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Spotlight on Michael Rydzinsky
"Concert Preview," Saturdays 9am-12pm
by: Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

BDB: How did you come up with the format for your show?

MR: The format is actually an old one I revived from the 1980s, when I used to promote UCI Music events, only now I promote any arts event in Orange County. In between, I switched my formats several times-- including devoting two years to playing nothing but Gershwin's music (it was called Gershwinfest), which immediately preceded reviving the Concert Preview format.

BDB: Do you remember your first show?

MR: Yes--although it seems like another lifetime! I remember being nervous and hearing my voice shake and trying to remember how to engineer a show that wasn't mine (a public affairs show that immediately followed mine). That was almost thirty years ago!

BDB: Are you also a classical musician?

MR: Yes, I am. I play percussion for a number of community orchestras, bands, schools, churches and musical theater.

BDB: When kids start with music, classical piano is stressed. Why?

MR: It's probably the simplest instrument to handle, you don't have to worry about tuning it every time (and you let a professional tuner tend to that every so often), you can play the simplest songs without moving your hands, yo don't hold or balance it, you don't have to carry it around with you and most pianos are so similar you can just plop yourself on the bench and play almost any piano (whereas you can't just play any violin or flute). And piano stresses melody, harmony and rhythm at the same time. (Organs are comparable, but you have to be concerned with extra pedal work with an organ.)

BDB: Did you play piano as a kid?

MR: As an older kid, yes. I didn't start until I was 13 because my family was too poor to afford piano lessons. That late start plus not being so diligent with practice cost me a solid piano foundation that would have really helped me as a percussionist.

BDB: Your show has broadcast on Saturday mornings for as long as I can remember. Has it always had this time slot? Why?

MR: It seems so, but it hasn't been. I started out 9 a.m.-noon on Fridays, then moved to Tuesday afternoons, Thursday afternoons and Saturdays noon-3 p.m. before being bumped up to 9, which I initially didn't like (meant I couldn't sleep in on weekends!) but now realize I have one of the choicest spots on the schedule.

BDB: What do you hear from listeners about your show?

MR: Well, my girlfriend, who's also a professional musician, says she takes notes and learns something new from my show every week. And others would call to ask what was the name of the last piece I played or would I know where to get a copy of it--and they'd compliment me on the music I play and/or the quality of my show in general. I don't get calls often--I'd say infrequently--so I appreciate them when I do get calls like that. Especially from my girlfriend.

BDB: What are your weekdays like?

MR: Hectic, to say the least. Every Monday and Tuesday, I write my articles for the Irvine World News, a few South County papers and, once a month, OC Metro Magazine--I'm an arts journalist--and always seem to try to meet deadlines. As for Wednesdays, my former "day off," I do all the everyday chores--laundry, groceries, running errands, getting caught up with mail and phone calls, etc.--plus now, more
and more, starting on interviews for next week's issues. Thursdays start out with my coaching percussion students in Beckman High School Concert Band, followed by attending the Irvine World News staff meeting. Fridays, I write articles for the Sunday Edition of the paper (another deadline!) and give drum lessons. If it looks like I have my evenings free, it's an illusion: I either have a rehearsal, a performance (usually on the weekends), a review or invited concert to attend--or something to do with my girlfriend. I have not seen my favorite show, "Gilmore Girls," almost all year!

BDB: What is one thing we would be surprised to learn about you?

MR: Since I give off this very conservative image, people wouldn't suspect that I have this real dry sense of humor or that I can spontaneously go into a crazy dance to some piece by Duke Ellington or Louis Prima or klezmer music (or that I even like Ellington or Prima or klezmer music!).

BDB: What didn't I ask but should have?

MR: How much money I have in my Swiss account? (Just kidding--my Swiss account consists of one imported chocolate bar.) How about: Why do I keep doing my radio show and when will I step down? (Actually, that's two questions, but let it go at that.) I just enjoy playing music I either like or am discovering. I like the fact I have helped build KUCI's Classical Collection (donating many albums) and so still do feel a part of the station. As to "retirement" -- well, let's just say not anytime soon.

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett is host of "Writers on Writing," which airs Thursdays at 5 p.m PT. She's also author of "Pen on Fire" (Harcourt, 2004). Learn more at www.penonfire.org.


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