Rayhill's show down to once a week as WCNY-FM curtails jazz

After airing five nights a week since 1971 on WCNY-FM, Leo Rayhill's "Sounds of Jazz" has been trimmed to a single one-hour slot on Sunday evenings, starting Jan. 4.

Rayhill, the former owner of a successful roofing and siding business, lives in Fayetteville with his wife Joan.

Another jazz-oriented program, Dick Carr's "Big Bands, Ballads & Blues," is being dropped altogether from WCNY's schedule. Carr's show airs from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturdays, and signs off for the last time on Dec. 27.

Carr, who resides in Manlius, has been airing his show on WCNY for the past 16 months.

The changes allow the local National Public Radio affiliate to strengthen its commitment to classical music, but several area jazz enthusiasts consider the cutbacks regrettable.

"When you take jazz off the airwaves, young listeners will not be exposed to it," said Richard Ames of Fayetteville. "You're now leaving a void."

Ames is the president emeritus and founder of the Jazz Appreciation Society of Syracuse, whose board of directors met Monday Dec. 8 at the Fayetteville Free Library and drafted a letter objecting to the WCNY-FM schedule change. Ames planned to present the letter to the WCNY board of directors at its Dec. 10 meeting.

Syracuse Jazz Fest founder Frank Malfitano, said WCNY's decision reflects a national trend.

"Jazz has been quietly fazed out of NPR affiliates all over country for some time now," Malfitano said, "so this is not new, but it's an alarming trend. It's sad news for fans of Leo Rayhill, one of the greatest jazz broadcasters ever from this region. It's really unconscionable."

Malfitano lists Rayhill alongside the best jazz DJs in the country such as Willis Conover from Voice of America, Symphony Sid in NYC and Ed Love in Detroit.

WCNY-FM Program Director Peter McElvein defended the changes as part of the station's renewed emphasis on symphonic and chamber music.

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