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Evelynn Hawkins :: Host Evening Sounds
Evelynn Hawkins is a broadcasting veteran, who has worked at both commercial and public radio stations in New York State, Ohio and Pennsylvania, prior to coming to WEMU and the state of Michigan.
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Evelynn grew up in a home where thanks to her parents, the late Howard Walter, Jr. and the late Lela June Ward Hawkins, she was exposed to a variety of music. Her dad loved jazz, especially, Hammond-B3 trio music. Her mom preferred classical music, having studied piano for over 10 years. Her aunt, the late Evelyn Ward Petty also was a major influence on her musical tastes, especially jazz.
Music was a constant in the Hawkins’ household. Chicago radio had exemplary stations on both the AM and FM dials. From the “World’ s Most Beautiful Music,” on WAIT-AM, the Metropolitan Opera on WGN-AM, to jazz late nights with Sid McCoy on WCFL-AM, and WSDM-FM, a jazz station with all female announcers owned by the Chess Brothers, of Chess Records fame, along with the popular Black radio station, WVON-AM. There was always something to hear in the house.
Evelynn’ s musical tastes were also formed by the music heard and performed by the choirs at St. Mark United Methodist Church (formerly Methodist Episcopal). Mr. Walter E. Gossett, the church organist, was instrumental in starting church traditions, such as performances of Handel’ s Messiah, beginning in 1936. Mr. Gossett’ s protégé, Charles Kendrick also contributed to the musical traditions of the church, as musical tastes changed.
Another source of musical inspiration was the Chicago Public Library’ s record collection. Evelynn listened to everything from movie soundtracks to music from Mali, blues and anything else that caught her fancy.
Evelynn began her career in broadcasting in 1984. This was after careers in education and working with a NGO in New York City.
She worked at a commercial radio station in Monticello, Sullivan County, NY, better known as New York’ s Catskills Mountains. (Think of the film Dirty Dancing, bungalow colonies, and where Woodstock was held on Max Yasgur’ s farm, 1969. Today the county has a Woodstock Museum!) Her first job in public radio came in September, 1985 at the public radio/TV combo station, WSKG in Binghamton, NY. Evelynn programmed classical music and assisted TV producers with musical selections for their shows. She helped initiate the collaboration between the radio station and the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for the 1988 New Music Tour featuring the Max Roach Quartet and Philip Glass.
WCPN-FM in Cleveland was Evelynn’ s next stop, where she wore several hats. In addition to her afternoon jazz show, she collaborated with the station’ s news department to provide stories on the arts for the daily public affairs program. She continued her interests in the arts and related areas while working at WDUQ-FM in Pittsburgh.
In Pittsburgh, Evelynn worked to help the station develop relationships with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar and the Carnegie Mellon University Jazz Orchestra. She was active with community arts programs, including the Heinz Endowments Small Arts Initiative where she served as a grants reviewer for 3 years.
Conductor/composer/pianist Sir André Previn wrote and dedicated the song, “Dr. DJ,” to Evelynn after being a guest on her show.
Wearing a different hat, Evelynn was a freelance narrator and interviewer for the Rivers of Steel Heritage Area, serving as an interviewer and narrator for their 13 part radio series, Tradition Bearers. These programs focused on the cultural and social history of the seven county Heritage Area in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Working at WEMU-FM marks a return to Michigan for Evelynn, who spent her childhood summers in Idlewild.
One of Evelynn’ s interests outside of radio, which is sometimes inspired by what she is doing on the radio, is conducting independent research. She gets to share her findings as a member of the Society for American Music, where she has presented papers to the Society on a number of topics. At the Society’ s 2001 meeting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, she presented the paper, “Through a Children’ s Looking Glass: Jazz as Depicted in Children’ s Literature.” In Tempe, AZ at the 2003 conference she led a panel discussion on “Public Radio, Music and Culture in the New Millennium.”