WTTW’s sister station, WFMT Radio, is celebrating 70 years on air.
On Dec. 13, 1951, Chicago’s classical radio station first hit the airwaves with Bernard Jacobs serving as engineer and Rita Jacobs as the announcer. WFMT signed on for the first time as Rita famously asked, “Is anybody listening?”
George Preston, WFMT vice president and general manager, says it was really a “mom-and-pop” operation that started it.
Seventy years later, WFMT continues its legacy of being a champion of classical music in Chicago.
Chicago-based American roots and blues fiddle player, singer-songwriter Anne Harris says WFMT has been “a treasure that the community really appreciates.”
“You’re going to hear a slice of Chicago’s diverse, local artists that you’re not going to hear in any other public format, and that support, from the artist perspective, is invaluable,” Harris said. “It’s a hub of local Chicago gold.”
Blake-Anthony Johnson, CEO of Chicago Sinfonietta, says the orchestra values the avenue radio provides for people to engage with music.
“When I think of symphonic music, I think of radio,” Johnson said. “For us, it's nice that it’s in our city. We are fortunate that we have all of these amazing resources available to all.”
WFMT will be live Monday from Northeastern Illinois University’s Jewel Box Recital Hall for a day full of live performances for the anniversary celebration.
Harris is among those performing. She plans to perform a piece called, “Hymn for Her,” an instrumental that speaks to her past, in her set.
“I wrote this song a couple of years ago because a great aunt of mine had passed,” Harris said. “I grew up hearing stories about her from my mother about what a strong, progressive woman she was. ... It’s an honoring of part of my lineage of my ancestors.”
The Chicago Sinfonietta will be sending a wind quintet to perform “Libertango,” two movements of “Portraits of Josephine,” and, “I Have a Little Jingle Dreidel” for a holiday selection.
“So much of our alignment is about equity, diversity and inclusion, which you’ll see in our programming, amongst many other aspects,” Johnson noted.
Check out the full schedule of events for WFMT’s day of celebration.