Diana Blase

On a recent Thursday Diana Blase aired Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 on Afternoon Classics. She shared with our listeners that “the piece is dear to me, that particular performance is exceptional.” The recording was of the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. In conversation as the piece drew to a close, she talked of being taken to Philharmonic Hall as a child of eleven or twelve by her Uncle John. She vividly remembers watching Bernstein conduct “on his toes, hair flying! Such abandon, the exuberance!” 

Diana came to New York City, home of the conductor who would come to so impress her, as a child from Havana, Cuba. She knew no English but she had an ear for language and it came quickly. She recalls her Uncle John sitting across from her at a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan and teaching her the word “fork” which sounded so strange to her.

She also had an early ear for music which led her in time to the Manhattan Chorus and City Chorus which led to a performance at Carnegie Hall. Uncle John who had taken her to the symphony also played Bach every morning around the family home. Later in her childhood she taught herself folk guitar supplemented by just a few lessons at the YMCA.

As a young adult at Columbia University, Diana earned a Bachelor’s in Chemistry and a Master’s in Human Nutrition. While studying at Columbia, she met her husband John. After conducting obesity research at the Institute of Human Nutrition for six years, she dedicated herself to raising her two children. 

Over the years she has accumulated a broad collection of musical recordings.  She discovered WMNR Fine Arts Radio while living in Monroe, CT, not realizing she was living very near the station, housed at Masuk High School at that time. She heard a volunteer broadcaster recruitment announcement and joined the station in 1989. Her youngest of two children was about to start kindergarten and she was ready for the new challenge.

“When I first started, I painstakingly put together what was then a two-hour program by modeling it after a ‘meal’: an appetizer such as an overture, some more substantial piece, like a piano sonata or a clarinet concerto or such, some smaller pieces interspersed with the bigger pieces and a larger scale symphonic or large chamber work.  I've always been partial to Spanish music and guitar music, so I'd schedule more than my share of that.” Diana tells us that now she still structures her programs to build from smaller pieces to larger, more encompassing works over the course of her program but she does much of the selection as she goes along.

She uses the WMNR CD library and her personal collection. She recalls the 25 or so CDs that used to be all the broadcasters had available years ago. Broadcasters would supplement with personal purchases, but she laughs now over how Franck’s Sonata in A major for Violin and Piano used to be in particularly heavy rotation! She remembers her Uncle John commenting how WMNR seemed to really like the Rosamunde Overture!

Diana’s Wednesday Evening Classics program features film scores in the eight o’clock hour. Her friend, the late broadcaster Delphine Marcus, used to play film music at 8:00 pm on Wednesday nights. When Delphine passed away in 2005, Diana became our Wednesday evening broadcaster and upheld the tradition. At the time, the CD library had a limited collection of film music but over the years the availability of music to download has widened the scope of Diana’s programs.

Her film score hour also includes the Mystery Score feature when she invites listeners to call in with guesses. She says “the interactive element, which a lot of people enjoy, provides me with more feedback than I can get from the regular programming.” Diana, and all our broadcasters, can take calls as time allows at 203-268-9667.

In recent years Diana has taken up oil painting which she prefers over other mediums because of the “sensuous, organic” nature of oils which “you must treat with respect.” She paints from her imagination, occasionally using a photograph as a starting point. Diana says “most of my paintings have water in them in one way or another” and often a hidden message.

“Music can be a powerful thing in one's life; it stirs emotions, it soothes, it surprises and it can be reassuring and affirming. So now, my aim is to bring all these elements together as much as possible while still maintaining a cohesive sense in a program. There are often small things that tie two pieces together giving a sense of continuity to the program, but no matter how small, I always have something in mind that links them. I don't really know if this comes across as intended or not, but I try to do that.” Enjoy the preparedness and intelligence of Diana Blase’s programs on Wednesdays, 6:00 to 9:00 pm and on Thursdays, noon to 5:00 pm.




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