Brian O'Donnell


Jul 21, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Vol. 06Issue 34

Then: In 2000, Rick Pender talked to Brian O'Donnell, a familiar voice in Cincinnati radio who was in the unique position of working at two different non-commercial stations. O'Donnell had been on the local scene for 27 years, bouncing around the dial until he found two that fit: the Monday-Friday morning show at WGUC (90.9 FM) and a Saturday morning gig on WNKU (89.7 FM). Though he had no background or training in Classical music, O'Donnell found the job at WGUC to be ultimately rewarding: "It was one of the most frightening things I've ever done," he said then. "But, boy, looking back now, it's the best career move I've ever made." (Issue of July 13, 2000)

Now: O'Donnell now has a third "job" to add to his resume — that of grandfather. "My granddaughter, Amaya, was born on June 25," he says, with a little excitement creeping into the otherwise calm voice that morning listeners have come to love and rely on. "She's just beautiful. I had no idea what it would feel like (to be a grandfather). It's absolute heaven."

He's still with both stations and still loves both jobs.

"I've always been a music freak," O'Donnell explains. "My jobs give me a great connection to the Cincinnati music scene, whether it's the Cincinnati Symphony or small shows at the Southgate House."

Of his transition to Classical radio, O'Donnell likens the experience to going back to school. "It's like taking an exam every day," he says. "(Learning) is an ongoing thing. We're always adding new performances, new conductors and new, late 20th-century and 21st-century composers."

But O'Donnell doesn't mind all the studying: "One of the highlights of this job is getting to learn new things."

So, what hopes does Grandpa O'Donnell hold for himself and for his employers? He believes that WGUC is in good shape for the time being. "We have more listeners than we've ever had before," he says, "and our fund-raising campaigns have been very successful. I hope it continues."

As for WNKU, O'Donnell would like to see the station find an increase in signal strength. Sitting in his home in Roselawn, he says he can get WNKU on only one radio in the house. "It's a weak signal," he sighs. "I hope the station gets a signal improvement for better reception."

Personally, O'Donnell hopes that his family remains close by so he can be involved in his granddaughter's life as she grows up. "We're babysitting for the first time on Saturday," he says, laughing. "It'll be the first time Amaya is away from her parents, and they away from her. I can't wait."

He pauses for a moment. "If they stay close by, I'd be more than satisfied."

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? updates cover stories from throughout CityBeat's 10-year history.