WQED FM Community Impact

Now in its 48th year as one of the world’s finest all classical, non-commercial radio stations, WQED-FM is nearing our half-century mark of service. On our first broadcast on January 25, 1973, WQED Board Chair Leland Hazard, one of the architects of Pittsburgh’s Renaissance and General Counsel for PPG, quoted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, saying: “’One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.’ Such is the purpose of WQED-FM.”

Within weeks, WQED-FM began live presentations of local voices introducing daily programs in morning and afternoon drive times, broadcasting the Pittsburgh Symphony, Pittsburgh Opera, and concerts from western Pennsylvania’s finest musicians. That work continued during the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 without missing a beat.

During the pandemic, live broadcasts continued from the homes of announcers beginning in March of 2020. There were over 60 hours of newly-produced programs for Pittsburgh Foundation Performance in Pittsburgh. Two-hour programs were created with the Mendelssohn Choir and a Pittsburgh Symphony 125th anniversary national broadcast featuring historic recordings.

WQED-FM produced a series of ten-hours from the Beethoven Festival concerts of Polish Radio 2, the national classical music radio service in Poland, with underwriting support from the Polish Cultural Council of Pittsburgh.

With virtual online presentations of opera from Pittsburgh Opera, 15 interviews, and five Pittsburgh Opera preview programs, including a world premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird, were assembled by Bryan Sejvar and Anna Singer.

Jim Cunningham and Rick Sebak put together their first-ever holiday broadcast focusing on musicians from the Pittsburgh area, including Fred Rogers and Josie Carey singing “You Know It's Time for Christmas” in the program titled Jim and Rick “Consider Cool, Country, Contemporary, and Classical Christmas Carols.”

A new series of weekly Sunday evening organ recitals began from St. Paul Cathedral with the support of Lou and Henry Gailliot. Chamber Music Pittsburgh broadcasts continued with recordings made especially for Pittsburgh in venues without audiences. The Mendelssohn Choir and Bach Choir of Pittsburgh were featured in recently recorded concerts with new interviews from their music directors.

The Concerts at Home series with support from the Spanos Group of Raymond James included daily, Monday through Friday, Symphony on the air spotlights and Wednesday morning Center Stage recordings, made exclusively for WQED-FM listeners with members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra wearing masks and participating with Jim Cunningham in weekly Covid testing.

Jim interviewing members of PSO in masks

A four-part retrospective series of Con Spirito Concerts was produced for Pittsburgh Foundation Performance in Pittsburgh, with chamber music recordings from the concerts supported by Glen and Lavonne Johnson at Thiel College. A tribute to conductor Julius Rudel in his centennial year was produced in honor of the conductor, whose daughter Dr. Rachel Berger leads the Child Advocacy Center at Children’s Hospital. Rudel had been a favorite in Pittsburgh, appearing with the Symphony, Opera, and Pittsburgh Festival Opera.

A new Pittsburgh Youth Symphony program was produced from audio recorded for a virtual online presentation. The Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Guild of Organists celebrated its 100th anniversary with historic recordings transferred for a two-hour program, co-hosted by Ken Danchik, Dean of the AGO.

Concerts presented with social distancing from across Germany were presented in cooperation with the German world broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

A lightning strike to our radio broadcast tower silenced our over-the-air broadcast signal in late November. A tower maintenance crew scaled the 600-foot tower, removed the damaged transmission line, repaired and cleaned the burned sections. During these repairs, our streaming capability from wqedfm.org became much more robust for all three audio streams. New technology combined with hosting services enables many more listeners to hear the station without dropouts and interruptions. Even when our over-the-air signal was down, many of you were still listening, using your smart speakers, our WQED-FM app, or through our wqedfm.org website. Don’t forget that anytime and anywhere, you can also listen to Pittsburgh Concert Channel featuring the Pittsburgh Symphony in concert broadcasts 24 hours each day and the Q-the-Music stream with local musicians featured at the Port Authority downtown subway stops and Pittsburgh International Airport.

Image of burned antenna

WQED-FM celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with recordings from musicians and composers of African descent. Black History Month in February brought a daily concentration on musicians of African heritage in morning and afternoon drive and four all African American two-hour concerts on “Performance in Pittsburgh.” Women’s History Month in March was celebrated with daily salutes to female composers. Anna Singer interviewed a series of women arts leaders in Pittsburgh, which can be heard on our Voice of the Arts podcast series.

Jim Cunningham, Bryan Sejvar, and Anna Singer reported on hundreds of local arts events with interviews, edited podcasts, produced on-air promos and highlights, and posted Voice of the Arts and At the Symphony podcasts online or via your favorite podcast provider. WQED-FM was nominated for two Golden Quill awards with reports from contributing editor Katie Brill.

Image of Anna singer with student musicians in the WQED-FM studio