Press Room

Thomas Hampson hosts 13-week “Song of America” radio series

Thomas Hampson continues his impassioned advocacy for American song with the introduction this October of “Song of America”, a 13-week radio series that reveals American classic song – poetry set to music by American composers – as a vibrant diary of the American experience.  Hampson conceived and developed the series, which is co-produced by the Hampsong Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network of Chicago and will be syndicated by the network to public radio stations across the country. The network will also offer the series to members of the European Broadcasting Union and to stations in other countries around the world. Each hour-long program focuses on a particular topic that sheds light on a larger theme in American history, and includes approximately 40 minutes of songs drawn from archival and modern recordings, plus stories and insights from Hampson about the people and events that inspired those songs.  Several programs also feature interviews with experts from related fields.  Programs include Stephen Foster, dedicated exclusively to the 19th-century songwriter who is considered the father of American music; Whitman and Music, examining the great poet and the music that shaped him as well as his deep influence on American composers; “There Is No Gender in Music”, exploring the contributions of American women composers; and Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, which traces the roots and influences of the great 20th-century poet who gave jubilant voice to the lives of African Americans.  A full list of programs follows below.
Steve Robinson, Executive Producer and General Manager of the WFMT Radio Network, invited Hampson to create the series as an expansion of the baritone’s ongoing critically acclaimed “Song of America” project, which began in 2005 as a collaboration between Hampson and the Library of Congress.  Robinson observes:  “Tom is one of the preeminent performers of American art song and we’re thrilled to be working with him on this series. He brings immense scholarship to the project and, more than that, a passion not only for song but for American history and culture that shines through in each program. Nothing quite like this series has ever been heard on American radio, and to bring it to so many stations over the WFMT Radio Network is very exciting.” 
Many stations have already expressed interest in the series. A list of participating stations will be posted at, which will also house various online resources to complement the 13 programs.
Thomas Hampson comments:  “It has been a great thrill to work so closely with the WFMT Radio Network on this very special project. The network represents the best of what public radio has to offer today. I am extremely grateful for their support and very excited about this series.”
The radio series, funded by the Hampsong Foundation, is produced by WFMT’s Carolyn Paulin.  The Coordinating Producer is Miriam Lewin (Lavine Production Group), who has led a team of accomplished writers in taking Hampson’s vision and vast knowledge of the topic and shaping it into 13 distinct programs.  The writers, many of them well known in the radio field, include Julie Burstein (creator and founding executive producer of Studio 360 from PRI and WNYC); Naomi Lewin (afternoon host on WQXR in New York and producer/host of Classics for Kids and Metropolitan Opera intermission features); Jeff Lunden (arts reporter for NPR news shows and producer of award-winning radio documentaries on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley); Terrance McKnight (WQXR evening host and producer/host of All Ears); Pierre Ruhe (former chief music critic of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and executive director and editor of; James Sinclair (Executive Editor of the Charles Ives Society); and others.
The recordings that will be heard in the “Song of America” series feature some of the most prominent American singers of the past 100 years, including David Bispham, Alma Gluck, Marian Anderson, Nelson Eddy, Paul Robeson, William Warfield, Leontyne Price, Jan DeGaetani, Donald Gramm, Marilyn Horne, Susan Graham, and Renée Fleming – as well as material drawn from Thomas Hampson’s own far-ranging catalog.
The recording selections include settings by American composers from Francis Hopkinson (who wrote the first home-grown American song in 1759), Stephen Foster, Henry T. Burleigh and Arthur Farwell, who all had a profound influence on shaping American music, to today’s prolific song composers including Michael Tilson Thomas, George Crumb, Ned Rorem, Lori Laitman and Jake Heggie; from lesser-known composers like Charles Griffes, Amy Marcy Beach, Walter Damrosch, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Margaret Bonds, Elinor Remick Warren and John Duke to 20th-century masters such as Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein.
The programs also showcase poets whose work these composers found irresistible, including American icons like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes, and other masters such as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Vachel Lindsay, Stephen Crane, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale and Paul Goodman.
The “Song of America” radio series is part of Thomas Hampson’s multi-platform “Song of America” project. Initially developed by Hampson in collaboration with the Library of Congress in 2005, and now a program of the Hampsong Foundation, it examines connections between poetry, music, history and culture from the perspective of classic song. Drawing on resources from the Library’s unparalleled collection, the project has so far presented two national tours; independent recitals in 22 states and 13 countries; numerous master classes, exhibitions and broadcasts; the web site – an interactive web site of American composers, poets and songs complementing the radio series; and two commercial recordings: Song of America – Music from the Library of Congress and Wondrous Free – Song of America II.
“The ‘Song of America’ project has been a dream come true for me,” says Hampson, “giving me unforgettable opportunities to tour our country while singing the songs born of our life experiences as Americans in the language of our hearts and minds. These songs – our songs – say everything, through the eyes of our poets and the ears of our composers, about the culture we call American. We need these songs in our cultural landscape and the WFMT Radio Network is the finest platform they could have.”
