What is your history with All Classical Portland?
I was a walking mailman of 22 years. To pass the time, I carried a small radio in my shirt pocket and listened to various types of radio stations as I made my rounds. I had very little knowledge of, or regard for, classical music prior to July 3, 2007. It was on that day when my 16-year old son, Elliott, drowned at Cannon Beach after getting caught in a sneaker riptide.
After taking a few weeks off, I returned to work. I needed something to listen to that would keep my mind occupied as I walked my 12 mile route. To just wallow in silence would cause me to spend way too much time thinking of, and being crushed by, nothing but memories of my son and overwhelming grief. My eldest daughter, Maria, suggested I give All Classical Portland a chance. Luckily for me, I took that chance. The station had just hired a brand new announcer with a bubbly personality and a sultry voice – it was Christa Wessel. I took to the music and to her commentary immediately.
The fulcrum point for me came a couple weeks later when a stunning piece of music came on which seemed to define my son. As I listened I cried and cried. I could hear my son’s personality come forth from my radio. The tune was called “The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. I was hooked.
Over the succeeding months, the music – along with the vibrant tones of Christa Wessel, and later Robert McBride – took me through the roughest times of my deep grieving. Gorgeous music by Chopin would seep into my soul and I could relate to the melancholic mood and think, “Yes, that is how I feel today. Thank you for the empathy.” At other times, exciting tunes by Beethoven or Liszt would lift me up above my sorrow for periods of time and carry me on through the trying hours. And every day, Christa was there in my pocket to cheer and inform and keep me company. I had the privilege to finally meet her and become friends (which made her presence in my shirt pocket more intimate and precious). I told her that it was just she and I out there listening to the music and delivering the mail.
As the years passed, many of my postal customers came to realize their mail was being delivered when they could hear the music coming. One little tot on my route heard some classical music coming from her radio one day and told her mom, “Hey, that’s Merrit’s music!” I am retired now and have had former customers tell me they miss hearing the music as their mail is delivered.
I cannot even fathom how I would have fared on my job the last eight years if All Classical Portland and Christa had not been there for me. The station became my lifeline during my workday and I became passionate about what they bring to the community. Christa introduced me to a fellow station employee as All Classical Portland’s most rabid fan. It is a title I carry proudly.
What inspires you to contribute?
I love the fact that a person like myself can contribute even in a small way to the ongoing vitality of All Classical Portland. Everyone I have met at the station is a first-class (a little postal reference there!) person who deeply cares about what All Classical Portland offers to the world. It is a tremendous symbiotic relationship. The station provides a wide variety of staggeringly incredible music that spans several centuries. As Robert likes to say, they play the “real” oldies. The on air talent gives us vital and interesting information about the history of the music and its composers and players. Their sparkling and genuine personalities, plus the superb creativity and skill of those behind the scenes, make for a gold medal organization from top to bottom, left to right, and back to front.
How would you encourage listeners to contribute?
Our part in that symbiotic relationship is to financially support this station so they can continue to impart their skill, entertainment, personality, and information to us. We MUST do this. The idea that this treasure could slip away from us is tragic. They are an integral, vital, and NECESSARY link for all of us to hook up to. If all will give even just a little, it will accomplish so much. Maybe even allow someone to heal from tremendous pain. Please support. Thank you.