January 26th, 2005, 11:09 AM
WKCR Is In Trouble. Please Help!
WKCR, 89.9 FM in New York and www.wkcr.org on the web, which broadcasts principally jazz, is in financial trouble and is trying to raise money through a pledge-a-thon. They are approximately $700,000 in debt, principally due to having replace equipment destroyed on 9/11. WKCR has been broadcasting jazz since 1941 and there is a real possibility that unless they raise sufficient funds to retire some of this debt, it will be the end of jazz programming.
WKCR holds several birthday broadcasts where they broadcast a person's music for 24 hours straight. The next one is this Sunday for Roy Eldridge. They also do memorial broadcasts (often one day of programming) when a noted jazz artist passes away. They also have 70 minutes daily just devoted to Charlie Parker as well as programming from 6 am to 930 am (including the Bird show), 12 pm to 3 pm and 6pm to 9pm daily as well as after midnight.
They also have public programming and are required to broadcast Columbia sports but the main focus is jazz. I doubt that I'd be the jazz fan today I am it weren't for this station. Where else can you get so much daily attention on Charlie Parker? I know that many of you complain about Phil Schapp but where else can you get that much time every day on Bird, not to mention the other jazz programming they have throughout the weekdays and the weekends.
If you can, please pledge by calling 212-851-2699 or logging onto WKCR. Losing this station as a jazz resource would be a big loss for jazz.
January 26th, 2005, 01:29 PM
WKCR does thing that just aren't done on radio. Period. I mean, last year they played John Coltrane 24/7 for two weeks straight. I remember a 7 day Miles festival back in the late 70's or early 80's, and, yes Phil Schapp will talk for 20 minutes and play Bird for 5, but damn, where else can you hear Bird every morning? And those birthday broadcasts, the Brazilian show on Wed. night, the Cuban music on Friday nights... I could go on... and, it's all streamed on the web...
January 26th, 2005, 04:19 PM
Schaap may be part of the reason why KCR is in financial trouble. I know many people who stopped listening because they grew tired of hearing his streaming blather at the expense of music. It is bad enough that he loves to hear himself talk, but almost worse is his habit of making up his own jazz history and presenting his assumptions as fact.
True, KCR is almost the only game in town, and they have excellent shows, but Schaap is the fly in the ointment and there are many of us who think the station ought to continue, but would be better off doing so without him.
January 27th, 2005, 08:18 AM
Regardless of how you may feel about Phil, WKCR is a tremendous resource for the jazz community. It would be a tragedy if it disappeared.
January 27th, 2005, 09:15 AM
I totally Agree.
Originally Posted by ralphie_boy
January 27th, 2005, 09:19 AM
Brad, thanks for bringing this up. WKCR offers unmatched programming depth. Nothing like it anywhere. It's an irreplaceable treasure. If it goes, there's no way we'll see the likes of it again. I just phoned in my second pledge and urge everyone pitch in to help rescue the station. That includes you Phil haters. Please don't let five or so hours a week of irritation with Bird Flight bring down the only station that will play Coltrane -- and Miles and Pops and Sonny and Billie -- around the clock for days on end.
January 27th, 2005, 10:02 AM
Not to mention Ornette, Cecil Taylor and Ayler. Where else are you going to hear that.
Originally Posted by dragonlady
January 27th, 2005, 11:04 AM
January 27th, 2005, 12:09 PM
Not knowing the full background of WKCR, I wonder how much in the way of student activity fees go into it? I work for a university station myself and other than state funding (no student money) for some staff salaries and the the space made available to us, we don't get anything else. We avoid broadcasting sports (our football team is dreadful--neither alumni nor students go to games) or submitting to the rare demand that it be made a student station, because we raise the dough that keep things going while staying out of debt (something few departments on our campus manage to do).
But some of the highjinks that have evidently gone on at Columbia's troubled station may signal a death knell for its current format. As you said Chris, there are two sides and I see your points!
January 27th, 2005, 12:32 PM
The article does bring up something I've never actually thought of before: how do the students at Columbia actually feel about the programming? I've just always kind of considered WKCR as a "New York thing" and (selfishly) didn't necessarily think of it as "the radio station of Columbia U.". I also always assumed that Schaap was a tenured faculty member at Columbia (boy, was I wrong).
jazzcritic makes a good point in questioning if/how much students contribute to the station in fees. Based on what I read in the article, there may be some changes coming to WKCR...
January 28th, 2005, 02:56 PM
WKCR- Unique and indispensable, much like Phil Schapp
Phil Schapp may not be everyones cup of tea. However, to many listeners Phil is, in his own way, a national treasure. He is an articulate and passionate exponent of jazz. He makes an effort to correct and update the historical record while interviewing a multitude of musicians who are more often than not his personal friends. It's not about this modest man enjoying his own voice. It's about sharing a love of jazz, not only the music but the people who create it as well. He recognizes jazz as an art form with a history worthy enough to examine and chronicle.
