“We like to think that we’re now giving listeners 48 hours of great radio a day!” – Cleve Callison, WHQR station manager
Thirty years ago, the first Wilmington supporters of public radio daydreamed about a dual format or split signal. One station 91.3 would air non-commercial news and information, with talk shows and modern musical genres thrown in, and one would play 24 hour classical music, with morning and afternoon news breaks. Today, thanks to the ongoing work of a small but innovative staff, led by station manager Cleve Callison, senior producer/program manager Bob Workmon, and faithful WHQR listeners, that dream is a reality, and classical HQR 96.7fm is on the air!
Jemila Ericson, known as “the voice” behind WHQR, and veteran Pat Mariott host the 24-hour classical station, 96.7fm. There are morning and evening newsbreaks, and favorite syndicated programs, but mainly there is music all day long!
News programming on 91.3fm includes the new WHQR –produced Coastline talk show, plus national public radio programs, America’s Test Kitchen, BBC NewsHour, Diane Rehm Show (live in real broadcast time), People’s Pharmacy, State of Things, Travel with Rick Steves, and more.
Workmon, the wizard behind “what fits where” says the devil is in the details. “Program work has to be recorded in 10-20 minute segments, including breaks – everything has to be collated. Fortunately, we have a very competent team in place doing all this.”
“Public radio gives us the opportunity to bring together many different elements – music, ideas, language – all those things together that produce more of an effect on the imagination, and make for a better story,” Workmon said.
“George Scheibner is a master storyteller just with the music he selects. He’s aware of the events of a particular day, and the great musicians – pop, jazz, classical and folk – associated with that day.”
Gia Gamboni is another skilled storyteller who is beginning to “develop her chops.” And for the new Coastline talk show, news director Rachel Lewis Hilburn exercises storytelling with factual information, by trying to clarify events or trends that are obscured by politicians and “well-meaning people.”
A highly experienced program manager, newspaper journalist, singer and actor, Workmon loves radio and the people who run it. It is not uncommon during fund-raising campaigns for his boss to ask him to sing in order to achieve a particular financial goal. “Being at the station is a wonderful thing, because radio is an avenue for expression, unlike TV. Radio requires more use of our imagination. I remember as a kid, snuggled up in my bed, listening to radio theatre.”
Today, when Workman is not juggling a score of details at the station, he may be found performing with one of the many drama companies in town. He thanks Lou Criscuolo and others at Opera House for the life-changing role as Tony Esposito in Most Happy Fella. Next month, Workman will perform as the bad-guy developer in Big Dawg Productions’ The Hermit of Fort Fisher, hosted by Brunswick Little Theatre in Southport. “Personally, every moment the radio mike is open, I’m performing!”
Callison and Workmon have high regard for one another, Callison calling Workmon “a knowledgeable and brilliant programmer with a real feel for music that’s interesting.” Workmon says the new split signal launch is Callison’s brain child, although it was discussed with WHQR’s board when he was hired as station manager in 2010.
The main problem with the new signal, 96.7 is that some listening areas are receiving poor transmission. WHQR broadcasts in HD (hybrid digital), and has made an extensive effort to get HD radios in people’s hands. Another option is online listening through a computer or Smart phone.
Callison and the WHQR board are working on a more permanent solution for a stronger signal. It will take time and funding, but is worth the effort. “I love the invigorating environment of public radio,” he said. “It gives us many opportunities for an exchange of high energy, vibrancy and closeness with the community.”
For more information about WHQR public radio, go to www.whqr.org or call (910) 343-1640.