“It’s of the community and for the community…” This WTJU classical host is stepping back after 10 years
When Kyle Chattleton first moved to Charlottesville for grad school in 2013, he noticed WTJU in walks around his neighborhood. His first apartment was a two minute walk from WTJU’s old studios at UVA’s Lambeth Commons.
As an undergrad in California, Kyle had guest appeared on some friends’ college radio shows. So nearly 10 years ago, Kyle applied to be a classical host on WTJU. As Kyle puts it, “I was not expecting it to last as long as it did, maybe one or two years. But the station quickly became an important part of my life in Virginia.”
Kyle’s final regular show on WTJU will be Sunday, April 9. I sat down with him for a Q&A on the bittersweet occasion of his departure.
NATHAN MOORE: How were you first drawn to classical music? And specifically to new composers?
KYLE CHATTLETON: I started paying attention to movie soundtracks when I was in middle school. In particular, I remember the movie Glory (which we watched in history class) and James Horner’s score having an impression on me. This led to an important purchase for young Kyle: a CD titled The Music of John Williams: 40 Years of Film Music. I listened to it over and over again, dozens of times. My growing love of film music naturally led to a broader love of classical music.
One year later, I went to a concert with my grandma. The Pacific Symphony was performing Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, but before the intermission we heard the premiere of Kevin Puts’ Percussion Concerto with Evelyn Glennie as the soloist. That was my first introduction to contemporary classical music and it floored me. It sounded so new and so different — it was electrifying. From then on I became obsessed with “the classical music of our lifetime,” as I like to say.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three albums would you bring?
This is such an unfair question! I will try to make this easier for me and only list albums with works written in the last fifty years. (And I reserve the right to change my mind!)
Saariaho: D’Om le Vrai Sens – Kari Kriikku & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo
Adams: The Dharma at Big Sur – Tracy Silverman & BBC Symphony Orchestra, John Adams
Liang: A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams – Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose
You have hosted hundreds of shows on WTJU over 10 years. Which ones stand out?
There are a few from the early days that I remember. There was my first show (“The Listening Room”), which went without a hitch. A couple days later I covered for a host who couldn’t make it to the station (it was snowing). That show was a complete nightmare — none of my music would play, the power went out a few times, and I was still relatively new so I thought the world was ending. But in retrospect it was a great learning experience.
Probably the most memorable show I ever did was soon after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. I played a few works by LGBTQ+ composers, some angry pieces, a requiem, and then part of Max Richter’s SLEEP. I didn’t say too much over the air and instead let the music do the talking. A listener called in and he was in tears. He wanted to say “thank you” for the program, that it was exactly what he needed to process his emotions. We had a long conversation. That was a big “aha” moment — I finally understood what it meant to be part of a community radio station.
For a time, you also volunteered as WTJU’s Classical Director. Why step into that leadership role? What was that like?
Without getting into too many details, the department was going through a difficult period and there were a lot of questions about how to move forward from those challenges. I saw the position as a way to help the station and my colleagues. There were a few things that I did, like train new hosts, organize the marathon, and provide a vision. But it was a group effort, and I received a lot of support from my colleagues throughout my tenure. After two years I felt like we had made a lot of progress, and so I decided to step away and let someone else take up the reigns.
What does WTJU mean to you?
I think this station is such a wonderful, weird, and unique haven within our community. There is so much that it does and offers to us every day. Some things are measurable, like how many listeners we have at any moment, how many students have signed up for our radio and podcast camps, how many artist interviews we air, how many live shows we host.
But most of the impact is not easily measurable. For example, how much does the music we share enrich our lives and our neighbors’ lives? Anyone who spends a few hours with the radio dialed to 91.1 FM can figure out that the answer is “a lot.” That is something that I increasingly discovered week by week over the past decade. There isn’t anything quite like what we do, and that’s what makes WTJU so special. It is the work of the community and for the community.