Non-classical chief will run WQXR

Non-classical chief will run WQXR


norman lebrecht

March 28, 2017

The New York classical music station is to be led by Shannon Connelly, a digital music specialist with no apparent classical expertise. Here’s the announcement:


New York Public Radio, home of WQXR, WNYC Radio, and WNYC Studios, today announced that digital music executive and entrepreneur Shannon Connolly has been named Senior Vice President and General Manager, Music at New York Public Radio….


Connolly brings over two decades of digital music experience to the role, including product management, ad sales, and business development. As Senior Vice President, Music Strategy & Operations for the Viacom Music Group, she built and managed a cross-functional team responsible for growing digital reach and revenue for the world’s largest music channels (MTV, CMT), shows (Unplugged, Crossroads), and live events (Video Music Awards).

Most recently, Connolly founded her own company, The Yams, a chat-based recommendation service. She began her career as a consultant in the Media and Entertainment practice at Accenture.

“Classical music has been around for centuries, but new technologies present the possibility of making it relevant and accessible in exciting new ways,” said Connolly. “As a lifelong fan of classical and public radio, I’m thrilled to join the stellar team at WQXR and NYPR to bring this art form to new platforms and new audiences around the world.”



  • Craig Zeichner says:

    Countless classical music producers and A&R people who were cut lose from record labels, music marketing specialists, knowledgeable journalists, etc. are on the scene and available. This is going to be interesting to watch. Bring on the “Two Cellos and Andrea Bocelli Hour!”

    • Jan Mancuso says:

      There is something wrong when EVERYTHING must be made ‘accessible/appealing’ to ALL. The are casual listeners, serious listeners, and every kind in between. Media and arts organizations are being pushed by budgets and boards of directors to gobble up the entire pie of humanity. Just like Walmart and Amazon devoured mainstream retail…..Normally I’d say ‘sad’ but that word’s been co-opted to I’ll just say how very unfortunate….

  • Leonora Bloom says:

    This is disgraceful. New York City will soon not have a classical music station. Is this because they did not meet their fundraising goal a few weeks ago?

  • Leonora Bloom says:

    Soon NYC will have no classical music station. What a disgrace. What a tragedy.

  • NYMike says:

    As a monthly subscriber, I’m already disheartened at some of the dumbed-down programming of the last few years. Case in point: C.M. von Weber’s inane March from Turandot played four or five times per year while NEVER playing Hindemith’s far superior Metamorphosis on Weber’s Themes (including his original march).

  • Michael says:

    Very disappointing. So many talented knowledgeable folks to choose from and they choose a random digital person.

  • Geoff Radnor says:

    Up here in Canada we have a federal Government Agency called the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). There used to be a CBC Orchestra but that is long gone. We get one radio channel, Radio2, that shares most music genres. What time is allocated to serious music is filled with popular standards that we have heard many times. Not one live concert is broadcast and we have full time professional orchestras in Victoria and Vancouver BC, Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, plus Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. However we hear not one note from them on our CBC Radio2. Only cds of recordings made by CBC years ago.
    We too are starved of serious music. We hope that it doesn’t get so bad in NY.

    • Geoff Radnor says:

      There is Kitchener/Waterloo in Ontario too and I am sure that the musicians there would like to be featured live just once in a while on CBC Radio2. Dream…
      Of course there are the dreaded CanCon rules, that limit the playing of music by the Berlin Phil, the Vienna Phil, the London Symphony Orchestras and all those foreign bands. Those rules were imposed essentially on popular music when the Canadians were likely to be overwhelmed by the pop flood from south of the border. That was decades ago and certainly does not apply today for any genre.

  • Joe says:

    Re “New York City will soon not have a classical music station” – is that literally true? I found nothing online to suggest that WQXR will cease to be a classical-music station – am I missing something? (And I’m willing to give Ms. Connolly the benefit of the doubt. I will decry her if she DOES turn WQXR into your 24-hour Bocelli/ Two Cellos station, but I hope it doesn’t happen.)

