MPR fires Black classical music radio host

Trouble ahead in Minnesota.

Minnesota Public Radio’s only Black classical music host Garrett McQueen has announced on social media that he’s been fired.

Garrett was presenter of Music Through the Night. He has played in a number of orchestras including South Arkansas Symphony, Jackson Symphony and American Youth Symphony.

McQueen said he was taken off the air after his shift on Aug. 25. He was then given two warnings — one of which was about his need to improve communication and the other warning was for switching out scheduled music to play pieces he felt were more appropriate to the moment and more diverse….

More here.

We wonder what he played instead of the usual sleepy stuff.

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  • I don’t know anything about this particular matter, but I applaud him for trying to inject life into MPR’s programming. The banality of MPR’s programs is the reason I stopped listening to our local NPR station, which buys MPR output.

    • He’s clearly supporting a domestic terror organization (KKK = BLM/ANTIFA) which is cause enough for discharge.

      Hatred of whites is equally as bad as blacks!!!

      Only destruction is ever measured by the media as opposed to progress toward a clear set of goals.
      – THINK about it for once!

      It showcases mere savagery as opposed to legitimate strength.

      It’s not surprising that guys like Barack Hussein Obama have not been man enough to publicly condemn and demand an end to the destruction. Poor man has suffered his entire life since his own male role model walked on him and his mum. It is proof positive that strong black fathers remain in short supply. If only Obama would embrace manhood over cheap celebrity now that he’s rich.

      • Your explicit neo-nazism (as seen in your use of the “s” word in reference to blacks, along with your clear support for violent terror targeting blacks) makes you the clear savage.

        • They’re only “blacks” to you people who can’t cite facts to support your apoplectic reactions.

          Take heart little one. Your somewhat male, wealthy, WHITE Democrat candidate believes in “truth over facts” as Donald sits in the Oval Office instead of Hillary.

  • Can MPR’s statement possibly be more hypocritical? They’re proud of the programming he created and support his efforts to increase diversity — just not at their shop. What they really should have done is given him a daytime segment, an hour or two long, that really educates listeners about classical musics, very much including the European tradition but not limited to it.

    • Me too. But I read on. He would “take it upon [himself] to change that”: Listen, son. You’re in a classical music station. The vast majority of the classical music canon has been written by dead white men.

      He is presenting classical music, not a news programme. That is not to say it cannot be reflective of the world outside the studio: I have read of the sort of programming produced when, fr instance, President Kennedy was killed, or after 9/11. (I am not attempting to equate these events to today, but the effects of the recent police shootings have been seismic across the nation and across the world).

      But surely he could have discussed an approach with his superiors, and made his case for playing whatever it was he wanted to play. And while I agree with him that Joel Thompson’s ‘Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” is very appropriate, the listening public may not want a steady diet of it.

      I have started to watch his podcast “Trilloquy” and his bosses have a point about “the need to improve communication,” if the number of “umms” and “you knows” that punctuate his every sentence is how he speaks on the air. He does not speak “street” — he just has the sort of inarticulacy not atypical of his generation. I find it extremely irritating in broadcasters — though to be sure, I rarely hear it, as most broadcasters have to be able to speak without this sort of hesitation as a job requirement.

      He is also, if I understand him correctly — and he is not what I could call clear in his unscripted statements — celebratory of the looting in his old neighbourhood because it represents a fightback. I am not sufficiently up on the protocols of podcasting to know if there are any restrictions on them — perhaps there are none except those imposed by financial response — but if that is the sort of thing he was saying on the public airwaves, he was coasting toward trouble. In this day and age, people are losing their jobs over social media comments they made years and years ago, and perhaps MPR warned him that he could not be so free with his personal feelings on the air.

      He seems intelligent and is presumably knowledgeable about classical music to have secured his position in the first place — a young man well placed to broaden the reach of this music to his own community, and to do the vital job of introducing the wider community to works by black classical artists.

      But I suspect NL is right — we have not heard the last of this.

      • I haven’t listened to the Trilloquy podcasts, but I did listen to McQueen quite often when he was on air in his Music Through the Night program, and he was articulate and well-spoken. I imagine that he was reading scripts, or at least reading from notes, rather than speaking off the cuff. I found both his demeanor and how he introduced the music refreshing.

        McQueen is also a professional musician — a bassoonist who played with the Knoxville Symphony before taking the position with MPR.

      • The issue wasn’t that Garrett McQueen played works by Black composers that were appropriate to current events.

