Public radio music making Carolina audiences take note

noncomMUSIC AllianceCommunity, Discovery, Jazz, Performance, Testimonial

Harvey Cummings II, Noteworthy Concert Series performer. Photo by Harris Jeeter.

Local public radio partnership seeks creation of one Charlotte music community that values all voices.

Art, including music, is a construct — an idea that inspires all that follows. One can argue that the popular music we listen to today is directly influenced by the sonic melodies of classical music. Artists ranging from Lady Gaga, to The Beatles, to Nas, all have record-breaking songs derived from this genre. However, when considering classical music’s cultural connections and audiences, it often seems distinct from other musical genres. A classical public radio music station in Charlotte, North Carolina is challenging this status quo.

2020 undoubtedly disrupted the media landscape, and the public radio music scene was no exception. In the face of pandemic concerns, stations around the country quickly shifted their programming and planning strategies, creating new opportunities like transforming live performances into virtual event series. Will Keible, director of marketing for WDAV 89.9 Classical Public Radio, wanted to create a space for Black and brown voices to be heard. The challenge, however, was that historically WDAV had limited experience with engaging communities of color. Acknowledging this shortcoming and determined to change that narrative, Keible formed a partnership with FAIR PLAY Music Equity Initiative.

Their brainchild is NoteWorthy, a series of concerts designed to promote a Charlotte music community that values all voices. NoteWorthy concerts pair gifted Black and brown artists from Charlotte’s music scene with classically trained musicians. The partners focused on increasing the number of cross-genre collaborations for Charlotte’s music scene while encouraging a more inclusive audience. “We like to describe NoteWorthy as what happens when jazz, R&B, hip-hop, pop, Latin, gospel, and soul meet classical,” says Keible.

Introducing different points of view onstage can be uncomfortable, but the work is necessary to advance the artform. Keible emphasized this philosophy, saying, “Listening to the needs of the local community presents a voice for all and provides new opportunities for programming initiatives.”

With the backdrop of classically-trained musicians, local artists of color displayed their talents to a broader audience while showcasing a different side of themselves to their core fan base. Officially launched in April 2021, NoteWorthy’s success exceeded the expectations of WDAV and greatly increased their followers. “Through NoteWorthy, WDAV has been able to expand beyond the classical bubble that we’ve lived comfortably within for our first 43 years,” says Keible.

Music is universal and can bring the most unique group of individuals together. Promoting artists from different backgrounds and genres is part of public radio music’s DNA. WDAV’s cross-genre music collaboration is a giant step forward to evoking meaningful conversations that spark change, drive discovery, and foster inclusion.

November 10, 2021 marks the second annual Public Radio Music Day, a celebration of the role public radio music stations play in connecting communities. November 10 also marks Public Media for All’s Day of Education and Action. Public Media for All is a diverse coalition of public media workers, led by people of color, built on the idea that diversity, equity and inclusion at every level and in every facet of public media is essential for ensuring meaningful service to all. To learn more, visit