WGUC Classics for Kids: Discovering Classical Music

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Classics for Kids host Naomi Lewin with composer John Corigliano. Photo by Lara St. John.

Classics for Kids is a hub for teaching music and making classical accessible.

What is it like to be a conductor and lead a mighty symphony orchestra? Over the years many books, doctoral theses, even feature films have been produced on the topic.

Classics for Kids, a weekly feature and educational outreach program produced by public music station WGUC in Cincinnati, explored this question in an unhurried six minutes. In a recent episode, famed American conductor JoAnne Falleta shared her early love of music, how seeing her first symphony concert inspired her to be a conductor, and all the preparation that goes into being successful at her job.

This compact masterpiece was the work of Naomi Lewin, the show’s host and producer. Lewin is a radio veteran and educator who has produced full-length music programs for national broadcasts as well as intermission features for Metropolitan Opera broadcasts.

“I’m delighted to create a program that makes classical music accessible to everyone – some of the most ardent fans are great-grandmothers,” says Lewin.

For more than 20 years, Classics for Kids has aired every weekend. Each month features a different composer, such as Mozart or Beethoven, with programs that center on that particular composer’s life and music. The show averages 7,900 listeners per week in Greater Cincinnati, with an additional 22 stations nationwide broadcasting the program.

The podcast is WGUC’s most popular, averaging 54,600 downloads per month. One parent noted, “I really enjoy listening to the podcasts with my children. We use them as part of our homeschooling, so usually I download the podcasts about the composer we are currently studying. We love listening to them in the car. Thank you for all the work you put into these wonderful programs!”

In addition to producing a weekly show, the station conducts outreach to classrooms and provides lesson plans, activity sheets, tips, and a musical dictionary to help discover classical music. Lewin now also hosts Classics for Kids Live, a community event with live musicians that engages the entire family.

“All of our content meets state and national teaching standards,” said Chris Phelps, vice president for content. “Everything is there, ready to go for everybody from kindergarten to fifth grade. That’s why teachers appreciate the resource.”

WGUC and Classics for Kids is one example of how noncommercial public radio stations help audiences discover classical music beyond the reach of a broadcast tower.