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Listen for changes at classical WDAV-FM

MARK WASHBURN
mwashburn@charlotteobserver.com
Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

Change is on the way for WDAV-FM (89.9), the region's classical music broadcaster.

This week, the Davidson College station announced that Benjamin Roe, a former National Public Radio reporter and producer, would succeed the retiring Kim Hodgson as general manager.

Roe, 50, says he wants to take the station in new directions, though the format will remain classical. In an ever-changing media world, he believes the station must study its fundamentals and look for new ways to grow.

“If classical music radio doesn't change, it's a death spiral,” he says. “All the elements are here to do something really interesting.”

He inherits a station with many strengths. It is well supported by listeners, has a modern showcase studio on Davidson's Main Street and a respected on-air staff that includes Mike McKay, Frank Dominguez, Joe Brant and Jennifer Foster.

But Roe wants to branch out more onto the Internet and hopes the station can become the source for all things classical in the Charlotte area. “If we can become the Google of classical music in this area, I'll be a happy man.”

Roe wants the station to be more active in the overall arts scene and connect with listeners in new ways.

Roe, a Massachusetts native, spent 20 years at NPR and was director of music and initiatives. He helped develop NPRMusic.org, the online portal for public radio stations nationally. Earlier he was a producer for “Performance Today.” As a reporter for the network, he broadcast from the Kremlin, the Berlin Wall and other hot spots.

He is passionate about classical music, though not necessarily in a traditional way. Classical music, Roe says, is just the rock ‘n' roll of its era, music that endured because of quality. Before long, artists like Joni Mitchell, the Beatles and Cole Porter will likely join the ranks of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, he says.

WDAV has always had a close relationship with Davidson College, though various administrations have been more active than others in its activities.

Thomas Ross, who became the college's president in August 2007, says he likes Roe's ideas for becoming more involved in the fabric of the arts community.

“We are at a point where WDAV should and can evolve,” he says. “I think there's a lot of potential at different levels.”

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Entertainer Mo'Nique takes over weekday afternoons on WQNC-FM (“Q” 92.7) with her syndicated show.

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