“[Norman Pellegrini] was the last survivor of a group of often contentious individuals, all now gone – Bernard and Rita Jacobs, Ray Nordstrand, Studs Terkel – who created one of the golden eras in Chicago’s cultural history: a radio station that reinvented the very idea of classical music broadcasting into something that adhered both to the highest standards and most democratic impulses. No, I didn’t go to college. I almost felt that I didn’t have to. WFMT was my higher education, my introduction to the world of classical music and opera, Beethoven and Mahler and Verdi, and, through a special series, contemporary composers, as well. It’s through FMT that I first encountered Job and Godot, and through Studs, people like journalist James Cameron and the voices of Hiroshima’s survivors, through the Midnight Special, the great American musicals, Steve Goodman, and that the unearthly falsetto, as chill as death, of Richard Dyer-Bennet, taking us across that lonesome valley, a new baptism at the close of each week.”

–Lynn Becker, “The Last Great Oak Falls – Norm Pellegrini Is Dead” (also of note, Andrew Patner’s response)

It’s pieces like this that make me envy those who’ve lived here longer than I.

Which is not to say there are some tremendous figures still around, including WFMT’s own Patner (blog, radio show). Among others: Roger Ebert, Lee Sandlin (who’s an awfully good classical critic in his own right), Becker, Garry Wills (not really a local media figure per se, but local, and a remarkable polymath), Timuel Black, and I’m sure I’m forgetting others.

I’m curious what the next generation will be like. Web-literate, surely, but hopefully not too Web-centric. As classical and folk music, long-form non-fiction, and other essential topics of the old guard fall out of favor, it’s hard to tell whether a tradition is dying, or simply moving to other subjects. Either way, I hope the next generation pays close attention to what the great oaks are doing now.

*Cf. Yes, I know I’m part of the problem.