Born: Dearborn, Michigan on January 7, 1955 (the very day that Marian Anderson became the first black to sing at the Met). We didn't have a phonograph that could play LPs until some time around my eighth birthday, so I grew up listening to 78s of Glenn Miller, Harry James, Freddy Martin and the other big bands. I suppose that's why I still enjoy (and in many ways prefer) antique recordings.
No one in my family listened to classical music, but three things sparked my interest: the aforementioned Freddy Martin (His band recorded truncated arrangements of innumerable classical works. For years I preferred his version of the Waltz from Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings to the original.), cartoons (especially Bugs Bunny), and, most importantly of all, Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. From Bernstein I gained two things which have influenced my entire life: a passionate love for great music and a desire to share that monumental experience with others. In grade school and junior high, I studied the viola. My parents discouraged the pursuit of a musical career, so it was my intention to become a lawyer. As a result, I gave up playing an instrument when it began to interfere with my other studies.
Around 1970, a public radio station in Detroit, WDET, broadcast "The Koussevitzky Legacy" series. I had heard Bernstein mention the name of his great teacher on television, but this was the first time I had ever heard Koussevitzky conduct. It was more thrilling, emotionally powerful, and beautiful than anything I had heard before. Koussevitzky continues to be the standard by which I judge all orchestral performances. I became fascinated not only with his recordings, but with the man himself. Given my interest in Koussevitzky and his era, I sometimes think that I was born fifty years (or so) too late. In 1986, when it became apparent that no one else was going to do it, I established the Koussevitzky Recordings Society and recruited a Board of Advisors that included Aaron Copland, William Schuman, and Leonard Bernstein. (I had the honor of meeting Bernstein – briefly – at Tanglewood and hearing him rehearse Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony with the Boston Symphony.) Today, the Society publishes two newsletters annually devoted to interviews with those who knew and worked with the conductor, biographical articles, reviews of recordings, rare photographs and much more.
I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor (1973-76), where I studied musicology. Since I was still planning to be a lawyer, I chose Philosophy as a major. I still think Philosophy is a better background for a lawyer than somethng like Political Science. At Michigan, I began writing music criticism for "The Michigan Daily" and hosting a weekly classical music program on their student radio station, WCBN-FM. I quickly decided to make radio my career. Since graduation, I have worked for three public radio stations: as announcer and senior producer for WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama, Program Director of WLRH in Huntsville, Alabama, and, currently, Station Manager of WSIU in Carbondale, Illinois. Throughout my career in broadcasting my goal has been to bring classical music to the largest possible audience, and I've been reasonably successful in increasing size of the audience at all three stations.
In addition to Koussevitzky, my favorite performers include Leonard Bernstein, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter, Paul Paray, Fritz Kreisler, Eugène Ysaÿe, Michael Rabin, William Primrose (of course), Jacqueline Du Pre (I had a terrible crush on her when I was in high school, but it's really her magnificent playing that I'm in love with), Vladimir Horowitz, Mischa Levitzky, Jussi Bjoerling, Victoria de los Angeles, Zinka Milanov, Cathy Berberian (I could listen to her sing anyting – which is probably why I like such things as Harnoncourt's Orfeo and Berio's Recital I) to name a few. Favorite composers include Prokofieff, Irving Fine, Bernard Herrmann, Gerald Finzi, Sibelius (one of the critics in the American Record Guide called him "the greatest 20th century composer" – certainly only Prokofieff comes close in my estimation), Mahler, Schumann, Schubert, Beethoven and Mozart.
In addition to the Michigan Daily, I have written music criticism for Bozart Magazine (Birmingham, AL), The New Records and currently for the American Record Guide.
I am married; with no children, but three cats. My hobbies, other than music, include reading, French Impressionist and Russian avant-garde art, going to movies, bicycling, and watching, listening to or attending St. Louis Cardinal baseball games.
Copyright © Thomas Godell, 1995-2000. All Rights Reserved.