Welcome to the Music Library

April 1, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Music Library, located at Minnesota Public Radio's St. Paul headquarters, houses over 60,000 CDs that feed the airwaves of Classical MPR. Due to the length of Classical pieces, and the fact that many recordings aren't available in a digital format, Music Directors manage the extensive library of CDs. Keep reading to learn more about the Music Library, and take a peek into some of our favorite spots!

John Birge, Host
"Hosts work from a playlist chosen by the Music Director, and they make additions and substitutions when called for. I choose about a third of my music every morning, based on what's happening in the world that day. Hosts at The Current likewise work off a playlist, made of songs chosen by their Music Director, and filled out by DJ picks. Both Classical and The Current use the same software to shape the station's sound, and make sure the best tunes play often enough for you to hear them, but not so often that you get tired of them. No matter who picks the music, it's chosen with your taste in mind."

Rex Levang, Music Director
"Eileen Bigelow was a St. Paul classical music lover who was a great friend and supporter of Minnesota Public Radio since its early days. Eileen was the daughter of Frederic Russell Bigelow, the fourth president of Saint Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company, later known at The St. Paul Companies, and now known as Travelers. Following in her father's footsteps as a friend of good causes in the community, Eileen became a philanthropist and helped ensure that the family foundation her father started, The F.R. Bigelow Foundation, provided generous support for educational, social service, and arts and cultural organizations in Minnesota. After Eileen's death, her family continued that tradition, establishing a gift that provided for the MPR Classical Music Library that now carries her name. She's remembered with a plaque in the library which reads: 'The Eileen Bigelow Music Library is supported by a generous grant in memory of Eileen Bigelow, whose love of music is shared in this way with people throughout the region.'"

Valerie Kahler, Host
"Classical MPR is on the air 24 hours a day, including those weird times when normal people are home in bed. Every night at 11:27:40, all the lights on the 4th floor of MPR headquarters in St. Paul automatically shut themselves off. Whoever's in the studio needs to stumble to the music library and feel his or her way to the wall by the Peabody award, because that's where the light switch is. You'll notice the plaque is somewhat askew. We usually bash our knuckles into it in the pitch blackness as we fumble for the lights. Nobody bothers straightening it anymore."

"Flintstones Gavel - for some reason, there's a plastic mallet/gavel thingy by the computer where we search for music. I'm drawn to it again and again, because I desperately want it to make a squeaky noise when I hammer with it. It does not."

Brian Newhouse, Program Director
"I love that nice easy chair near the window of the Library. I love the fact that there's usually a nice little layer of dust on the seat. No one ever sits in it. In a 24-hour radio station that broadcasts across the upper Midwest, we never sleep. We hardly ever even sit down."

Emily Reese, Host
"We have several collections of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. He wrote them - there are six of them - in the early 1700s. More than three hundred years go by, and people around the world still listen to them, perform them, sing along to them, and most importantly, record them. The Second Brandenburg Concerto (I would've picked No. 5) went up into space on a golden record in the Voyager space probe in 1977. Bach wrote it so long before anyone imagined reaching to the stars, yet his music has surpassed them. That is how powerful the music is, and every time I walk inside the Music Library, I'm in awe of that."

Jodi Gustafson, Senior Administrative Assistant
"The Britten War Requiem was one of the first pieces that I really got excited about in college--Britten was really innovative in the way he combined ensembles, texts and instrumentation, but the story that really gets me is that of the premiere. It took place in 1962 at the dedication of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which had been bombed in WWII. The new Cathedral stands next to the bombed ruin of the old one. Britten chose an English tenor, a German baritone and a Russian soprano, enemies in the war, to sing about peace together (with choruses and orchestra). The work was an incredibly powerful plea for nations to find non-warring ways to settle their differences. It opened a whole world for me, of the power of music as cultural commentary...and something more than that. As a way to heal from great, worldwide hurts. So, if that's just ONE of the CDs in the Music Library, imagine the stories that live there."

Elena See, Host
"I love being on the air overnight! First of all, no one is around so you're totally focused on what you're doing. And - don't tell - sometimes I do lunges down the hallway between the Music Library and the studio. Why not?"

Michael Barone, Host of Pipedreams
"Though there are some compact discs of organ music in the general MPR library, without question the 'mother lode' is centered around (and in) my office. If you happen by this corner, note that in addition to the many compact discs on shelves outside the office, and the many more stacked in the vicinity, hundred more hide in drawers of six of the black file cabinets (and I have more at home, too)."

On Now

Listen to the Stream
  • Abdelazar: Incidental Music 3:42 Henry Purcell
    Canadian Brass
    Buy Now
  • Christmas Time Is Here 3:39 Vice Guaraldi
    Copper Street Brass
    Buy Now

You can now listen to Classical and Choral Music on your iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad) or Android device.