Daniel Béland hosts his weekly radio show on Saskatoon community station CFCR.

Professor’s radio show a labour of love

He is one of the country’s most highly regarded public policy professors and a respected regular contributor for national media like CTV and CBC.

By James Shewaga
He has published more than a dozen books and a hundred peer-reviewed journal articles, holds a Canada Research Chair in Public Policy and has filled visiting fellowships overseas in Denmark and Finland as well as at world-class U.S. schools like Harvard and George Washington University.

But it was while working part-time at McDonald's, of all places, that University of Saskatchewan (U of S) political sociologist Daniel Béland first discovered his passion. Just to be clear, we are talking Brahms, not burgers, as classical music quickly became a feast for the ears for Béland.

"It started when I was a teenager (17 years old) when I met someone when I was working for McDonald's and he was listening to classical music during his breaks and he started to tell me about it and I started to buy some recordings," said Béland, who grew up in Quebec and moved to Saskatoon back in 2008 to teach at the U of S. "So that's the way it started."

Béland's taste for classical music continues to this day, as he cooks up a smorgasbord of symphonic delights on his weekly live local radio show that he has hosted every Monday night for the past seven years.

"I do have the passion for it, yes," said Béland, whose 90-minute classical music show Classical Discoveries is broadcast Monday evenings from 7-8:30 on CFCR 90.5 FM and also carried live on the internet.

"I enjoy it. When you invest four or five hours a week (of studio time, as well as several hours writing program notes) every week, you have to enjoy it. And I spend a lot more time thinking about programming as well."

Béland's commitment to showcasing classical music has been a challenge at times over the years, given his busy schedule on and off campus with travel, teaching and research. But all those unpaid hours as a volunteer host on local non-profit community radio give the 44-year-old a chance to pursue his passion by showcasing prominent Canadian composers and musicians, supporting the local symphony and music scene and the freedom to feature a wide variety of eras and genres.

"The show is devoted to, and the focus is on, lesser-known composers or lesser-known works by well-known composers," said Béland, who estimates he has at least 4,000 albums in his extensive classical music collection. "I like to discover new repertoire. Every week I discover new compositions and new recordings and I try to feature that on my show. And of course I play the great classics as well, but always alongside new discoveries, and this includes quite a bit of contemporary or modern music, including Canadian music."

Personally, Béland's most beloved composer is German Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), while his favourite piece of music is the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959).

But Béland is also a big backer of the local music scene, from the Elixir Ensemble and the U of S Wind Orchestra to U of S music professor and Hungarian composer Gyula Csapó, who has been a guest on Béland's show. Béland and his wife Angela Kempf—who previously worked in alumni relations and development at the U of S and is now director of development at the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO)—are also strong supporters and donors to the SSO.

His show serves as a perfect platform for promoting local music and for Béland to celebrate classical composers from around the world.

"Each show has a specific theme or a focus on an instrument or an era or a specific genre, so it is really diverse," said Béland. "I select the repertoire and the theme and what pieces I will play, and then I have to write notes to introduce each piece. And from a local aspect, I promote and talk about the classical music concerts and music activities in town, and sometimes the lectures at the university here … It is quite a bit of work, but I really enjoy it."