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The Face of NYC Classical Music

The Face of NYC Classical Music


New York City's only all-classical music radio station, WQXR, has reached millions of listeners over the past 75 years. The station is under the new leadership of Graham Parker, a gay man who joined the company last year as its first vice president.

By utilizing Internet streaming and FM, Parker is taking the company in a new direction that extends outside of New York City. The London native played the piano and flute prior to his admission at Oxford Brookes University, where he began conducting. After holding many prestigious conducting positions after graduation, he served eight years as the executive director of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, which performs at New York's famed Carnegie Hall.

His professional success motivated him to make some changes on a personal level -- which involved coming out in March 1999.

"I was married to a woman for three and a half years before I came out," he says. "Given that the classical music world is very social, I expected that any significant man in my life would enter this very social world, and I wanted to come out so that I could best manage people's surprise, answer their questions."

Parker says he hopes hopes his ordination as an interfaith minister will come in handy in the future -- he plans to lend his services to same-sex weddings, now legally recognized in New York State

However, Parker and his partner of 11 years, whom he married in Canada in 2007, have no immediate plans to wed in New York. "We now are the parents of two amazing kids, so we might well want to wait until the kids are a couple years older so that they can fully appreciate their two dads' wedding and vows to each other," he says.

In addition to many changes in his personal life, Parker is also making many important directional changes for WQXR. Starting this October, one of the main highlights of his vision will include the start of the Carnegie Live series. The station will present live broadcasts and webcasts of 12 of the season's most exciting concerts from Carnegie Hall.

Midge Woolsey, a WQXR midday host, is fond and supportive of the leadership exemplified by Parker. She predicts that with his guidance, the station will reach new heights. "As a longtime member of WQXR's hosting staff, it is particularly exciting to see Graham pursuing all of the digital opportunities that were not available when I first started in radio," she says.

In addition to his many contributions to the music industry, he has some advice for LGBT individuals who are debating whether to reveal their sexuality within the corporate world. "I have friends in the banking and legal world who carefully decide who they can be fully out to and for others for whom disclosure is a more limited option. I think it needs to be a personal decision at all times," he says. "WQXR and our parent company, New York Public Radio, is a completely welcoming environment for all, so I would hope that colleagues of mine who may decide that they want to disclose their sexuality, they would find other sympathetic and supportive colleagues."

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Jeffrey Hartinger