Only every once in a while can you raise a curtain that hides an exciting mystery. Recently, I had a rare chance to discover the real person behind the wall of air that transmits radio waves. It happened on October 3 in Alexandria, Louisiana at the celebration concert of Red River Radio’s 30-th anniversary.
Listening to the radio, you get imaginary pictures of how could voices of your favorite shows look like. Following a particular show, you get attached to the host’s voice and its familiarity makes it sound as almost the voice of your relative – warm and welcoming. Often times you would not even guess the look of that person with the microphone – you already have the strong idea about it, you formed it yourself just by hearing the voice’s sound. Couple of decades ago, when the Internet wasn’t developed all that much and you couldn’t instantly google anybody’s name, you would never see the owner of the magnificent baritone (or soprano), but even now, hosts of radio shows are still not visually recognizable as much as they are recognizable by ear. So, it is quite a special moment when you finally face “The Voice” in a natural situation for both of you – on stage, talking about music, and find out that your expectations came true not just visually, but in a variety of other important details.
Those details made my experience working with Fred Child, host of NPR’s “Performance Today”, absolutely unique.
Fred has an astonishing ability of making his own curiosity about music and the arts in general contagious to everyone who listens to him. As a performer and teacher I always think about this ability regarding my experience listening to others and learning from others as well as analyzing my own skills to transmit the joy and an obsessive interest I possess myself towards music and other arts. In the real world the enormous knowledge and the gift of attracting your audience to the learning process do not necessarily come together, and it is sad. So many times I’ve listened to lectures given by people that are obviously experts in their field but who would present their subjects in a way that makes you desperately stare at the clock.
Fred makes everything he talks about sound the way that you want to disappear in the music library right away listening, reading and devouring all available information on the topic and beyond. It makes me so happy to think about people who catch his curiosity fever listening to his shows and thus opening a whole new world of extraordinary things for themselves.
A brief stage talk grew bigger and broader after the concert. I was psyched to learn that we share admiration for Wilhelm Furtwängler and Sergiu Celibidache – figures that I can’t imagine my life without, which are becoming less and less known by younger generation. Having listened to uncountable amount of music and having had talks with enormous number of musicians, Fred quietly guides you towards the best out there and that is a guidance you know you can trust – speaking of his own favorites he only mentions people of the greatest musicianship regardless of their celebrity, or relative lack thereof. His curiosity reaches literature and visual arts with the same intensity – he just constantly wants to reveal the mystery in everything and it is something that benefits not only him. It is something that we learn from him and would love to thank him for.