For the first Classical Challenge, I looked at our local public radio station, WVTF. As a representative sampling, I used their playlist for Monday, 11/2/09.
Take a peek at the numbers below, and consider what impression someone might have if their only exposure to classical music was WVTF.
Here's what I saw:
Apparently, classical music was mainly written for orchestras. It was composed by European men, mostly between 1820-1920 (although there's a fair chunk of it written between 1750-1820). And they're all dead. So classical music comes to us from times long past -- sort of like what you get on an oldies station.
Something else. The only music heard by living American composers on WVTF were movie soundtracks. So one might assume that Europe is the exclusive source of great classical music (not the Europe of today, mind you, but the Europe of all those dead guys). So the best we can do over here is write a catchy tune or two. Hardly the same.
Now WVTF has a nice on-air sound. And I concede that their goal is primarily to keep their audience happy. But I think there's something of disconnect with that audience.
It is unlikely that the nationally-known artists performing in local chamber music series will be aired on WVTF. It is extremely unlikely any music composed within the last 20 years -- even those played by regional and university orchestras -- will be aired on WVTF (unless it's from a soundtrack). It is almost a certainty that no woman composer will ever get an airing on WVTF (and not the just ones whose works are regularly performed by those regional and university ensembles). It is unlikely that the cantatas, oratorios, or other music performed by community choral groups will be heard on WVTF.
Consider this for a moment: Rene Fleming's album "Verismo" just won a Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Performance. Beyonce Knowles won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. You can be sure that stations airing some form of popular music (CHR, AC, Urban, etc.) will be playing Beyonce's songs in heavy rotation. And you can be equally sure you will never, ever hear a track from "Verismo" on WVTF.
Types of Ensemble
64% Orchestra (includes soloist with orchestra)
16% Solo instrumental performer (almost exclusively piano)
13% Chamber group
1% Choral ensemble
0% Solo vocalist
27% 20th Century (mainly post-romantic)
3% Early music (late renaissance only)