Classical 91.5

Ruth Phinney

Classical 91.5 and Reachout Radio Program Director

Ruth began working for WXXI in 1982 as the radio division secretary after working as a music teacher in several local districts.  Trained as a classical musician, she was the perfect match for creating program listings for the monthly program guide and working with the radio hosts. As she began to learn the business of "radio," she took on the job of managing what is now WXXI Reachout Radio, and later to manage both Reachout Radio and Classical 91.5.

Today she sets the strategic goals and programs for Classical 91.5 and works nationally with Classical Music Rising, a collaborative project of leading classical stations to shape the future of classical music radio as the field confronts evolution in delivery across multiple broadcast and digital platforms, demographic and cultural change, and significant disruption throughout the music industry.

Ways to Connect

Against her father’s wishes, Dame Ethel Smyth pursued a career in music, first privately, and then at the Leipzig Conservatory.  Her persistence led to a successful music career, although some critics complained that her music was “too masculine.” In recognition for her work as a composer and writer, Smyth was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1922…the first female composer to be awarded a damehood.

Hear Dame Ethel Smyth share recollections of Johannes Brahms in this recording from the 1930s.

Lili Boulanger, the first woman to win the coveted Prix d’Rome from the Paris Conservatory, was a singer who also played piano, violin, cello and harp.

After she died at 24, her sister Nadia Boulanger—also a brilliant musician—spent her life promoting her sister’s works and becoming one of the most important teachers in the 20th century, counting Rochester’s David Diamond among her many students. 

Planet Hugill

Lucezia Borgia’s daughter, Leonora d’Este, was a princess, a nun, and a musician. Her mother died when she was just 4 years old, so Leonora was sent to a convent to be cared for. At age 8, she informed her father that she wanted to become a nun, and it was there she stayed, writing sacred music for the Convent choir.

The San Diego Symphony just announced the appointment of 37-year-old Venezuelan native Rafael Payare as its new Music Director, to succeed Maestro Jahja Ling in July 2019.

Payare was raised in the same Venezuelan education program, El Sistema, as his friend and fellow conductor the 37-year-old Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Famous Biographies

Episode # 1807

Weldon, Rosemond, J.C., Howard, and more. They’re all songwriters named Johnson.

James Weldon Johnson - Civil Rights Activist, Songwriter, Literary Critic, Diplomat, Lawyer, Educator, Poet, Author

John Rosamond Johnson was a musical prodigy–at age 4, he was an accomplished pianist, composer, conductor and actor.

Famous People

Amy Beach was one of the first American composers to succeed without European training. Her "Gaelic" Symphony was the first symphony by an American woman. In the early 20th century she was President of the Board of New England Conservatory, and founded "Beach Clubs" to teach children music. Listen to her Symphony in e-minor, "Gaelic."

Naxos Records

Cecile Chaminade began composing at an early age, and when she was just 8 years old she played some of her music for Georges Bizet. Her music was very popular in America. The composer Ambroise Thomas described her as “not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman.”  Listen to her  6 Pièces Romantiques, Op.55.

  Clara Wieck Schumann was one of the most distinguished German pianists of the 19th century. She was one of the first to perform from memory, making it the standard for concert performance. She and her husband Robert mentored the young Johannes Brahms, and Clara was the first to perform Brahms’ music in public.  Listen to Clara's Piano Works.  

The Awl

Fanny Mendelssohn was the older sister of Felix Mendelssohn, and a composer of more than 460 works. A number of her pieces were originally published under Felix's name. This ended in 1842 when Felix confessed the deception to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.  Listen to Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel's Piano Trio Op. 11 (1840)

Open Music Library

19th century French pianist and composer Louise Farrenc studied with Anton Reicha and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Despite being a virtuoso performer and composer, she was paid less than her male colleagues, until 1849 when she demanded – and received equal pay. Listen to her Trio for flute, cello and piano Op. 45 (1856)