7 November

The Maestro, Conducting Community Radio…

by Jon Katz

Fate has thrown Thomas Toscano and I together, on the surface we might seem to be an unlikely pair, but beneath the surface there is much to connect us.

I call Thomas, my partner in radio crime,  the “Maestro” because he is a Maestro and a composer, he looks much like Arturo Toscanini, with whom he was once obsessed. He worked with Leonard Bernstein and ran an opera company in Brooklyn.

Thomas is a remarkable and unusual man, we have a great chemistry as we sit together during my two-hour weekly radio show on WBTN, “Talking To Animals.”

I’ve heard his wonderful music and he is a whiz at managing complex electronics, the station is totally dependent on him. So am I.

I can tell when I am drawn to someone by the fact that I always want to take a portrait of that person. Just look at the character in that face. I took this portrait with my monochrome camera and my used Zeiss lens, the best $400 dollars I ever spent.

Chemistry is always a magical thing in broadcasting, radio or TV (I was once the Executive Producer of the CBS Morning News). We always looked for chemistry when people worked together in broadcasting.

Thomas and I have fun, the two hours floats by, we joke and spar a bit and bounce off each other. Thomas runs the console and antiquated equipment, I do most of the talking, he jumps in when he feels there is something to say, and he very often has something to say.

Thomas IS WBTN radio, a struggling community radio station. Thomas is not married and has no children, he says being alone is a “public  service.” He abandoned New York City a few years ago when his girlfriend tossed him  out of their apartment. He doesn’t blame her, he says he is “the world’s worst boyfriend.”

His ambition, he says is to live in a wood cabin out in the woods by himself, maybe with a small coyote. I think he should get a dog, he says he can’t afford the vet bills. He doesn’t want to have any money, he says, it wrecks the soul. And he doesn’t have much money.

Thomas is outspoken and opinionated, he is a troublemaker and a feather-ruffler. I like him quite a bit. He has Toscanini’s blazing, somewhat mad eyes. He practically lives in the studio, he is producer, engineer, an Executive Director.

But he has the soul of an idealist, and he is fighting day and night to bring his little radio station back to life. If you wish to help him, check out the WBTN Wish List. You can help him keep this radio station alive for very little money.

WBTN is a non-profit radio station, I am not asking for any  my broadcast. The Army Of Good idea stuns him, he can’t quite figure out why people are sending him things and supporting his station,  which has been in a hard struggle to exist in the Corporate Nation.

The station is important. Community Radio is important. It exists all over the world and dictators and demagogues try to shut it down all over the world. It is the literal antithesis of corporate media.

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