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.

The Gateways Music Festival is not only coming back next week, but there are big plans to grow it. The festival, which begins August 8, celebrates diversity in classical music.

We talk with Lee Koonce, president and artistic director of the Gateways Music Festival, about the events and how to bring more diversity to the classical music scene. He also shares his musical journey.

From the One Love Peace concert in Jamaica, to the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City, to the song, "We Are the World," music has played a role in uniting people from different backgrounds and raising awareness and funds to support a variety of causes. The upcoming United with Music concert in Rochester aims to do the same. Local musicians with ties to the international community will perform traditional and contemporary music to benefit Refugees Helping Refugees, a non-profit that assists refugees in Rochester as they settle in their new homes.

Our guests discuss how their music has helped unify people around the world, and how music can help bring peace during tumultuous times. In studio:


The New York Philharmonic is the nation’s oldest symphony orchestra, but it wasn’t until 2014 that it welcomed its first black principal player. While that fact may seem staggering, recent data paint a bleak picture of the state of diversity in classical music: only 4% of orchestra musicians are either African American or Latino.

Organizers of this summer's Gateways Music Festival are committed to improving that percentage. The festival features musicians of African descent and works by African-American composers. Our guests give us a preview of the festival and discuss how to make classical music more accessible to underserved communities. In studio:

  • Jamal Rossi, dean of the Eastman School of Music
  • Paul Burgett, chairman of the board of the Gateways Music Festival, and University of Rochester vice president and senior advisor to the president of the University of Rochester
  • Lee Koonce, president and artistic director of the Gateways Music Festival
  • Dalanie Harris, double bassist, and sophomore at the Eastman School of Music


The Rochester Music Hall of Fame is getting ready to welcome a new class of inductees. We talk to some of the members and have some fun with local music. Our guests:

  • Bruce Pilato, RMHF board member and show producer
  • Jack Whittier, RMHF board vice president
  • Joe Beard, 2017 inductee and legendary blues musician
  • Gary Lewis, 2017 inductee and 1960s hit maker
  • Samuel Adler, 2017 inductee and celebrated composer


In the middle of National Poetry Month, we spend some time with poets and their work. We discuss upcoming events, and we talk about poetry's place in the classroom.

  • Craig Morgan Teicher, author of the collection of poems, The Trembling Answers
  • Banke Awopetu, author of Always Want More, and budding poet
  • Albert Abonado, poet and director of adult programs at Writers & Books

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren announced last week that the city's prime Parcel 5 will become a performing arts center, owned and operated by the Rochester Broadway Theater League. This has been a dream more than two decades in the making for RBTL's Arnie Rothschild, who joins us for the hour.

But does this project have the funding? Where will the money come from? Can RBTL guarantee that taxpayers won't be on the hook to subsidize it? What happens to the Auditorium Theater? We examine all of that and more.

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has unveiled their 2017/2018 season.

We sit down with Ward Stare and Jeff Tyzik to listen to some music and discuss how they put together the lineup. It's designed to appeal to all audiences and all ages, a crucial factor for the survival and growth of orchestras. 


When the RPO performs Shostakovich's fifth symphony later this month, they will be performing one of the legendary examples of music as political speech. Stalin thought it was a tribute to his regime; almost certainly, however, Shostakovich had threaded a musical needle and was signaling his solidarity to a suffering public.

That got us thinking: what are some other examples of music as political speech? It spans genres, and it's not always as effective as the creator of the music hopes. Finally, we discuss whether music can move the public, or if music is more effective at simply reflecting the public's mood. Our guests:

  • John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester
  • Lisa Jakelski, associate professor of musicology at the Eastman School of Music
  • Terry Smith, head of the Harley School's Lower School
  • Mona Seghatoleslami, host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5


The New York Times says Upstate New York is "unusually rich" in community orchestras. We're not talking about the RPO here; we're talking about Penfield and Finger Lakes and Brockport and Greece and more. How do they all co-exist? How do their missions differ?

We have some fun, listen to some music, and explore the often underappreciated scene. Our guests: