Arts given boost by planned radio series. Two-hour live programs set for weekday mornings

National Public Radio (NPR) will launch a major new performing arts program in the fall. For two hours each weekday morning (10 hours a week), it will air live programs of current music, theater, ballet, and other arts, and will discuss current books.

The program, called ``Performance Today,'' will originate in Washington but draw from NPR's 330 member stations across the country and be sent out daily for use from 8-10 a.m., immediately following NPR's ``Morning Edition.''

It will basically be a music program but will include reviews, interviews, news, and brief features on other arts.

Douglas Bennett, president of NPR, says, ``Performance Today'' is still in the pilot stage but could debut as early as September.

``It will provide a vehicle for American performers, with lots of musicians,'' says Mr. Bennett. ``It will have contemporaneity, and lots of class. Whatever we have to do would be stunning radio and very culturally satisfying. It might include [segments on] part of a concert played last night, or a new record release, a new ballet, or a play.''

``Performance Today'' is budgeted at between $1 million and $1.5 million a year, says Dean Boal, director of arts and performance programs for NPR, who adds that funding is ``coming along reasonably well.''

Interest among public radio stations is strong, he says, based on pilots.

NPR is still looking for ``a companionable sounding host for the series,'' he adds.

Bennett says, ``We think `Performance Today' has a unique opportunity to present a daily vehicle for the arts in this country. You can't hear that on newspapers.''

He points out that most broadcast concerts are now presented in series, usually just once a week, sometimes at times not convenient for the listener.

But ``Performance Today,'' he suggests, will be a ``daily spectrum of American arts . . . .'' And he adds, ``I'm very excited about it.''

Mr. Boal estimates that roughly three-quarters of the programming will be music.

``It will be very accessible concert music, predominantly symphonic, chamber music, solo repertoire, but with an emphasis on new and unique performers.''

He adds there will be some ``crossover music'' -- folk, jazz -- of a concert calibre or music, like Claude Bolling's, that crosses between pop and symphonic.

There might be something occasionally on rock, but that would be minimal, he indicates, ``because rock obviously is available elsewhere on radio.''

He says all the musical segments will be short -- none more than 10 minutes -- and that the program will have a recognizable sound.

``It's important that radio end up being predictable; if it's too far-ranging in terms of sound, people don't know what to expect and turn it off,'' Boal says. ``We're still working on the idea of the balance between talk and music.''

The program would include ``minute critics'' giving capsule reviews of a ballet, play, or a new art exhibition that opened the night before, or a review of a book on its publication date.

It could also list new exhibition schedules for museums across the country.

Boal envisions ``Performance Today'' as ``a national showcase of the arts around the country'' that will make use of the production strengths of its member stations.

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