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Personality Profiles Cary Burkett

Cary Burkett Airs Out the Dirty Stereotypes

By J.A. Jandecka

Pulling back the veil that shrouds the voice of radio programmer Cary Burkett reveals an intriguing, animated, passionate individual who strives to reach people in Central PA.

Cary programs a classical show, Classical Air, on weekday mornings from 9am – noon. It’s not an easy feat; because of the genre’s stuffy, snobbish stereotype, Cary must strive to keep his show fresh and inviting to local listeners. He has no in-depth education in classical music, and this, perhaps, helps him to cater to his audience.

Listeners benefit from Cary’s desire to reach out to them over the air. This passion for sharing inspirational and uplifting music gets him out of bed in the morning. “Right now, the biggest perk is a chance to get out and to really connect with people on the air,” he says. He constantly seeks out the most exciting, innovative performers, offering contemporary interpretations of grand creations from great composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach to anyone who will take them.

Cary BurkettCary doesn’t have to rely entirely upon the music and his 14-or-so years of radio experience to draw in listeners. He has an enticing personality, borne from a former life as a theater performer. Prior to moving to Central Pennsylvania, Cary lived in New York City, where he acted in, well, anything, as he puts it. From Shakespeare to dinner theater to musical comedies, he did it, including many showcases for plays trying to make it to Broadway. He placed only one criterion upon his work: like the music he supports today, the message of the play must be positive and uplifting.

Cary sports yet another facet to his personality that manifested itself prior to his career in radio. To help make ends meet while acting, he held an editorial position at DC Comics — yes, the fount of everyone’s favorite superheroes. Giving life to a childhood dream, Cary formed story lines; developed characters such as Superman, Batman, and Spiderman; and wrote plots.

A marriage and a move to Pennsylvania catalyzed his move into radio. “I kind of found it to be a natural transition, in a way, because the voice training I had and the communication skills I had developed through acting were able to translate well,” he explains. He has held various announcing and technical positions during his 13 years at WITF; his repertoire now consists of his weekday show, occasional production stints such at the station’s Pick of the Week, and concert recording.

Classical Air, now only a month old, seems to drive Cary the hardest, as it is his most powerful vehicle for his career goals. “Ideally, I’d like to see that the radio is reaching out and drawing in the people that are really not that knowledgeable about classical music but might be interested if they hear something that’s appealing to them and might be able to then go further,” he says. He constantly works to improve his show, interacting with colleagues over the Internet and reading trade magazines of interest to those like himself who wish to expand the classical music listening base.

Admittedly, there are a few hurdles as well — like figuring out how to pronounce most of the performers’ names and dealing with the typical technical mishaps. “That’s the thing about live radio,” he confides. “You don’t have a safety net. You’re out there, and whatever happens, happens. And part of that is good — there’s an energy that comes out of that — but it also can be very dangerous.” An inability to receive immediate feedback from audiences makes it difficult for him to change his show in a positive way. But with practice, preparation, and an appealing playlist, he tends to run things quite smoothly.

As a career that he never really sought, radio seems to have served Cary well. In turn, he benefits both WITF and the classical music industry, trying to expand minds and open ears. His show truly stands at the forefront of classical programming, although that may be difficult for the untrained ear to pick up. In simpler terms, it’s not your ancestors’ classical music.


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