    • Leonora Bloom says:

      You have to love classical music to care about classical music. It’s not a mainstream kind of thing-never was and never will be. There are definitely other options. The demise of WQXR will not be the end of classical music. The fewer recorded options available, the more the public will turn to live performances. It’s the full circle!

    • Brian says:

      I agree that it’s time to cut some slack for someone with a truly fresh vision. There are almost innumerable ways to make music engaging and applicable to real life. I often thought of late-night type programming that would combine teaching meditation with cuts from Morton Feldman or Ligeti, for instance. Or reading excerpts from Joyce’s novels with tracks from Stockhausen, Cage, Crumb, and such. There’s unusual things you can do with the old traditional stuff too: a friend of mine who works at a station in upstate NY once did a series of shows about tunes that got into popular culture — movies, cartoons, popular songs, TV shows, and he found some very strange stuff that went way beyond the score of Fantasia. Humor and youth must become more common to this music, too: Reilly’s marvelous program with live performances from kids is one model to follow here.

      The point is that the same creativity that went into the composition of music must be brought to the broadcasting of it. It’s reached the point now where I can have a classical station on at the end of a piece, check the time, and predict what’s next (8 minutes before the top of the hour, there will be a Vivaldi concerto or a Strauss waltz — I’m typically right about 3/4 of the time).

  • John says:

    I hate to say it, but I’ve almost entirely stopped listening to classical radio anywhere. The lowest common denominator stuff that airs is music I’ve heard to death. Every time my local station plays Finlandia, the Peer Gynt Suite, or Beethoven’s 5th yet one more time, (Radetsky March anyone?), I think even the ‘Music Appreciation’ crowd will turn them off.

    Makes me think of KUSC in Los Angeles which was overseen by a husband/wife combo (who will go unnamed) for whom the term “classical” meant ‘if it includes stringed instruments and lasts seven minutes or less.’

    Good riddance bad classical radio. I don’t expect much in the way of good classical radio to emerge anytime soon. In the meantime I’ll stick to my several thousand CDs that I’ve accumulated for just such a day.

  • Cape Cod says:

    Please try listening to classical music on smaller community-based radio stations not influenced by network or corporate obligations, but instead are responsive to the interests of their listeners. Many broadcast with the same technical quality and web access as the larger stations and are able to communicate with listeners directly. Often the announcers are also professional musicians, and are able to offer opportunities for local and regional artists to perform on air, and to support local and regional classical and jazz music events. Many of these stations, such as WOMR/WFMR on Cape Cod, also broadcast the Met Opera and a variety of concert programs, and support a range of cultural events in their region. The web broadcasts attract listeners locally, nationally, and internationally.

  • Marg says:

    Why not live-stream good classical stations from around the world? I agree with Cape Cod above – there are dozens of them. Try ABC CLassic FM from Australia for one – 24hrs classical music of a great variety, highly knowledgeable presenters (at least two are also conductors), all genres of music, rebroadcast concerts and opera from other countries every night. Cant think when I last heard Beethovens 5th or the Peer Gynt Suite.

    • Sue says:

      ABC Classic FM is totally abysmal. I started listening to it in 1976 when it started. Over time it has degenerated into “Peer Gynt” and untold numbers of excerpts for a more general audience. For years I was friendly with one of its presenters, who retired in 1990 (and died 1 year ago). Even he couldn’t tolerate it in the last decades.

      Serious music-lovers go on to more esoteric fare and leave the middle-of-the-road stuff to the neophytes.

  • Marcia Korwin says:

    WIAA from Interlochen in Michigan is a good local example with one of its two stations devoted to classical music. Several hours each day of local programing.

  • Scott says:

    Let’s not forget about all the insipid movie music WQXR plays.

  • Tom Gillett says:

    WQXR has long ceased to be relevant. They now occupy a precarious perch on the FM dial allocated to Newark, New Jersey, with a power of 600 watts, They are crowded out by a powerful station from Hartford operating on the same 105.9, with its transmitter about 80 miles from New York. They are further squeezed on central Long Island by a public radio talk station at 105.7. All the seems to matter to WNYC management is the stream. What gets me is how they try to get old fogies (like me) to bequest legacies to WQXR. The station may not be on the FM dial for long. Would anyone notice?

