of her music played on the viola by high school student Amelia Krinke.  Small world note: Krinke is daughter of Eastman grad Jenny Undercofler and the granddaughter of James Undercofler, the former dean of the Eastman School.

Smithsonian music curator James Merle Weaver died on 16 April in Rochester, New York, from complications of COVID-19. He was 82.

Weaver began his lifelong engagement with music as a piano, and later, organ, student in his hometown of Danville, Illinois. While on a high school field trip to Washington, DC, Weaver saw his first harpsichords at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Sometime during his sophomore year at the University of Illinois, he decided to go to Amsterdam to study harpsichord and the just-developing field of historical performance practice with Dutch organist and harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt. Returning to Illinois, Weaver completed his bachelor's (1961) and master's (1963) degrees, during which time he "discovered" the late-18th-century fortepiano, an instrument Weaver eventually added to his repertoire of historic keyboards.

Judi Vinar

Judi Vinar first saw Bobby McFerrin on the Grammy Awards back in the 80’s.

“I was blown away,” she said by phone from her home in the Twin Cities.  “When I first heard Bobby do a solo piece, you know, a lot of what he does is jump around with a bass note and octave note on top and somehow he fits the melody inside of that.”   

She went out and bought all his records. 

Willa Powell

Rochester school board member Willa Powell found this little piece of history.  

It’s a poster she purchased in an estate sale.  

The thing is, no one at the WXXI Public Broadcasting Council recognizes the image or the artist.  

Willa believes the artist’s signature is “J.A. Clark.”

Does it look familiar to you?  We would love to know the story behind it.  If you can help, please email

Thank you!