I listen to Birdflight to enjoy the music, but if all I wanted was the music, I'd just slip in a cd. It's fairly inexpensive to own all of Charlie Parker's major recordings. But the music was not created in a vacuum. It is a delight to hear about Parker's influences, his contemporaries and public and private life. How did this genius develop? What was happening in the world and society that effected him? Phil gives Bird the respect and attention that he deserves.
So dig the music for its own sake. I'll enjoy the whole package that "Proffesor Schapp" is offering. By the way, Phil is teaching Jazz 101 at the new home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Last edited by CCJ; January 28th, 2005 at 02:59 PM.
January 28th, 2005, 03:21 PM
Phil Schapp a liability?
An earlier comment suggested that Phil Schapp may be responsible for some of WKCR's financial woes due to his "streaming blather". On the contrary, his intelligent and heartfelt insights and encyclopedic knowledge may be one of their best fundraising tools. Just this morning there was an anonymous pledge of $10,000 in honor of Max Roach and ..... Phil Schapp.
By the way, jazz on WKCR fills only about 40 percent of their air time. Please enjoy some of their other eclectic offerings and make a pledge regardless of how you feel about Phil.
January 28th, 2005, 03:39 PM
CCJ, I'm sure Phil appreciates your devotion, and I can understand why there are people who, like you, actually believe that his talk-a-thons contain "intelligent and heartfelt insights." Sad to say, he has spent years coloring the facts to a point where any credibility he once might have had is no longer there. I don't know why he feels compelled to embroider history, but he would do jazz a service if he stuck to the truth and played more music. Before you again refer to him as "a national treasure," ask yourself who someone who professes to love this music relegates it to fillers in his own skewed lectures.
I think WKCR should be supported, but Phil Schaap's self-serving approach to presenting jazz on the radio ought to be discouraged. And his twisting of the truth goes beyond his radio work, just look at the liner notes he has written for Columbia and other labels, look at how he has altered eyewitness accounts--ask George Avakian what he thinks of Schaap--in fact, ask anyone in the inner circles of jazz what they think of his revisionist history.
January 29th, 2005, 10:20 PM
Chris A, I stand corrected. The correct spelling of Phil's name is Schaap, not Schapp (some kind of sycophant I've been).
You seem to suggest that people, myself included, who find Phil's broadcasts to be a spark for enjoying and exploring jazz, are fools who have been deluded into thinking jazz revolves around the cult of Schaap. Pleeease. It sounds like you have a personal ax to grind.
Is his commentary the gospel truth? No. Does he "embroider history" and at times is he just too much to bear? Yes. Does he make outright errors. Yes. But will he allow himself to be corrected? Yes. Has he been turning people onto jazz for thirty plus years? Yes. And did he teach Jazz History at Princeton and is he now the curator of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Yes. Was he nominated for eleven Grammys for writing liner notes to and/or producing various recordings? Yes. And did he win seven times? Yes.
But wait! All of this is meaningless, for lo, you seem to have gained entrance into what you call "the inner circles of jazz" and "anyone" there thinks Phil is a revisionist. Poor, poor me. What a tool I've been. There will always be disagreements about history. Perhaps, since you have the ear of George Avakian and others in this inner circle, you can "correct" the errors in Phil's "skewed lectures".
As you say, there are two sides to every coin. As a jazz lover, you chose to give voice to an angry columnist at the Columbia Spectator who bemoans the lack of a Howard Stern type show and College rock on WKCR, calls the station the "darling of effete culture snobs" and Phil Schaap a "jerk". Allow me to give the coin another toss. Copied below from the Columbia Spectator is a response to that diatribe .
WKCR Works to Bring Art to Campus
By Matt Herman, Patrick Jarenwattananon, Eric Pohl, Dan Wang, and Lauren McCabe
January 28, 2005
Art is under attack. This is nothing new: historically, art has often lost head-to-head battles with commerce. Though regrettable, this struggle is unavoidable. What is popular is not always meaningful, what is meaningful is not always popular, and the law of supply and demand is blind to this difference. As history unfolds in the present day, corporate media conglomerates such as Clear Channel Entertainment and Viacom have drowned out art and free thinking in radio through relentless pursuit of profit.
For over 63 years, WKCR has stood strong against the tide of commerce in defense of art. As a public radio station free from commercial and political pressures, we give top priority to meaningful art; Louis Armstrong, J.S. Bach, Bessie Smith, and many other geniuses are our broadcast staples.
WKCR applies to this artistic spectrum the stated goals of Columbia University: education and research. The mission of education is twofold, offering listeners informed programming with historical emphasis while training undergraduates in understanding the art forms as well as the style and science of presenting them on radio.