    • Tessie Viola says:

      Yes, I would.

      WQXR isn’t the greatest. And often the playlist is simple/dumb/uninspired.

      But it’s nice to be able to turn it on and have it there.

      It’s the last inkling of the “normalization” classical music.

      We don’t even have a real jazz station anymore in NYC.
      Like What the heck?

      It’s nice just knowing it’s there and having it there when I don’t want to curate my own playlist. Sometimes they do play great stuff. I’ll admit it doesn’t happen to often. But it’s better than another part of classical music dying.

      • SweetHomeChicago says:

        What about WBGO 88.3? Technically also in Newark not NYC, they’ve always kept the jazz spirit up and running.

        I’m grateful we have WFMT here in Chicago (and available online). I just avoid the rush hour programming which represents the same level of WQXR’s past, present and probably future.

  • Chris says:

    It’s worth mentioning that Viacom/MTV once programmed classical music. It was in the days of the Microsoft Zune, if that means anything to anyone reading this thread. Microsoft was trying to compete with Apple/iTunes. It didn’t last, but that had to do with the power of the Apple brand and ecosystem. I’m willing to give this person a chance and am more concerned with the notion that radio stations which previously served only their communities are now in the position of having to compete with organizations that are the size of WQXR, American Public Media etc. Also, if you are looking for eclectic, yet serious, classical radio I suggest KMFA in Austin, Texas.

  • Lisa Renee Ragsdale says:

    I am reminded of a very scary moment in of all places, my church, when I met a couple who were leaving early to attend a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert. I made the mistake (in retrospect) of stating that I had lost interest in their concerts due their insistence on surrounding new music with nothing but the “old and weary classical period sounds.” The gentleman looked at me as if he wanted to punch me and stated: “We LIKE the old music and wish they wouldn’t play any of that awful new music.” Great way to turn a Sunday afternoon into a boxing match…whoops!

  • Alexander Platt says:

    Here in Chicago, WFMT is as fabulous as ever. I don’t know what I’d do without it.

    • Sue says:

      Please email me if you’d like a few suggestions!!!:-)

    • Cyril Blair says:

      WFMT is often great…BUT in addition to their quality programming they have a Top 100 rotation which no long time listener of classical music wants to hear. Plus they seem to have people on staff who love film scores and want to hear them quite a bit (not just the old stuff but Harry Potter). For every wonderful, rarely heard thing there is a Mozart piano concerto or a Beethoven symphony…..

  • Gil Gross says:

    Ok, calm down everyone who apparently knows nothing about radio. General managers are almost never experts in the music they play or the talk they do or the news they broadcast. That’s the job of the program director and sometimes the operations manager, not the GM. Her job is to hire the right people, help them work together and in this case expand the business. Radio, which I’ve spent 50 years of my life in, is a dying medium. That isn’t all bad. Because of the digital world we now have channels unimaginable from radio. QXR has a contemporary music channel that could never exist in terrestrial radio. KING in Seattle has a brilliant channel called Second Inversion, but because if royalty payments not needed for the public domain works of dead masters, we need experts from the digital world to get such channels the worldwide audiences they need and that is just one of the challenges. I don’t know her but this sounds like a brilliant hire. A PS , here in the states I got to hear Norman’s brilliant BBC interviews because they were digitally available. This is a good thing and instead of classical music being available only on stations in big cities, this brings it everywhere!

    • Mark says:

      “Radio is a dying medium”? I certainly hope that is hyperbole. First, “radio” isn’t a single technology; perhaps you mean “terrestrial broadcasting”, or “FM (or AM) radio”? Second, while at home (and to a lesser extent at work) I can listen to audio Internet streams, that’s a lot harder to do in a car, or on a bus. Third, it’s also a lot more expensive: cellular data isn’t cheap for the consumer, streaming capacity isn’t cheap for the provider, QoS isn’t particularly reliable, nobody seems to know how to multicast so every instance of a stream has its own delay and requires yet more server capacity.

