JENKINS TWP. — Larry Vojtko has come a long way since he started at WVIA-FM as “the morning person” in 1982.
Vice President of Radio Chris Norton said there’s something many listeners “might not know about Larry.” In addition to being a classical music host as well as the music director and the programming manager, he is a fully trained music educator and “has the opportunity to do music education every day.”
“That’s how I got into it, really,” Vojtko said. “From what I understand, the station went through a series of radio people without the background in music and it wasn’t working out. So they decided to flip it around and take somebody with a music background and teach them radio. So they took me in and gave me a career.”
And while education always has been a mission of public television and radio, WVIA has been expanding those efforts over the years.
On a recent Sunday, for example, Norton said the station hosted a jazz education event for the Berwick Area High School Jazz Band. It was an all-day workshop with five professional jazz musicians, including pianist Bill Mays, drummer Marko Marcinko, Tom Hamilton on sax, Josh Davis on bass and trumpeter Eddie Severn.
“The pros performed, it was all taped for television and radio,” he said. “It’s going to be a big jazz education feature this fall, part of a series of special jazz things we’ve done just in the last couple weeks here, part of Jazz Appreciation Month.”
WVIA also showcases younger artists through programs such as the Poetry Out Loud Contest and High School Musical Previews.
For the musical previews, Norton said, “we bring in the student casts of high schools through the area. … Lisa Mazzarella does the interviews with them, Paul Lazar does the recording, producing, engineering and editing. They sing a song or two, they tell about their characters and what the play is about.”
“It takes just as much energy and discipline and teamwork at an arts event as it does at an athletic event,” Mazzarella added. “Of course, we are all proponents of the arts in the schools and so much of that is being taken away. But it’s just as important to form a discipline to create something these kids can do after they graduate.”
And Erika Funke, who Norton calls the “Queen of the Arts,” showcases different visual or performing artists from the area each weekday on her show “ArtScene.” “It really allows folks in the arts community who don’t get the publicity that they need regularly to have this as a regular radio feature,” Norton said.
“The approach we take is: How do we learn about this region and the people who live here, our way of life, our way of perceiving things, through Larry’s choices of musicians or George’s choices of what we hear in the songs, or in the case of the arts interviews and education, what do we learn about the history of the region?” Funke said.
“We’re always trying to get to that sense of place. That’s really critical for all of us, no matter from which angle we approach it,” she said.