“Song of America” radio series:  production details and programs
The production team for the Song of America radio series includes:
Executive Producer:  Steve Robinson
Artistic Director and Host:  Thomas Hampson
Producer:  Carolyn Paulin
Coordinating Producer:  Miriam Lewin
Project Manager:  Christopher Dingstad
Researcher:  Christie Finn
The programs and writers, in broadcast order, are:
American Characters (Miriam Lewin)
Stephen Foster (Naomi Lewin)
Whitman and Music (Pierre Ruhe)
Many Are the Voices (Miriam Lewin)
War Cries (Sheila Gaffney & John Michel)
Ives the Chronicler (James Sinclair)
Champions of American Song (Sheila Gaffney)
Arthur Farwell, American Pioneer (Jeff Lunden)
“There Is No Gender in Music” (Christie Finn)
Emily Dickinson: Letter to the World (Christie Finn)
Songs We’ve Always Sung (Julie Burstein)
Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance (Terrance McKnight)
Places That Sing To Us (Miriam Lewin)
“Song of America” will be available to public radio stations from October 1, 2011. To get the series on your station, contact Carol Martinez at 773-279-2112 or [email protected].
Thomas Hampson, host
Thomas Hampson enjoys a singular international career as a recitalist, opera singer and recording artist, and maintains an active interest in teaching, music research and technology. He has performed in all of the world’s most important concert halls and opera houses with many of today’s most renowned singers, pianists, conductors and orchestras; he is one of the most respected, innovative and sought-after soloists performing today.
Hampson is one of the world’s leading singers of German Lieder (including Schubert, Schumann and Mahler), and with his celebrated “Song of America” project, a collaboration with the Library of Congress, he has become the “ambassador” of American song. Moreover, he is one of the world’s leading opera singers, having sung more than 70 opera roles in major opera houses all over the world, including more than 200 performances at the Metropolitan Opera alone. With roughly 170 recordings on labels such as EMI and Deutsche Grammophon – several of which have won prestigious prizes including Grammy and Gramophone Awards, he is also one of the most prolific recording artists of our time.
Hampson begins his 2011-12 season at the San Francisco Opera, where he will create the main role in the world-premiere production of Heart of a Soldier by Christopher Theofanidis, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Other operatic engagements include Iago in Verdi’s Otello and the title role in Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, both at the Zurich Opera, and his house debut as Verdi’s Macbeth at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Among Hampson’s other season highlights are the opening night gala concert of the National Symphony Orchestra with Christoph Eschenbach; Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with the Munich Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta; Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel; Brahms’s Requiem and Dvorak’s Biblical Songs with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Manfred Honeck; and “Song of America” recitals in New York and Cologne.
The WFMT Radio Network
The WFMT Radio Network is the national and international production and distribution arm of WFMT 98.7FM, Chicago’s Classical Fine Arts Station.  The network was established in 1976 to produce and distribute weekly concerts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and opening nights from Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Today, the network serves more than 900 radio outlets with full-length concerts by major orchestras from North America and Europe, and a wide range of operatic and other fine arts programming from around the world.
Critical acclaim for Thomas Hampson’s “Song of America” project
“If American song needs an evangelist, no one is better equipped to do the job right than Thomas Hampson…. Hampson makes something deeply personal of the song medium, choosing music that’s ideally suited to his virile persona and delivering it with such eloquence and probing intelligence that the listener shares fully in the experience. … With a voice like oiled oak, capable of infinite tonal shadings, and a gift for storytelling possessed by few of his colleagues, Hampson made each song as dramatically potent as any character in his operatic arsenal.”  – Chicago Tribune
“The ‘Song of America Project’ reaffirms Hampson’s talent for fusing a searing intellect with artistry of the highest order.”  – Financial Times
“Hampson made the assertion that narrative is a common thread through American song. … Mr. Hampson conveys the idea of an oral tradition that it is his mission to pass on, with the closed-eyed intensity of a blind poet when he is singing and the zeal of an evangelist when he is addressing the audience about its cultural heritage.” – The New York Times
“Thomas Hampson, America’s baritone, brought his latest tribute to American song – of the classical variety – to Ozawa Hall on Wednesday and triumphed. … Hampson is a prince among musicians, a commanding presence, with a remarkable, flexible instrument, and lots of virile tone. He keeps on discovering new and worthy music. He deserves all the applause he got, and there was a lot of it.”
Boston Globe
“This country doesn’t just undervalue its artists. In the case of the vast American concert-song literature, hardly any attention is paid at all. … Hampson delivered one gem after another by composers such as Charles Griffes, William McDowell, Virgil Thomson (the famous ‘Tiger! Tiger!’), Samuel Barber, Charles Ives … and Henry T. Burleigh.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune 
“Hampson’s narrative powers were perhaps the chief glory of the evening. …There are very few areas of the opera and concert repertory that this industrious singer isn’t willing to investigate, but singing songs seems to be the one thing he loves to do most of all. Besides, how many other singers today could fill Carnegie Hall with a program exclusively devoted to a celebration of American song?”
Musical America
“Tall, charismatic and as square-jawed as the Marlboro man, Thomas Hampson is in many ways an ideal representative of American song. [Hampson] is a recitalist and opera star of international renown, and his recital Saturday of more than two dozen American songs showed off the full range of his vocal and histrionic skills.” – Kansas City Star
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