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Blue Lake Public Radio Broadcasts Live From Italy

Memorial concert gets transatlantic audience

Blue Lake Public Radio in Michigan operates stations WBLU(FM) 88.9 in Grand Rapids and WBLV(FM) 90.3 in Muskegon. These classical and jazz stations are managed by Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, a summer school of the arts located on a 1,400-acre campus in the Manistee National Forest near Twin Lake.

The Falcone Memorial Band performs in concert in the Piazza Bartolomeo, the main square in the village of Roseto Valfortore, Italy.
Credit: Photo by Radio Centro Roseto Each summer, the camp serves approximately 5,400 students with programs in music, art, dance and drama and offers some 175 performances during its Summer Arts Festival. Many of these performances are heard live over Blue Lake Public Radio.

Blue Lake also operates an international exchange program, which sends student and adult bands touring through Europe each summer.

The first tours were led by Dr. Leonard Falcone, the director of bands at Michigan State University for 40 years, and the 1971 tour included a concert in his home town of Roseto Valfortore, Italy. Falcone planned a second visit to the village in 1985 but died shortly before the tour left. The trip went on despite his death, and that group was christened the Leonard Falcone Memorial Band.

This summer, in honor of Falcone’s legacy and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, a second Falcone Memorial Band was assembled. The band gave eight performances in Italy from June 27 to July 12, including a return concert to Roseto Valfortore exactly 30 years after the first memorial band visit. The 46-member concert band consisted of former Falcone students, Blue Lake faculty members and alumni from previous Blue Lake international bands.

The performance in Roseto on July 7 took place 100 years to the day after Falcone’s Ellis Island arrival in 1915, marking his emigration to America from Roseto Valfortore at the age of 16.

Steve Albert, Blue Lake Public Radio’s station manager.
Credit: Photo by John SchneiderTRANS-ATLANTIC BROADCAST
At WBLV and WBLU, the decision was made to broadcast the historic concert live from Italy.

To make that possible, Blue Lake’s Vice President for International Programs and Broadcasting Bill McFarlin enlisted the help of Antonio Monaco, the owner of Radio Centro Roseto 88.0 FM in Roseto Valfortore. The two stations agreed to cooperate on producing the program, which would be heard live on both stations July 7 at 10 p.m. Roseto time, 4 p.m. in Michigan. The connection between the stations would be made over the Internet using IP codecs.

Steve Albert, Blue Lake Public Radio station manager, said the planning began about four months prior to the broadcast. As to the logistics, Albert said, “We used our Telos Z/IP One codec at the studio, which is integrated into our Axia Livewire network. We used cellphones and texting to coordinate the timing.”

In Italy, Radio Centro Roseto rented a Z/IP One codec from Fiori Conforto of the Telos distributor Funky Junk in Milan. The stations tested the system in advance between their studios, and the connection was established through Telos’ Z/IP server in the cloud.

 On the night of the concert, a temporary stage was set up in Roseto’s central square, and Monaco’s staff set up a portable console desk in front of the stage. “We used several pieces of equipment for the broadcast — several Neumann TLM-103 microphones, mic preamps, a mixer and an audio processor,” he said. “This was good experience for me and our station.”

But on the evening of the event, disaster almost struck.

According to Monaco, “On the night of the concert, we moved the codec over to our portable studio on the main square. We connected to the Internet through a nearby business that kindly offered us the use of their broadband connection, but we had problems making a connection from the field. I don’t have any experience with codecs, and this was my first time trying to use one. However, the Telos distributor, Mr. Conforto, was kind enough to make himself available, and he connected into the codec remotely to resolve the problem.” Once established, the connection was maintained throughout the broadcast.

The remote broadcast console of Radio Centro Valfortore FM 88.0 is shown during the live broadcast.
Credit: Photo by John SchneiderAUDIO CHAIN
To get the audio for Radio Centro Roseto’s broadcast, they captured the live streaming from Blue Lake Public Radio’s website and rebroadcast it in Roseto. In other words, the concert audio went from Roseto to Michigan, and then back again to Roseto.

“The audio quality was only fair,” said Monaco. “It would have been better if we had been able to make a direct connection.”

He added, “In addition to our listeners on the air, 600 people listened to the broadcast through our station’s website.”

In the U.S., many listeners around the country, including Blue Lake friends and band member families, heard the Blue Lake broadcast on line.

The Blue Lake organization hopes this historic concert helped establish musical ties between two communities and two countries, which will lead to future concerts and more radio broadcasts.


Blue Lake Public Radio
Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp
Radio Centro Roseto
Funky Junk, Milan