Dr. Stewart’s radio show captivates listeners

Each year, Atlanta radio audiences are delighted by the notes and tunes of Scott Stewart’s radio show Strike Up the Band, which features band and wind ensemble music. The band plays with a mission to spread the joy of classical music to others, along with helping people become more familiar with different styles of music.

“This is a show that I started 13 years ago on WABE, which is Atlanta’s National Public Radio affiliate, 90.1FM,” said Stewart, who has served as Westminster’s Upper School band and orchestra director for seven years. “Since a lot of my background comes from the wind ensemble and concert band area, I thought it would be an interesting feature to theme different shows in different topic areas of wind band music to make it accessible to listeners.” 

The show is in a 13-show format and plays a quarter of the year during the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s off-season.

“I grew up listening to Carl Haas on a show called Adventures in Good Listening,” said Stewart. “That was kind of my inspiration for someone who is really excited about sharing their love of classical music for others, so I kind of adapted that format for this show.” 

Strike Up the Band has influenced numerous audience members since their beginning in 2006 when the show was called Summer Winds. Since then, the show has collaborated with countless ensembles and instruments and explored music from all different genres and cultures, including celctic style music. 

Performances from the 2018 season included works of Richard Strauss, John Mackey, Ron Nelson, Phillip Sparke, and Michael Daughtery to name a few. The variety of genres and styles of music encourage fans of all ages to listen to the show each week. 

“I listen to the show frequently and I am a big fan,” said Kate Morgens, the Upper School performing arts department chair. “My favorite thing: Dr. Stewart chooses a huge variety of topics, satisfying everyone from the musical theatre nerd, like me, to the film score fanatic to the classical music aficionado.” 

Strike up the Band not only caters to people of all interests, but it also educates listeners about the history and origins of the pieces.

“I remember listening to one program about Danny Elfman, and I had just watched Nightmare Before Christmas with my kids, and I learned so much,” said Morgens. “I guess my second favorite thing would be that Dr. Stewart dives deep, with incredible research and specific details about composers and films, so I always learn a lot when I listen.” 

Aside from educating and bringing entertainment to listeners all around Atlanta, Stewart and Strike Up the Band bring benefits to Westminster.

Strike Up the Band is an excellent resource for our students, especially for several JanTerm courses with music and film content, like Music and the Movies, Musical Theatre History, and Music, Society, and Culture,” said Morgens. “The content is certainly an excellent resource for our year-long music and filmmaking courses. Dr. Stewart himself is a wonderful mentor and resource for our students.” 

Westminster faculty and staff are now incorporating more real-world experiences into the school curriculum.

         “As a group, our performing arts department has embraced these learning strategies and we look forward to continuing to implement them this year,” said Morgens. “We have a new filmmaking class this year, and we are having a great time teaching it. There is also a new design track for students in theatre arts. Students are stage managing, directing, designing, and composing more than ever.” 

Strike up the Band continues to open new doors for students at Westminster and beyond.  Even with the show’s many accomplishments, Stewart still has a number of goals for the show.

“One of my hopes is that we syndicate the show nationally,” said Stewart. “Lots of people hear that I am associated with Westminster, and this also brings Westminster into the National Public Radio scenes.” 

Stewart is also a frequent contributor to WABE’s City Lights with Lois Reitzes, the director of arts and cultural programming at WABE. Reitzes has been a host with WABE since 1979, making her the longest-running voice in Atlanta radio. 

“Dr. Scott Stewart is a gifted musician and inspiring educator,” said Reitzes. “He also has a remarkable ability to explain musical concepts to a general audience, with clarity and wit. All of these talents are on display in his program, Strike Up the Band. Dr. Stewart’s love for the wind repertoire and his engaging presentation provide a wonderful listening experience. He is a treasure.” 

Strike Up the Band is finishing off their 13th season strong, and Stewart is continuing to develop his music career.

“I love that I am able to have a lot of freedom to program the show,” said Stewart. “I am inspired daily to bring my enthusiasm [for music] to Westminster students.”