For Afternoon Classical, Host Judy Wagley shares stories and songs she thinks you should hear

Jun 3, 2019

Today we launch a new series where we explore the people that keep central and northern Michigan running… and what they really do in their jobs.


We’re calling it Take This Job and Love It.

We’ll answer the tough questions like “what does a Provost really do?” and “Did you grow up wanting to be a Lighthouse Keeper?”. We’ll talk to engineers...store owners… fishermen …. florists… and so many more.

We’re starting in-house, with the lady who gave us the idea for this series. Judy Wagley is our newest staff member at WCMU. You hear her weekdays hosting Afternoon Classical Music.

And today she talks with Ben Thorp about the music she loves and what she does during the hours she’s NOT on air.

When not hosting WCMU’s Afternoon Classical Judy Wagley is preparing to host WCMU’s Afternoon Classical.

“Every day I come into our music library which is so awesome,” Wagley says. “We have 30-thousand recordings classical and jazz, CD’s and LPs, and sometimes I look for specific things but sometimes I just browse.”

The music library at WCMU is rows of shelves stacked ceiling high, overflowing with music. The library dwarfs Wagley, who comes in at around five foot two. She seems undaunted.

“Sometimes I climb up on a ladder because the music goes all the way to the ceiling and I’m not very tall.”

Sometimes, Wagley says, she has a plan for how she’ll fill the three hour afternoon show with themes including one-hit wonders, or animals. Other times, not so much. Every show, she says, is like a puzzle.

“These may be puzzle pieces when I put together a show. Not sure where they’ll fit in yet. So I just kind of look and browse around to see what goes together.”

As she browses, one CD catches Wagley’s eye.

“It’s called Working Classical Orchestral and Chamber Music by Paul Mccartney - how cool is that? He was the cute Beatle.”

Wagley is on her sixth month working at WCMU Public Radio, taking over for the long time host of the show Susan McTaggart Dennis. It’s a job she says was made for her - Wagley is a classically trained horn player and singer who performs with several bands and orchestras around the region.

“My mom and dad always had either records or the radio, NPR, PBS, going on at the house all the time. There was always music at the house. I started playing music when I was 8 or ten years old so I’ve always been surrounded by music.”

On Air, Wagley says she negotiates between what she wants to play and what listeners want to hear. But sometimes she admits that at the risk of sounding stuffy:

“Sometimes I play music that I think people ought to hear. I say “you should hear this!

Radio studios can be isolating - speaking into a mic it sometimes feels like you’re talking to nobody at all. Wagley says when she opens the mic she tries to imagine she’s talking to just one person.

“I just try to think that I’m talking to one person at a time. I can’t even think that we reach forty-two counties. That would just blow my mind. So I just think it’s me and you.”

In her time at WCMU Wagley says there is one afternoon of music that stands out. On February 26th, Wagley put together a show in honor of her late father, who would have been 92.

“I played the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s 2nd symphony which is called the Resurrection Symphony. My dad really liked it. I didn’t know this was going to happen but I barely made it through. When I had to backsell that piece I was having a little trouble doing it but I had a lot of response from people. They said that they just really liked that I honored my dad. And they said they liked the music. They said he had good taste in music.”

Wagley says her first job out of college was working in public radio. If she has anything to say about it - it’ll be her last too.

Coming up next week, we’ll hear from an engineer… a woman in a traditionally male profession who keeps the Soo Locks Running.

If you have an idea for a job we should cover, send it along! You can submit  your suggestion at WCMU.org/takethisjob