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.

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


The Memorial Art Gallery is exploring new ways to create provocative portraits of subjects, and in its current exhibition, it’s using video. The MAG is partnering with renowned video artist Charles Atlas on a video installation called “Here she is...v1,” featuring iconic drag performer Lady Bunny.

We discuss the exhibit and talk about the impact of the moving image. Our guests:

  • Charles Atlas, film and video artist
  • Jonathan Binstock, director of the Memorial Art Gallery
  • John Hanhardt, consulting senior curator of media arts at the Memorial Art Gallery
  • Douglas Crimp, professor of art history at the University of Rochester

The Rochester Fringe Festival is coming. This fast-paced hour will offer a preview with performers and writers. In studio:

*To share your story on the Story Hotline, call 585-210-0805.

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.

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