September 27, 2006
"There was always a radio around," Classical Minnesota Public Radio host Ward Jacobson says, reflecting on his childhood. "It's probably how I eventually got into radio. My dad was a radio buff. He liked classical, jazz and sports."
St. Paul, Minn. - It's often said that what is bred in the bone will out, and Ward Jacobson is no exception to the rule. "I've done everything in radio except sell advertising time," he says.
Jacobson's years in radio until June of 2006 were spent at KFOR in Lincoln, Neb., a full-service radio station begun in 1924. But the music Jacobson was hearing in his early years at the station was more likely to include a collective "CHARGE!" as a crescendo. "I was assistant sports director, doing play-by-play," Jacobson says. "Being a sports announcer was really what I thought I'd do in radio, and I did that for 15 years, working with a friend, traveling and doing a lot of games."
From the stadium press box, Jacobson moved into a position doing midday programming at KFOR. The job allowed him to wear many hats: he played music, read news, weather and sports and eventually became host and producer of a noontime interview show called Lincoln Live. "I'm quite proud of the interviews I did," Jacobson says, and it's no wonder. His roster of guests includes musical luminaries such as Wynton Marsalis, Barbara Hendricks, B.B. King, Henry Mancini and Angel Romero. Jacobson also interviewed Steve Allen, Ken Burns, Henry Aaron, Julia Child, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and national television news anchors Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Hugh Downs. "I interviewed Walter Cronkite just after he turned 80 and had published his book," Jacobson says. "That was a big thrill."
Newly appointed to the overnight shift on Classical Minnesota Public Radio and on the nationally syndicated Classical24, Jacobson finds himself in a vastly different role. Being overnight host presents its own set of challenges. "It's a whole new world for me, professionally," he says. "I try to put myself in the position of the listeners. At that hour, there might be people who are not sleeping well, or maybe it's a third-shift person and they're listening during their normal 'daytime' hours. I try to keep it straightforward and give insights about a piece of music or the composer, but I know the listeners are there for the music."
And Jacobson really loves music. Not only was his father a radio buff, both of his parents-and his extended family-are very musical. Jacobson's father was a singer and trumpet player and his mother was a piano player and teacher. His aunt sang with Robert Shaw, and two of Jacobson's cousins had opera careers.
Jacobson himself continues his family's vocal music tradition. He spent several years with Abendmusik Lincoln, a choir of 60 to 85 people. "It's been a big part of my life and I had some great opportunities," he says. In his years with the choir, Jacobson took part in five European tours. The choir even gave Jacobson the chance to work with Sir David Wilcox and John Rutter-both of whom he invited to be guests on his Lincoln Live program.
Now that he is settling in in Minnesota, Jacobson hopes to get involved again in choral singing and to avail himself of the many classical music outlets in his new hometown. And of course, he hopes to excel in his work.
"I'm so pleased to be here and I'm so impressed with the caliber of the people," Jacobson says. "The hosts on Classical Minnesota Public Radio and C24 are really bright, well-versed people. I don't feel I can match up just yet, but it's a great thrill to be part of it."
Listen to Ward Jacobson weeknights from 11 p.m. - 5 a.m. on all Classical Minnesota Public Radio stations.
(This article also appeared in the October 2006 "Plugged In" section of Minnesota Monthly.)