Feedback

Being able to take constructive criticism well is a gift.  Especially in publishing and broadcasting, feedback often feels personal, and no matter how reasonably it’s delivered it can reduce one to a quivering, gelatinous mass .

In the radio business, the general rule is every single comment from a listener probably represents what hundreds of others think, too.  Good and bad.  For the most part, the radio program managers I know take listeners pretty seriously.

Criticism from peers sounds even more loudly.  So when the Public Radio Program Directors Association released contest judges’ reactions to a piece I produced, I braced myself.

The piece was a podcast from last spring of me interviewing the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s Music Director, Christopher Seaman.  We talked about a concert featuring Carmina Burana, and Christopher played excerpts on the piano.

 The feedback?

 “The pacing is superb,” wrote one judge.

 “It’s like a very high energy Saint Paul Sunday.”

 OK, this is cool.  But keep reading.

 “Much too specialized for my taste; I am not that interested in subject of Strauss,” wrote another judge.

 Philistine.

 “The host seemed a bit too deferential to the conductor, as if somewhat awed by him . . . The fact that this is about music and the local orchestra probably saves it from that perception with most listeners, but that’s no reason to go easy with light questions.”

 OK, I admit, I AM awed by Christopher Seaman.  He’s a consummate musician with exquisite manners and a generous nature.  He reads. He’s kind and funny.  He likes birds. I love him.

 But am I too “easy with light questions?”

 I suppose I could adopt the hard-hitting approach of Wolf Blitzer.

 Me:  Christopher, WHY did are you conducting music by a suspected Nazi sympathizer, Richard Strauss?  Why not play more contemporary music? 

 The Maestro:  Well, I’ll tell you  . . .

 Me: And what about the orchestra’s failure to renew its summer contract in Vail, eh?  Are standards slipping? 

 Maestro:  We had a very successful run in Vail . . .

 Me: (interrupting) Yes, but you WEREN’T ASKED BACK.  Who’s accountable for that?  And when donor slippage rears its head, what’s next for the future of the orchestra?  And while were at it, how about the yucky, cheap wine offered at concerts?  Is that CALIFORNIA WINE?  Who’s responsible for THAT?

Actually, these are mostly legitimate questions, however rudely expressed.  But I decided not to ask them, though they occurred to me Monday when Christopher stopped by to talk about the orchestra’s new season. 

 Is it journalism?  Boosterism?  I chose to take on the role of the informed fan. 

 To hear the latest podcast, click here. It’s like a very high energy Saint Paul Sunday!

 

 

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