By DAVID BORAKS
Classical public radio station WDAV-FM said goodbye to its general manager Ben Roe in December after he announced his engagement to the station’s popular midday announcer, Jennifer Foster. Now, with Mr. Roe out of a job, she’s leaving the station as well. The pair have both landed jobs at WGBH, the public broadcasting empire based in Boston.
Mr. Roe has been tapped as Managing Director for Classical Services at WGBH, which means he’ll be running WCRB-FM, the classical music station WGBH bought in 2009. His new job starts March 1.
Ms. Foster has been involved with WDAV since she was a Davidson student in 1987, and has been a daytime mainstay for the past seven years. She also has been the voice of some of WDAV’s most successful live music programs, from coverage of Charleston’s Spoleto festival to summer music festivals to 2009′s nationally-syndicated “Christmas at the Biltmore” special. In Boston, she will do voice work for the news-and-info-focused WGBH-FM and be involved in other production and outreach activities.
Speaking for the station, WDAV program director Frank Dominguez said this week: “Jennifer has gone from being a Davidson College work study at WDAV to becoming an accomplished host and producer who has attracted national attention. While we’re sad to see her go, it’s a perfectly natural step in her career path, and one that demonstrates what WDAV has accomplished over the years. We wish her all the best.”
WDAV will begin searching soon for a permanent midday host, Mr. Dominguez said. In the meantime, weekend “Early Shift” host Lauren Rico will be filling in. She’s a nationally-known radio talent who got her start at WDAV. She later moved on to Minnesota Public Radio’s syndicated “Classical 24″ service, and now free-lances for stations ranging from WDAV to WSHU in Fairfield, Conn., and KMFA in Austin, Texas. You might also catch her filling in as host for the Metropolitan Opera Channel on satellite radio.
Ms. Foster said WDAV is “a community and a family” for music lovers and musicians in the Charlotte area. “It’s heartbreaking to let that go,” she told DavidsonNews.net. “I will forever be grateful to have had this experience here. There’s no other environment in radio that I’m aware of that’s quite like WDAV, where you can be asked to do it all, and you can do it all.”
At the same time, both Mr. Roe and Ms. Foster are excited about working in one of the two biggest public radio markets in the country (San Francisco is the other). Said Ms. Foster: “There’s a time for everyone to move on, if they want to get better. You have to take a risk if you want to gain, and I would hope that people would support me becoming as much as I possibly can. That was always my goal. That can’t happen here, and I hope it will happen somewhere else.”
Mr. Roe, a Grammy-winning producer who once was National Public Radio’s director of music, will run WCRB and report to Marita Rivero, WGBH’s vice president and general manager for radio and TV.
The move to Boston is a bit of a homecoming. Mr. Roe is a New Hampshire native who recalls making is first public-radio pledge to WGBH as a youth. He earned his graduate degree in broadcast administration from Boston University, and worked at Boston University’s WBUR-FM as well as other stations in the region.
He said he hopes to pick up where he left off at WDAV, bringing the Boston market the same ideas and energy as he brought to WDAV in recent years. In his time at WDAV, he expanded the station’s coverage of regional music festivals, transformed the station into one based predominantly on local programming, and introduced a Spanish language service called “Concierto,” hosted by Mr. Dominguez.
He said he’s most proud of the fact that during the past couple of years of lean times for public radio, WDAV’s membership – the small portion of listeners who support the station financially – has grown.
His work at WDAV has attracted national attention, and made him a candidate for the Boston job, he said. “In essence, they’ve handed me the keys to classical radio in Boston,” he told DavidsonNews.net.
Mr. Roe’s abrupt departure came as a surprise to many who have watched the station’s profile rise in the public radio world under his leadership. Although the official announcement said he was leaving for personal reasons, some WDAV supporters have been critical of the way the college responded after Mr. Roe and Ms. Foster announced their engagement.
As reader Dan Locklair put it in a comment posted on DavidsonNews.net: “Colleges and universities will go to great lengths to keep and support winning coaches,” he wrote. Why wouldn’t Davidson do the same for an arts leader like Mr. Roe, he wondered.
Ms. Foster and Mr. Roe have been mostly silent on the issue. She said the station has made great strides since Mr. Roe took over in July 2008. “I believe the station will not lose what Ben in particular has brought here. We’ve learned so much, and grown up so much with him driving, that DAV will always have his mark.”
Mr. Roe said this week: “There’s a lot of regrets. I really felt like we were just getting started here. (WDAV was) the best job I ever had. I really felt embraced by the community.”
Dec. 23, 2010, “Roe stepping down as WDAV general manager”
Previous stories about WDAV on DavidsonNews.net, under the WDAV tag.