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Music as a Bedrock: A Letter From Sheila Anderson, the Host of Salon Sessions and More

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For 33 years I have been a member of WBGO.

I recall the Saturday morning in February 1987 when I arrived at 54 Park Place to answer phones during The Rhythm Revue. Another momentous February morning came in 1995, when I did my first on-air shift on the 13th. Later that year I continued my WBGO journey when I began hosting Sunday Morning Harmony, for almost 10 years. After that, for three years it was Saturday Evening Jazz. Currently I host Weekend Jazz After Hours, Salon Sessions and the Sunday Night Music Mix.

At the age of six I fell in love with jazz — actually, with all music! My older brother had an incredible record collection. Having heard the albums like Miles Davis’ ESP, Richard “Groove” Holmes’ Soul Message and Ornette Coleman’s Something Else!!!, I was hooked!

Music has since been the bedrock of my life. So much so that, as a teen, I became the DJ at many parties, several of which were held at my home. It was exciting to watch the positive reaction to the music that I spun. Though I was too young to understand the meaning at the time, I would ask my dad, “When are we going to paint the town red?” When I learned what the term meant, I was not surprised that the question was always met with silence. Yet somehow, I felt that it was something fun, because I knew that I wanted to go out to experience live music. I had no idea that I was seeing my future! Thanks to WBGO, I am living my dream. I am grateful to have met and interacted with so many of my childhood idols.

With the onslaught of COVID-19, our lives have been fundamentally altered. Like some of you, I have lost friends and family near and dear to me; it’s heartbreaking. And too many jazz musicians have passed. With mixed emotions, I had the honor and the privilege to have spoken with a few of them on Salon Sessions. Bernard Ighner penned the lyrics, “everything must change, nothing stays the same…” Though our lives are in upheaval, one thing that has remained the same is the great programing that WBGO brings, 24/7. As the “Queen of Hang,” I miss going out to check out the scene. But with programs like Jazz Night in America and The Checkout, we are able hear live performances broadcast in our homes.

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Credit WBGO
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WBGO
Sheila Anderson, right, with Awilda Rivera in the WBGO performance studio

Our historic 72-hour fund drive ends with the Sunday night Music Mix, and I am excited that Rhonda Hamilton and Awilda Rivera have agreed to pitch with me. Their love and commitment to WBGO remains as strong today as ever. Together we march to success.

For 41 years, WBGO has been here for you, because of you and because of your support. Al Jarreau sang, “we’re in this love together...” Whether I am broadcasting from home or from the studio, we are still connected. The music binds us. Like myself, many of you take comfort in knowing that when we turn to 88.3FM on the radio dial or listen online, WBGO is here for us. The station is and continues to be my companion in good times and bad. Again: No YOU, no US!

Thank you for your continued support and for your kind words of encouragement during this turbulent time. Together we keep this art form, America’s Classical Music, alive! Musically yours!

Peace,

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Sheila Anderson

Sheila E. Anderson, whose moniker, “Queen of Hang,” is a mover and shaker in the world of art, most notably in jazz. Much focus is placed upon the artists and rightfully so, yet Ms. Anderson is feeding and affecting the scene in myriad ways. She has always taken on the challenges of creating opportunities for herself, developing formats that exist outside the box. In addition to being an on-air-host she is an author, a writer, emcee and moderator. In 1995, she was hired by WBGO, Newark, 88.3FM to host Sunday Morning Harmony, where she now hosts Weekend Jazz After Hours, Salon Sessions and the Sunday Night Music Mix. Ms. Anderson has learned from the musicians whom she spins, "I feel as though radio programming should function much like a live performance. My best shows happen when I am feeling completely free to move with a certain flow and program according to my emotions," Ms. Anderson explains. These are not the words of some novice who just likes jazz music.