We spoke with Fred Child, host of Performance Today, to learn more about the popular classical music program including its origin, mission, and the processes applied in selecting music and artists to highlight. Fred has hosted Performance Today since 2000 and is a lifelong lover of music.
What is the origin of the show? Performance Today was founded in 1987 by NPR, National Public Radio. It was initially conceived as a bridge between the morning news program, Morning Edition, and midday music (then in vogue on many stations that carried both news and music.
How has its mission/focus evolved? Performance Today is a music program with a clear focus on classical music and those two words: Performance Today. In the beginning, and still, the focus is on music in PERFORMANCE – i.e., the presence and vitality found in concert recordings. And TODAY: the current state of the music scene – contemporary music, diverse talent and the most inventive and enthralling of today’s interpreters of the great works of the past.
What is your philosophy as host? To convey a true love of music, to share that joy in an accessible way with listeners and to be an exclusive home for recordings and concert highlights not heard anywhere else – all while providing a certain degree of musical insight and occasional education tidbit for those interested, while not hectoring those who aren’t.
Share the talk:music Ratios: 9.5 minutes of talk and 49.5 minutes of music each hour. (1/0 billboard; .5/4.5 cutaway; 3/18 seg003; 0/1 seg004; 2/18 seg005; 0/1 seg006; 3/9 seg007) Episodes that include a performance interview typically have more talk, but the talk segment in those cases does not exceed 3.5 minutes.
How much “new/contemporary” classical is played per program/per year? Generally, a new piece of classical music broadcasts on Performance Today once per program, a couple of times each week – or roughly 100-150 contemporary pieces annually of the approximately 1600 featured pieces of music on our show each year (about 5-10% of our music).
How are the new pieces introduced on PT selected? Our producers listen to live concert recordings after the year 2000 that we receive from around the world. From those we chose compositions that are musically interesting, have fascinating stories behind them and fit in our programming principle to ‘delight and surprise.’
How are the traditional pieces played on PT chosen? Producers choose familiar classical pieces to broadcast on the show when the performance is exceptionally outstanding or inclusive or rare performance nuances.
How are the artists/composers highlighted selected? We feature performers and composers whose artistry we find captivating.
Tell us more about the available ::30 Imaging Spots: These ::30 second daily promo spots are available to stations to help to encourage listeners who aren’t familiar with PT to familiarize themselves with the show. In addition, the spots also work to promote specific pieces of music or stories coming up on the next program so as to underscore the program’s capacity for discovery, access and the storytelling within the genre of contemporary classical music.