      I live where there used to be 5 (all or partial) classical-music FM stations (and one simulcast on AM); now there is one “Top 100 classical” station whose program director wants it to be a “background” service. But terrestrial audio broadcasting, as a medium, is thriving, and not just for weather and traffic reports (although, in an emergency, that sort of common infrastructure is irreplaceable so far). If my music tastes were more mainstream, I’d have a surfeit of “radio” sources.

      Classical music used to be available to people without much money, so they could find out if they liked any of it (and it’s so varied that almost everyone might like some part of it). Now even “free” music costs a lot, usually on a monthly basis (internet subscription, satellite subscription, cellular subscription), to the point where sometimes concert tickets are actually cheaper than phone service — but then you need transportation and the option of sleeping past 4 in the morning so you can stay awake for the concert.

      “Radio is a dying medium” is probably one of the less-populist ideas I’ve heard this year. We’d be better off if TV and Twitter and Facebook were dying media.

  • Jackyt says:

    I recommend France Musique and BBC Radio 3, both available via the internet, for real classical music, including live concerts and operas 24/7.

    • MWnyc says:

      Netherlands Radio 4 ( is at least the equal of those two. (And I listen to all three of them.)

      And as a counter to all the grousing about WQXR, let me add a word of praise for Q2, their digital streaming station dedicated to contemporary classical music. Very good if you like, or want to get to know, that repertoire.

  • Potrzebie says:

    Thank you Gil Gross for the only well-informed comment here so far. I’ve worked at one of the few remaining 24/7 classical stations in the country for the past 30 years (the station has been successful in its programming and fundraising for just shy of 45 years). Gil hits the nail on the head. The General Manager of any broadcast station is there to steer their staff in a direction that the current broadcast and media landscape warrants. That Miss Connelly has a vast background in today’s ever-changing media environment will be a great asset to QXR.

  • Brian Hughes says:

    New Yorkers need to move to my little corner of Iowa. From Dubuque, I have access to both streams of Iowa Public Radio–Classical and Talk. The hosts are very knowledgeable and accessible and one, Barney Sherman, is an acknowledged expert/author in early music. Plus there is a plethora of programming that includes top international orchestras as well as “Symphonies of Iowa.”

    WVIK in the Quad Cities (Davenport, Rock Island, etc.) also has a transmitter right here in town and their afternoon host adores the concert recordings put out my our Quad City Wind Ensemble.

    THEN, there is Wisconsin Public Radio, which I usually need to drive across the bridge and get about 8 miles into that state to get good reception. Like the others, I appreciate their on-air staff and think of them as friends (although we’ve never met).

    Is Iowa a fly-over state? Not for classical radio.

  • Alexander Platt says:

    Sorry, Sue and Cyril, but WFMT really is just fine. The more rarely heard stuff is copiously provided Midnight-6am, and more justifiably predictable repertoire during the day. I miss the NY Philharmonic on Thursday nights, but the Sunday evening programming is a thing of beauty.

  • Ricardo says:

    At this point,,WQXR’s programming is so dumbed down — chirpy announcers, endless variations of Carmen — that I wouldn’t miss it if it did go under.

  • Rick says:

    WQXR’s programming has become, at best, featherweight. The same four selections interrupted by inane comments by their chirpy announcers.

  • Lisa Renee Ragsdale says:

    I am thinking that both “Classical Radio” and major symphony orchestras need to completely re-think their entire reason for being. I am thinking of requesting the concert schedules of several major symphony orchestras after finding two orchestras having 3 to 5 weeks of nothing but “only what the old (rich) folks like.” The St. Louis Symphony, previously known for some rather bold premiers starts their season with three weeks in a row of nothing but Mozart. Ugh. Minnesota Orchestra shocked me with FIVE concerts in 15 days of nothing but Tchaikovsky (all 6 symphonies, and 4 concerti.). Now if it was a 100th or 150th or 200th something these would make sense. But they are not. Would they consider looking into a composer’s works whose 100th or 150th year is this coming year? If not, why not? If orchestras insist on pleasing only the “moneyed” they will be loosing their audiences sooner than later.