WFMT chief to depart after 16 years

Wed Aug 10, 2016 at 12:43 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Steve Robinson
Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson, who has led WFMT-98.7 FM as executive vice-president and general manager for more than a decade and a half, will be stepping down from his influential post on September 30.

“I have had for 16 years the most incredible journey that I could have ever hoped for,” said the veteran radio executive in a phone interview. “I knew a great trip was in store for me but I just had no idea what was going transpire.”

“And I had no idea of the passion and commitment and creativity and brilliance and knowledge of the whole staff. I was totally floored by that.”

The news, first revealed by Robert Feder in his column late Monday, took most on the local classical scene by surprise. Robinson stresses that it was his choice to leave Chicago’s classical station this fall.

“I decided completely on my own that now is the time to pass the baton to people with fresh ideas who can innovate and keep the ship afloat and keep it growing forward.” He added that he will be reaching a “milestone birthday” (70) in two weeks and decided “this was as good a time as any.”

He is satisfied with the fiscal and fundraising record of his tenure. “I was able to change the approach to fund-raising and in just a couple years we went from 17,000 members to 23,000 members.”

But Robinson’s proudest accomplishments of his 16 years are on the programming side. At the top of his list is the Bach Organ Project series with the composer’s complete organ works played on instruments at various venues around the city. He also launched Bill McGlaughlin’s popular Exploring Music, and created the Impromptu series and the show Introductions, which focuses on young musicians, for which he received a Champion award from the Merit School of Music.

As for the future, Robinson says he is looking forward to new, as yet unspecified ventures in the for-profit business world. “I’m an independent person now with lots of ideas.”

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