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Mike Bolton

Classical Host

In my teens, the movie Amadeus changed my life forever. It introduced me to classical music and opera—I couldn’t get enough of it.

Well before the Internet, iTunes, and YouTube, I turned to WFLN-FM, recording music off the radio and learning about repertoire. I even wrote a letter to Henry Varlack, host of the Sleeper’s Awake overnight show that played listeners’ requests on Saturday mornings from midnight to 6 AM. I brazenly requested that Mr. Varlack play one selection a week from a list of 100 pieces I sent in, rather than sending in my requests via the approved method—a weekly postcard.

Mr. Varlack mentioned me on the air and graciously played the riddle scene from Puccini’s Turandot. It was thrilling. I listened and learned, too, from Wayne Conner, George Jellinek, Metropolitan Opera and Chicago Lyric Opera broadcasts, Carnegie Hall concerts and more. I knew I wanted to somehow be involved in radio.
In the 1990s, I was the Classical Music Buyer at several Philadelphia-area Tower Records locations, again learning everything I could about repertoire and recordings.

After having been told multiple times that I had a "radio voice," I attended a broadcasting school and began a 14-year stint at WNWR-AM, a time-brokered station where I produced shows, and the weekly public affairs program.
Some listeners may know me from my time at Opera Philadelphia, where I’ve worked since 2001. I’m the voice you hear when you call the office or when you get a ticket alert on your phone. I’ve also interviewed Frederica von Stade, Lawrence Brownlee, Marietta Simpson, Jennifer Higdon and dozens of others for podcasts or events.

Some may be familiar with the “Random Acts of Culture” I organized throughout Philadelphia, including a 750-voice choir at Macy’s to sing “Hallelujah” from Handel’s Messiah. The videos of those events garnered over 12 million views.

Over 65,000 people have attended lectures I’ve given over the years for Academy of Vocal Arts, Curtis Institute of Music, Metropolitan Opera Guild, Opera Philadelphia, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the University of Pennsylvania, among many, many others.

The path has brought me back to radio. While my path may be different from other hosts, I try to make classical music come to life in an accessible and meaningful way, and help that 17- or 70-year-old listener find themselves in the music.

Hear Mike on Saturdays from 8 AM to 12 PM as host of Saturday Morning Classics, and as a substitute host during classical music hours.