Jonathan Palevsky, interim general manager at WBJC 91.5, is honored to give Baltimore’s its own local classical music station.
Palevsky, 60, grew up in Montreal, Canada, and moved to the U.S. in 1982 to study music at the Peabody Institute of John Hopkins University. He was a huge fan of guitarists such as Jimmi Hendrix, which led him to study classical guitar. But having studied guitar for so long, Palevsky preferred to listen rather than play.
In the late ‘80s, he won the immigration lottery and was able to permanently settle in Baltimore. He now lives in Mt. Washington with his wife and co-worker, and plays the electric guitar.
Although Palevsky had a mostly Orthodox upbringing and his brother lives in Israel, Judaism to him is more about ethnicity than religion. And he is very proud of his ethnicity.
“It’s funny, we’re in a time of profound identity,” he said. “Who you are seems to be an important thing. I feel very Jewish these days. I would say it is the most dominant ethnic part of my identity.”
At WBJC, Palevsky and his team of ten people have been working together for 20 years to create shows with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, play music and interview musicians.
Judaism seeps into Palevsky’s musical interests, too. One of his goals for the station is to start a “31 Pieces in 31 Days” program, where he’d like to share “Sacred Service” by Ernest Bloch, or music by English composer Gerald Finzi.
Palevsky’s passion for radio is more a way of life than a career.
“When else would you ever get to talk about this art and study it in detail?” he said.
Pavelsky has been with WBJC since 1986. Before his current role as interim general manager, he served as program director.
Some of his favorite moments from working at the station are when he interviewed Itzhak Perlman, as well as a Jewish Hungarian artist.
“We’re essentially curators of an online museum of music,” he said. “There’s plenty of accessible classical music through Spotify or YouTube, but the beauty of our station is we can introduce you to new music and give you a sense of the place, when it should be played, the artist behind it. Montreal is bigger than Baltimore, and yet there is no station like WBJC there. … To be paid to play music is magic.”
When he’s not at the station, Pavelsky teaches students at Osher programs at Towson University and Johns Hopkins. He has also taught classes at Beth El and Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation. He has an upcoming course on Beethoven at Beth El. He also loves to bicycle to and from work.
Carolyn Conte is a former staff writer of the Baltimore Jewish Times.