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2021 Aug

Art Folks: Meet Rebecca Weinstein

Learn how classical music is the ultimate in human emotion.

Rebecca Weinstein is a classical announcer and content producer for WHRO FM. FM. Born and raised in Williamsburg, Rebecca grew up listening to WHRO FM, acting in community theater shows, and seeing local opera and symphony performances. Let’s meet Rebecca and learn more about why classical music is important to her.

PS: When do you first remember being interested in music?
RW: I enjoyed singing in the chorus in elementary school and started taking voice lessons several years later. As a dramatic kid, I naturally gravitated towards musicals. As I got older, I learned my voice was best suited for classical music and opera, which led me down a whole new rabbit hole of discovering classical music in high school. I started listening to WHRO-FM and classical recordings from the public library. Once I saw my first live orchestra performance and opera, it was a game changer.

PS: Describe what you do for WHRO.
RW: I host and produce classical music and arts programming. My show, “Mid-day Classics,” airs Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on 90.3 WHRO-FM. On Fridays at noon, I also host a program called “Show Tune Cafe,” harkening back to the Golden Age of Broadway. In addition to my role on air, I interview and produce features spotlighting local and visiting artists.

PS: What is it about classical music that appeals to you?
RW: There is so much to hear, analyze, and experience. It’s the ultimate in human emotion and artistic capacity. In a weird way, it makes me feel less alone. When I’m playing a great symphony by Dvorak or Brahms on air, it’s really moving to think about all of the people who might be listening with me.

PS: What is your background in the arts?
RW: I studied classical voice at the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and then worked as an arts critic in Washington, D.C. before moving back down to the Hampton Roads area to work for Virginia Arts Festival. I produced arts reviews at WHRO-FM for several years and took graduate-level coursework in arts administration through Goucher College in Baltimore. I came to WHRO full-time about three years ago.

PS: Why do you think the arts are important for kids today?
RW: The arts help kids find their voices. I know they did for me. Sometimes it’s easier to express your feelings through singing, acting, drawing, writing, etc.

PS: How can parents develop a love of the arts in their children?
RW: Take your kids to local shows and concerts whenever you can. Art forms like classical music have become acquired tastes due to a lack of exposure. Most of the people I know who enjoy classical music today were raised on it. Public radio and TV are also great outlets. They enable anyone to listen to and watch some of the world’s greatest performances and discover what they like.

PS: What would you say to someone who says they don’t like classical music?
RW: You just haven’t found the right classical music for you yet. There’s something for everyone. Check out “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” for a real rhythmic head banger. If you like jazz, listen to William Grant Still. He played in jazz and pit bands and incorporated the blues and jazz idioms into his symphonies and chamber pieces. If you like Broadway, try an American opera like “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” “Susannah,” “Silent Night,” or “Dead Man Walking.” Stations like WHRO-FM are great for discovery because we offer a little bit of everything. Listen for a few hours, see what speaks to you, and then listen to more pieces from that composer or era.

PS: Who’s your favorite composer? Why?
RW: I’ve always struggled with this question because different composers fit different moods and situations. Among my current favorites are Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Margaret Bonds, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. If I had to choose one, I’d say Mozart. He’s one of the few greats who gifted us with truly superb works in almost every medium, from symphonies and chamber music to operas and cantatas. His “Don Giovanni” is my favorite opera.

PS: What’s your favorite Broadway musical? Why? 
RW: “West Side Story.” Leonard Bernstein wrote one of the most striking Broadway scores of all time. I vividly remember seeing it for the first time. I could tell I’d be coming back to it again and again. I also love Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.” It’s a thoughtful, visually stunning, and moving tribute to the creative process and the sacrifices and rewards that come with it.


PS: How would you describe our region’s arts scene? 
RW: Our local artists have a lot of grit and vision. It’s exciting to see both community and professional companies continuously push the envelope and try new things, from community choirs commissioning new works to local theatre companies presenting shows like the Silence of the Lambs musical.
 
PS: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 
RW: I love reading (everything from books about music to murder mysteries), traveling, and trying new restaurants. I’ve also like walking on the beach in Ocean View with my husband.

For more information, visit whro.org.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and publisher of Tidewater Family Plus magazine. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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