ROCHESTER — The new year kicked off with two new classical music shows on WXXI radio that focus on Latino music and composers.
The shows "Concierto" and "Fiesta!" air at 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights, respectively, on 91.5-FM.
National research conducted over the last couple of years has shown that the growth potential for public radio stations is highest among Latinos, explained Ruth Phinney, program director for FM and Reachout Radio at WXXI.
In its 2013 study for the Radio Research Consortium, Coleman Insights Media Research found there is a "healthy demand for classical music that extends to younger and ethnic consumers," according to information provided by Phinney. The national study was conducted in 40 markets, including Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and New York City.
"Among participants who love classical, the largest group is in the 30-35 year-old age range, the second largest is Hispanic," the study stated.
"We just took that (information) to heart," Phinney said. "We looked at that research … and looked to see what’s available. What can we do?"
The growth of the Latino population across the country also led to the creation of "Fiesta!" and "Concierto," said the shows’ programmers.
"Fiesta!" host Elbio Barilari started out on Chicago’s WFMT station as a knowledgeable guest on shows about music festivals and compositions, explained Tony Macaluso, the director of syndication for the WFMT Radio Network.
A native of Uruguay and a music composer, Barilari seemed like a good fit for the station’s classical programming, and so he worked with station general manager, Steve Robinson, to create the show about classical Latino music, Macaluso said.
After airing for a year and a half locally, the station decided to offer the show to other public radio stations in April 2013, he added.
"It was filling a niche," he said. "And immediately, it did well and was picked up by 45 radio stations. … Houston and Austin see it as a bridge to bring in Latin American and Latino listeners."
While population growth in the Carolinas also served as the impetus for the creation of "Concierto," station officials at WDAV 89.9-FM in Charlotte also realized that those Latino audiences might be easier to draw in through music vs. public affairs broadcasting, said Frank Domínguez, the show’s host as well as the station’s general manager and content director.
"So we launched "Concierto," and we got some nice attention here locally," he said. "The idea to offer it nationally evolved over time."
The station sought feedback from other stations and decided to offer the show in a bilingual format, Domínguez said. It has been airing for about five years, he added.
"I usually start off introducing a piece in Spanish," Domínguez explained. "Then, I do the (song identification) after it’s played in English. … So, if you listen long enough, your hear a translation to everything I say."
Because he keeps that information concise — who the conductor or soloist is and what symphony, suite or concerto is featured — the casual listener isn’t frustrated if that information is only heard in Spanish, he said.
"For the English speakers … this is a fun way for them to brush up on their Spanish skills," Domínguez noted. "For Spanish speakers, there is a sense of joy and pride to hear their language acknowledged by local public radio but also their culture acknowledged."
Barilari also doesn’t see need to translate everything, said Macaluso.
"People can deal with a little bit of non-English on the radio," he remarked.
The shows also present a side of Latino culture not often discussed, said Domínguez, as opposed to what national media focuses on as Latino issues such as immigration and crime.
"To be able to demonstrate on radio that this is a rich and old culture with a long association of arts and fine music, that is something that gives people a lot of pride," said Domínguez, who grew up in the Bronx with his parents, who were Cuban immigrants.
Phinney said there is an educational aspect of airing these shows for all classical music audiences, which is another reason WXXI decided to begin airing them.
"We hope all our listeners enjoy these programs," she said. "It’s plain good music that draws attention to the wonderful heritage of Latin American music."
Phinney said that in addition to adding the shows to its schedule, WXXI also is working on ways to engage the local Latino audience.
The station has created a link on its website focused on the new music shows, she said, as well as connecting audiences with Latino-based programming on its sister stations, 1370-AM and 89.9-FM WRUR. Station officials also are reaching out to the community to share information about the new programs, she added.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To learn more or listen to "Fiesta!" and "Concierto," visit http://interactive.wxxi.org/musicalatina.