At WKCR, research entails documenting oral history through primary source interviews, closely examining the audio texts themselves, and developing the technical knowledge that supports both pursuits.
In many cases, the research done by WKCR’s station members constitutes the most advanced investigations in these quadrants of art history, aesthetics, and discography. It is not and could not be done anywhere else.
It has recently been suggested in this space that WKCR rethink these fundamental underpinnings and overhaul its programming, creating a media outlet exclusively serving undergraduate populations. What readers may not realize is that all members of the WKCR Board of Directors and all department heads are undergraduates. That is, undergraduates serve themselves in choosing to dedicate their time toward upholding artistic traditions reflecting cultural communities beyond the campus.
In carrying out our mission, WKCR welcomes station alumni, at the sole discretion of the station’s undergraduate leadership, as mentors and fellow programmers. Many alumni are working professionals in fields related to WKCR’s orientation, and all of them are selfless and tireless volunteers. They inspire undergraduates in preserving and presenting what we do.
One alumnus is especially worthy of mention. As a DJ, fund-raiser, archivist, and mentor, Phil Schaap, CC ‘73, has dedicated 35 years of his life toward the development and preservation of WKCR. His programming serves as a model for radio presentation here and everywhere and has been essential in on-air fund-raising. As long as we have to beg for money on-air to meet our annual budget, Schaap is essential.
Since his arrival at WKCR in 1969, his scholarship in jazz has gained him the distinction of being one of the world’s foremost jazz historians. Schaap, an Ivy League professor, generously volunteers hours upon hours each week to the cause, all without any financial compensation. The education that Phil Schaap provides is unique, and he is an inspiration to the scholarly musical pursuits of the undergraduate population at the station.
Recent attention given to WKCR has neglected to present the station’s true importance. Nonetheless, the attention presents an opportunity for the station to finally cement its place as a respected institution of Columbia University. We hope that this debate will stimulate further consideration, by both students and administrators, to assess the value of the past, present, and future of WKCR, King’s Crown Radio. We trust that Columbia will realize the importance of WKCR as it is—a unique cultural gift to New York and the world—and support the station accordingly.
January 30th, 2005, 08:06 AM
Response to CCI
Anyone who has as much air time as Phil does cannot help but have an influence on listeners--that is not the point here. WKCR is an important station for anyone who has an interest in jazz, it also has many fine programs (Ted Planken, et al), so that is not in dispute. I hope the station survives and that it continues to broadcast the music we all love.
The problem I have with Phil is that he has spent years revising jazz history in a self-serving attempt (obviously not entirely unsuccessful) to give people like you the impression that he knows more than anybody else when it comes to jazz. That has always baffled me, because Phil actually has greater-than-average knowledge of the subject--to the extent that he really does not need to make things up and, thereby, lose all credibility.
No, I have no personal axe to grind, I have known Phil for many years, I have lent him material for his show (including my interview with Lester Young), and I have pointed out to him (in reviews as well as in person) some of his historical distortions. Political correctness might dictate that I keep my observations to myself, but I have never been one to hold back when things bother me. As a writer who has spent many years doing research, I find unacceptable the deliberate distortion of historical fact that I see time and again in Phil's writing, and used to hear on his program (I stopped listening a few years back). I have spent a good part of my life trying to debunk jazz myths and correct the sloppy research of some of my predecessors (and, to a lesser degree, contemporaries) in this business, so pardon me of I don't keep quiet when Phil, Burns, or anyone else rewrites history.
The old argument that we all should be grateful for any attention given jazz is a bogus one, IMO. Ken Burns' series was rife with calculated distortions, but it reached a vast number of people and--by default, if nothing else--undoubtedly sparked an interest in jazz where none previously existed. Does that justify the twisting of historical fact? Does that justify leaving out half of jazz history? I don't think so. There was no valid reason for Burns to skew things, and there is no valid reason for Phil to do so. Historical fact is not going to scare people away, on the contrary.
- You wrote:"But wait! All of this is meaningless, for lo, you seem to have gained entrance into what you call 'the inner circles of jazz' and 'anyone' there thinks Phil is a revisionist. Poor, poor me. What a tool I've been. There will always be disagreements about history. Perhaps, since you have the ear of George Avakian and others in this inner circle, you can "correct" the errors in Phil's 'skewed lectures'."
Let me address the above quote. Yes, there will indeed always be "disagreements about history," but documented fact is not open to disagreement--interpretation, perhaps, but not disagreement. I have heard Phil tell his listeners--with great authority--what took place in the studio during a certain recording session. He wasn't present, how did he know, and in such detail? It was another story he made up to give the impression that he possessed privileged information. How do I know this? Simple, it was my session and I was there. George Avakian has had similar experiences with Phil, and these are not isolated instances of his revisionism.
If I have an axe to grind, it is with anyone who deliberately misleads people by twisting facts. If that is a sin, I'm guilty as charged.
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