        The issue was that **he substituted them into the playlist on the spot, with no discussion in advance with his bosses** (which, I’m sure, is what was meant by “his need to improve communication”).

        Minnesota Public Radio’s Classical 24 programming is carried direct by hundreds of local public radio stations all over the United States. Those stations are Minnesota Public Radio’s **clients** — and they don’t take kindly (because their listeners don’t take kindly) to repeated last-minute changes that aren’t in the playlists they were given.

        MPR’s statement said that management had discussed this issue with McQueen several times and he continued to do it. Which means — and I’m surprised they didn’t say this in so many words — he was fired for insubordination.

        • Not so much different from attending a symphony concert and opening the program to find that … the piece you traveled a distance to see in performance has been changed out at the last minute. Usually for a piece by Beethoven or some other war-horsey selection.

          We all know the feeling when that happens.

          While I don’t generally pay attention to radio show playlists, I can imagine some listeners raising a stink about this — particularly if it happened more than one time in quick succession.

          Insubordination seems the correct term here. Why not call it what it is? It’s too bad, because Garritt McQueen is an interesting personality with something to offer.

          Most everyone working in a business/office environment makes rookie mistakes. McQueen is a smart guy; I’m sure he’ll take this as a “lesson learned” and come back stronger and better than before.

    • Maybe it will help if you put it in context.

      Haydn wrote over 100 symphonies, because his employers wanted new and fresh music for their concerts.

      Haydn died in 1809, well over 200 years ago.

      Today, we musicians are much more likely to perform a Haydn symphony, than a world premiere (unless we belong to a dedicated new-music group).

      I love performing Haydn! That’s not the issue. (He wrote well for the bassoon.)

      The ethos of revering the music of dead white men, over all else, is the issue.

      My quintet performed a recital earlier this year. I got a chuckle out of the audience, when I told them that there was music by just one “dead white European man” on the program. (Ibert) The rest of the program ranged from a dead woman (Amy Beach), through a live Canadian (Mathieu Lussier), to a dead South American composer arranged by a live Black American composer/performer (Piazzolla/Jeff Scott). The program, and the concert, were well received.

    • Don’t blame you. A classical music station will inevitably have a large number of listeners who value the work of ‘dead white men’. Insulting the listeners is not only rude, the phrase is clearly racist.

      This arrogant belief that George Floyd provides licence for certain black people to do and say whatever they wish is counterproductive.

      No support from me.

      • So, what you’re saying is that they are being uppity and need to know their place, just like Mr. McQueen.

        Is that right?

  • The guy has a job, keeping this job depends on doing what the employer said, the employee thinks it depends on his choices, he’s fired based on the fact he didn’t do what he was supposed to, the employer has this right, this guy finds another job, life goes on.

  • No disrespect to him but it’s actually not his “responsibility.” It’s the music director and/or program director and/or CEO.

  • This is a bummer. I was listening to the radio in the car one night thinking wow, this is an interesting selection of music, stuff unfamiliar yet grabbed my ear. Looked up the station’s website when I got home and found it was this guy’s show. Classical radio stations could use more of this guy, not less.

  • This is their explanation:
    In a statement Friday, MPR President Duchesne Drew and APM President Dave Kansas said that their decision “was not sudden and came after several conversations with Garrett over the past year regarding programming changes.”

    Those warnings, they said, were not tied to McQueen’s choice of music, but the “manner in which he made changes.”

    “We have a process in place for changing playlists,” they wrote, “and that process exists to maintain our more than 200 partner stations’ compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and to ensure royalties are properly paid for the music played.”
    https://www.startribune.com/black-mpr-classical-music-host-says-he-was-fired-after-switching-up-playlist/572380622/

  • It should be noted that the president of MPR is Black, and he is very highly regarded in Twin Cities arts and non-profit circles.

    McQueen seemed unable to process that his music changes were not the issue as such, but rather the royalty accounting problems he was creating by not following procedures for making changes given that his program was picked up by more 200 other stations. This was on McQueen.

    Key point below in the statement by MPR.
    “Our decision was not sudden and came after several conversations with Garrett over the past year regarding programming changes. The warnings presented to Garrett were not tied to his choice of music or the reasons for his unauthorized changes to playlists. He was able to make changes to the playlist, but the manner in which he made changes is what caused an issue. We have a process in place for changing playlists, and that process exists to maintain our more than 200 partner stations’ compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and to ensure royalties are properly paid for the music played.

