Howard Dicus

Music Host

Howard Dicus was a radio network anchor, reporter, and manager in Washington, D.C., until, after 22 years of part-time residence in Hawaiʻi, he moved here full-time to start life anew.

While at United Press International in the 1980s and 90s he reviewed classical CDs for the wire service, and in his spare time was president of the Washington Savoyards, an opera company focusing entirely on Gilbert & Sullivan.

Howard's Day Off is produced entirely by Howard from his own music collection and, unless he's off-island, he does the show live.

American composers born in the early 1900s, who came of age in the Roaring Twenties or during the Great Depression, were exposed to the music of Gershwin, Copland and Roy Harris while still young.

American classical music already existed for them. It was big, and wore its heart on its sleeve. Sometimes it could swing. It was tonal but unafraid of dissonance or modulation. This was their received music base.

George Gershwin was in his twenties in the Roaring Twenties. He stood out from other American composers of the same age because he became famous on Broadway before adapting his talents to classical music. Standing apart from Gershwin were composers who were classical through and through, yet belonged to their time as much – or almost as much – as Gershwin did.

On the evidence of attempts by many composers, it is not easy to meld classical music and jazz. Syncopation was rare in classical music before the Roaring Twenties. (The first example that comes to mind is the second theme of the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian.”)

While the Boston Six looked to Europe for training and inspiration, American popular music embraced the music of African Americans, and the racial divide, the severity of which is difficult to imagine today, could not prevent the music of black composers from influencing other composers.

The next group of American composers were born several years later than most of the Boston Six, most lived much later, and in style they were more diverse.

Early classical concerts in America were narrow in their focus. Almost every concert featured a Beethoven symphony. To be adventurous a conductor would program Liszt or even Bizet.

This nine-part history of American classical music will run through January and February on the HPR-2 program “Howard’s Day Off.” The essays covering the same material, which do not always accord precisely with the programs, are posted here in full.

We think of rock as recent, jazz as older, classical music as much older. But the actual chronology may adjust your perception of this.

Despite studying journalism in high school – I was editor of my high school newspaper – my first inspiration to break into broadcasting was that I thought it would be fun to be a deejay. I got sidetracked into radio news instead, liked it, and am happily doing broadcast news 46 years later. My career started in 1970 and when I moved full-time to Hawaiʻi at the end of 2000, I had never actually worked as a deejay and I had never worked in television. HPR made both things possible.

Join Howard Dicus for a look ahead at 2016 with Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerly, Outrigger head David Carrey, and real estate developer Stanford Carr. Included in the discussion will be: tourism, development, the homeless problem, and events in Japan and Europe.