11 October

The Maestro: My Toscannini At WBTN Radio

by Jon Katz
The Maestro

My partner in crime at WGBN is a battle-scared, New York City-hardened conductor and composer named Thomas Lawrence Toscano. He is the one who decides on who gets what show and when.

I asked him what he would like to be called, and he said, “at the station, I like to be called Thomas, anywhere else, I don’t really give a shit.”

They called the legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini “Maestro,” and I’ve noticed that Toscannini and Toscano have very similar faces, and especially, similar eyes. See for yourself.

You can see the Creative Spark glowing brightly in each of them, there is a mad and joyous look there, the look of a  man who glows with spirit and who will take on an impossible task and sling to it, even if it’s a leaky boat always taking water.

He is also a man who has devoted his life to creativity, in his case, music, and like me, he fled to the country because corporations haven’t yet figured out how to take over the country and ruin it for profit, as they are doing for the rest of our world, and for our planet.

To me, such men are heroes, and we work quite well together. On some mysterious level not visible to me, we are the same. He is in awe of the fact that readers of the blog sent his station money, he could barely get over it.

Thomas Toscano is, of course, a conductor, a composer, a maestro. He used to run a Brooklyn Opera Company, now he is running a feisty and bleeding and tiny community radio station.

For a creative person. it’s almost the same thing – a creative and often impossible task, filled with roadblocks and challenges.

They decided to close the radio station down last year, there was no money and few listeners, Thomas just decided to ignore the decision and came in to run it. He has been running it every since.

I wouldn’t bet against him.

This morning, we were both excited to take the first caller to my new radio show. Thomas knows how to work the electronic boards, I don’t. He is essential, and there are no engineers in WBTN land.

As you can see, I am drawn to taking his portrait.

The first caller introduced herself to me and asked me a thoughtful question and before I could answer, Thomas jumped right in and said “let me interject something here,” and he told a story about his white German Shepherd.

I was surprised, my mouth was open to take my first question on my new show, and in another context, I might have stabbed him through the heart.

But I wasn’t upset at all, it felt just right. His enthusiasm and passion just bubbled up for a moment, and it didn’t happen again. He just got excited, I could see it. It is what conductors naturally do, they conduct. I love having him in the studio, we play well off of one another, and he knows every inch of it, what works and what doesn’t.

Thomas saved us about a dozen times from one technical snafu or another, he told me most of the station equipment dates back to the Korean War. I believe it, and I can’t imagine doing it myself.

So I call Thomas “The Maestro” now, and that’s how I think of him.

You have only to look into his eyes to see the Creative Spark, and that is a sacred thing to me. He is a prophet. You can check out Toscannini’s photo here.

The radio show “Talking About Animals” will launch next Wednesday at 1 p.m. on Community Radio Station WBTNAm.org.

You can e-mail me your questions about dogs and animals – jon@bedlamfarm.com -r call me at 866 406 9286.


  1. What an adventure. It’s like the old Andy Rooney-Judy Garland teenager movies. “Let’s put on a show! We can use my parents’ barn!”

  2. Jon,
    Congratulations!! I was only able to listen for a bit, but I am so excited for you. And look so forward to listening to your new show! I have read all your books, read your blog and Maria’s. What a gift you and Maria are to all you connected with you!

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