    We value Garrett’s work and his distinctive contributions to our shared commitment to increase diversity and inclusion in classical music…Across Classical MPR, 24 percent of the music we play features a composer, conductor or soloist who is a woman and/or a Black person, Indigenous person, or Person of Color. We are committed to increasing this number.

  • I’ve never listened to this show, but I do listen to a classical music station on the midnight shift occasionally, and I am looking for Tchaikovsky and Debussy or Arvo Part at that time. Possibly many of the listeners felt the same way and made their views known. A daytime show made more sense for him.

  • Why does it need to take 10-15 years to play better music? MPR’s playlists are BORING and no wonder people don’t bother to listen.

  • Hi Norman, I think you probably copied the first three orchestras of Mr McQueen’s bio, but he is a stellar bassoonist who was also a member of the Knoxville (TN) Symphony and has performed with the Detroit Symphony, the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Louisville Orchestra, among others, as his bio goes on to say- all this, in addition to his thoughtful and visionary work on his podcast TRILLOQUY, in which he explores the fringes of the classical music world. He’s a shining example of a contemporary advocate for the arts in the American classical landscape, and American Public Media is facing an appropriate level of backlash for this action.

    • He is probably a wonderful player. If this guy can just lose his flippant and racist attitude about “dead white men,” perhaps something positive can come from this episode.

      • I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but my guess is that he feels the same way about flippant and racist attitudes that he encounters every day–including if he reads certain commenters on this blog.

  • Feeling the hate he does for white people, why ever did he take a job playing their music?

    Was he chained and shipped in???

    Seriously, where are people’s critical thinking skills in Leftist Land?

  • I get it! Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, and Shostakovich are “dead white men.” As composers, I don’t think they spent much time pondering their “white privilege.” Perhaps their enduring popularity is just merit based — The product of supreme talent and plain hard work. I’m pleased to hear that this mediocrity was shown the door.

  • From MPR’s statement: (in bold font) “Across Classical MPR, 24 percent of the music we play features a composer, conductor or soloist who is a woman and/or a Black person, Indigenous person, or Person of Color. We are committed to increasing this number.”

    Let’s rephrase: “Across Classical MPR, 76 percent of the music we play features all white men as composers, conductors and soloists. We are committed to decreasing this number. However, we have fired a person for implementing these changes because he did not follow the rules of our system, which was created for and by white men.”

    Read the room, MPR.

    • Right. And by MPR’s standard, Hilary Hahn playing the Brahms Concerto with a white male conductor counts as a win for diversity and inclusivity. Talk about a low threshold.

  • Doesn’t matter if you’re black,white,yellow or green! If there is a posted format,FOLLOW IT! Station whose staff didn’t are ,no longer on the air! Get a clue about how radio,really works. If you want to alter it,get your own time!

  • I have never worked in the music industry but I know what it is like to work a night tour where one is working largely independently. It is very easy under such circumstances to act with more autonomy than one actually has and forget that one is an easily replaceable part in a bureaucratic machine

    I too have made (and I confess sometimes continue to make) the same “rookie” mistakes of not following institutional policy because I had other priorities.

    I understand how it could have been easy for McQueen on the night tour to partially ignore the importance for a non profit organization that receives government subsidies of complying with copyright laws and having the money in the budget to pay for required royalties, even if these considerations had previously been explained to McQueen.

    Furthermore, there is also the issue of the disappointed listeners, whom in a show syndicated to over 30 radio stations, could amount to hundreds, if not more than a thousand, over the course of a year, who stayed up late to hear a particular piece that was on an announced playlist only to find out that it was superceded by something else because the radio host had a political agenda!

    These listeners, as well as others who were counting on listening to the playlist, will not only complain but will stop contributing to a show that is largely dependent on listener donations. I assume that this program is non profit and that it and most of the radio stations on which it is broadcast do not have commercial advertising.

    Thus McQueen inadvertently affected the financial viability of the show which provides most of the night radio classical music content for much of the United States!

    I know what it is like to be fired when one is working very hard to promote ones’ ideals and it is very painful.

    Organizations may be reluctant to hire someone who has been so publicly fired for insubordination and seems to have so little regard for institutional policy and the bottom line. This is especially so in the music world which is so very, very competitive and even more so in this age of Covid where the entire arts world is firing, not hiring.

    On the plus side I personally have found in my almost 62 years that whenever I had a professional setback, and I have had many, that not only was it a learning experience but I always ended up in a better position than I was before. Maybe not right away but eventually I was able to take advantage of an opportunity that I would not have or could not have taken advantage of had I not had the setback.

    I wish McQueen the best of luck.

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