Angela Mariani reflects on 25 years as host of WFIU radio program ‘Harmonia’
Oct. 5, 2016
Angela Mariani was a graduate student in IU’s Early Music Institute, now the Historical Performance Institute, when she became a part-time announcer at WFIU in 1991.
Christina Kuzmych, who was the WFIU station manager at the time, asked if Mariani would be interested in developing an early music program.
The program Mariani started working on in 1991 would become “Harmonia,” a radio show that explores early music history and culture through performances and interviews with musicians and scholars. “Harmonia” will turn 25 on Oct. 10.
“I remember working very hard on the first script; I really wanted it to be good,” Mariani said. “The first script, by the way, was not the first show that aired. The first show that aired, ‘Star of the Morning,’ was about the Cantigas de Santa Maria. The first show I actually wrote was about Hildegard von Bingen. I remember bringing the script to Christina for her approval. She read it and said ‘This is great. It’s a great musicology paper. Now take it home and turn it into a radio show.’”
Since writing that first script in 1991, Mariani has hosted “Harmonia” for its entire 25-year history, and she has seen it expand to include a podcast and become nationally syndicated on more than 150 stations across the country.
Mariani has seen “Harmonia” change from a show that focused on one specific theme for an entire hour to a format with shorter segments, more short breaks and even different features in addition to the main theme.
Although Mariani left Bloomington in 2000, she owes her longtime work as a radio host on WFIU to her time at IU.
“Without having come to study at the Early Music Institute, ‘Harmonia’ would never have happened,” she said.
Mariani is now an associate professor of musicology in Texas Tech University’s School of Music. With support from her staff, she still hosts “Harmonia” from Texas.
“When I began teaching as a full-time tenure track professor, I just couldn’t plan, write, script and produce every single program anymore, so now we have a team working together on the show,” she said.
For Mariani, hosting the radio show for all these years has been a labor of love.
“I love introducing people to music they’ve never heard before, and for those who already love early music, I love providing an outlet for that appreciation,” she said.
Over the years, Mariani has had the opportunity to interview a lot of performers for her show, and she’s heard from a lot of listeners.
“Some of the mail I’ve gotten over the years was very memorable,” she said. “One woman started a letter to me with the phrase ‘If I go to hell, it’s all because of you.’ Turns out she’d been listening to Harmonia on the way to church and got so involved in listening to the program that she sat in the church parking lot listening to the program and missed the service.”
Mariani has even had a “fangirl moment” when she got a letter from Peggy Seeger, who told her how much she liked the show.
“I actually wrote back to her and said, ‘Are you Peggy Seeger the folksinger?’ because I couldn’t believe it,” Mariani said.
After 25 years, Mariani’s proud that “Harmonia” has lasted so long and still appeals to listeners. She’s also proud of those who have worked on the production team throughout the years and now.
“I especially want to mention Michael Paskash, who has engineered the show for at least 20 of those 25 years; and LuAnn Johnson, who held the production team together for many years after I started teaching at Texas Tech University.”
This milestone may not be the only one for “Harmonia” and Mariani because she intends to continue hosting the show and see it evolve in new ways.
“I’d love to have more live music featured on the show -- more concert recordings, for example; things that you can’t go out and buy or listen to on Spotify,” she said. “I also hope to continue the wonderful relationship that we have had with IU’s Early Music Institute/Historical Performance Institute.”
“Harmonia” will celebrate a quarter of a century on the air with a special anniversary show at 9 p.m. Oct. 20 on WFIU. The show will include highlights from past episodes and commemorative music.