FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music presented its Centennial Award to WFIU Public Radio announcer George Walker on July 15 “for his generosity, advocacy and steadfast commitment to the promotion of a community’s relationship with live performance of all genres.”
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Walker came to IU in fall 1966 to begin a master’s program in teaching English. Shortly thereafter, he auditioned to be a news announcer at WFIU but was hired to be a part-time classical music announcer instead.
While he did earn his teaching degree, the die was cast, and Walker will celebrate his 45th anniversary as a full-time employee of the station on July 25. He will retire on July 29.
“As most of south-central Indiana knows, George Walker has served as the signature voice of WFIU and the IU Bloomington campus for more than 50 years,” said Abra Bush, David Henry Jacobs Bicentennial Dean. “He has been a tireless advocate for live performance of myriad types on campus and throughout the region and has been a particular champion of the Jacobs School of Music. We are so grateful for everything he has done to educate us all and to espouse an immersive relationship with arts and culture.”
Walker has seen many changes over the decades, including the creation and success of the NPR network and huge changes in broadcast technology.
“In May 1980, George Walker hired me to work part time at WFIU,” said Sylvia McNair, Jacobs School alumna and former faculty member. “Of all four jobs I held as a struggling graduate student at the music school, the WFIU gig was my favorite. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was training me for work that has become a lifelong passion: NPR!
“George taught me how to front- and back-announce pieces, cue up records and use carts for those 30- and 60-second breaks between pieces of music, and splice tape. He showed me how to rip the most recent news off the AP wire and get back to the studio just in time to read it live. He even taught me how to pronounce ‘w’ correctly. I am so thankful for George Walker and everything he has done for WFIU, the Jacobs School of Music and the surrounding communities.”
When Walker’s responsibilities grew to encompass arts coverage in the region, he began reviewing hundreds of productions, including operas, musicals, plays and concerts, ending each segment with his now iconic “At the theater for you … .”
Walker was a regular fixture in the audience of most IU Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater productions for decades and conducted hundreds of interviews with Jacobs School faculty, staff, students and guest artists. Some of his most treasured faculty memories are of the late jazz pioneer David Baker and violinist Josef Gingold, and pianist Menahem Pressler.
“I am so proud and honored to receive this award from the remarkable Jacobs School of Music,” said Walker. “I feel very fortunate to have spent my classical radio career benefiting and learning from Jacobs faculty, staff and students, and enjoying hundreds of marvelous performances. WFIU is such a special radio station primarily because of the Jacobs School.”