J. Michael Barone (b. 1946), a native of Kingston, Pennsylvania, began his adventure with music amidst his parent’s small classical record collection and through piano lessons with Stella Pickett (the “little old lady down the street”). He advanced to piano lessons with Marion Wallace (his church organist), took up tuba in Grade 5 and played in school marching and concert bands (Howard Hallock and Robert Henderson, directors), sang in the high school glee club (Dorothy Turner, director; who turned 100 in February!), and finally ‘discovered’ the pipe organ, urged on by neighborhood friend Robert Wech. In short, he grew into music in the usual, inexplicable way that some kids do, encouraged by a benignly supportive environment and the offerings of the public school system, though his early specific fascination with the classical repertoire seems to have been built-in, a quirk of nature.
Contrary to a somewhat foggy original plan, Michael ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in Music History from the Oberlin Conservatory (organ was his ‘applied’ instrument; his teacher, Haskell Thomson, somewhat disheartened by the apparent limits to Barone’s playing capabilities, enquired at least once “…just why is it that you want to study the organ, Michael?”), where he also got his start in radio during three years at WOBC-FM, the student-run campus 10-watt station. Upon graduation in 1968, Barone was hired by William H. Kling to be Music Director for KSJR-FM at St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN, the initial station in what has grown to be the powerhouse Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media system. After 25 years as MPR Music Director, Barone focused on national program production (twenty two years of Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra broadcasts; and Pipedreams, celebrating its 30th Anniversary this season). As Senior Executive Producer, he remains the longest continuously tenured of all current MPR staff.
Barone is a past President of the Organ Historical Society (OHS) and the co-founder of the Chamber Music Society of Saint Cloud. He received the President’s Award from the American Guild of Organists in 1996, the OHS Distinguished Service Award in 1997, and the Deems Taylor Broadcast Award for Excellence from ASCAP/American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2001. He served as consultant through the entire process of the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ project in Los Angeles, and currently is acting advisor on organ programming for the Kimmel Center/Verizon Hall in Philadelphia.
Pipedreams is heard on more than 150 select public radio stations nationwide, and its weekly 2-hour program and a huge archive of past broadcasts can be accessed globally at any time (24/7) on the internet at www.pipedreams.org.