Meridee Duddleston

News Reporter, Arts & Culture Reporter

Meridee began reporting in the newsroom at WRTI in 2003 while working toward a master's degree in journalism at Temple University.  Since that time, her duties have expanded to news anchor and contributor to WRTI's arts and culture series, Creatively Speaking.

A graduate of Hamline University School of Law, Meridee grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and practiced law before making a major leap into the world of journalism. She also holds a graduate degree from New York University School of Law and received a B.A in Political Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

In 2011, Meridee was recognized for outstanding public affairs reporting by the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcaster's Association (PAPBA) with awards for two News & Views stories. She received 1st place for "Baby Boomers Becoming Seniors: A Growing Population in Philadelphia," and 2nd place for "TUNE UP PHILLY: Classical Music Instruction as a Vehicle for Social Change."

Meridee can be heard weekday mornings between 6 and 10 am.

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Creatively Speaking
5:01 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Philadelphia’s First Messiah Concert: The Doors Closed Promptly at 11:00 AM

An 1825 publication by a Philadelphia publisher of the full oratorio, The Messiah arranged for organ.

Philadelphia’s role in the formation of our government is characteristic of a time when the city and its leading residents were forging firsts of all kinds. As Handel’s Messiah is performed this holiday season, WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston wondered when and where those first citizens might have heard the great Baroque work.

Linda Wood is assistant head librarian in the music department at the Free Library of Philadelphia.  She compiled several reference materials relating to the first performance and other early performances of Handel’s Messiah.

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Creatively Speaking
3:56 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Listen To This: The Dreamiest Chopin You've Ever Heard

Pianist Chad Lawson's "The Chopin Variations," performed with violinist Judy Kang and cellist Rubin Kodheli, presents the music of Chopin in a whole new way.

After being featured on NPR's All Things Considered, Chad Lawson's CD, The Chopin Variations, shot to No. 1 on iTunes Classical before it was even released in September, 2014. Lawson's interpretation of Chopin's nocturnes, preludes, and waltzes involves a surprising reconfiguration of the piano, and offers a sense of intimacy with the music that is likely new to most listeners.

WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston learns about the power of simplicity in her conversation with pianist Chad Lawson.

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Creatively Speaking
1:05 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Pushing Jazz Performance In New Directions

Philadelphia Jazz Project is promoting the Mysterious Travelers Concert Series at the Free Library. It features free monthly concerts running through April 2015. Above is drummer Wayne Smith, Jr, performing on December 8th at 7 pm.
Howard Pitkow Photography

A former WRTI host stays close to jazz with an organization designed to extend its reach. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston speaks with the founder of the Philadelphia Jazz Project.

Have popular “performance spectacles” replaced the straightforward dance between a jazz artist and an instrument? Director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project, Homer Jackson, is considering that question and innovative approaches to the performance of music that has often depended upon an intimate feel - and feeling.

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Creatively Speaking
8:09 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Seniors Sing Out Loud and Strong: The Benefits of Joining a Choir

Darina Petrovsky, a predoctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, has worked with older adults since she became a nurse. She also has a music background. Bringing these two areas of expertise together, Petrovsky created a small choir for older adults, organized through The Penn Memory Center. 

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Creatively Speaking
8:02 am
Mon November 17, 2014

Harpist Edna Phillips And The Philadelphia Orchestra: One Woman In A Hundred

Photo inscribed for Edna's student, Carolyn Nicosia. It reads: To Carolyn with affectionate good wishes for her good future! Edna Phillips, 1951
Carolyn Nicosia

A biography by writer Mary Sue Welsh reveals what it was like to be the first woman to enter the all-male sanctum of The Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1930s. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston discovered the powerful combination of talent and fear. 

On September 14, 1930, the headline of The Philadelphia Public Ledger read: "Solo Harpist to Be First Girl in Philadelphia Orchestra." A young Edna Phillips entered the single-sex fortress of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1930 - a year after pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff called it "the finest orchestra the world has ever heard." She’d played the harp for only five years when she was hired as the first female member and principal harpist.  Her "musicalité" may have been obvious to the pioneering Leopold Stokowski, but was she ready? What was it like to be the only woman among men at a time when gender equality and workplace mores were far different from what they are today?

Author Mary Sue Welsh worked with the observant, warm, and funny Phillips on her story during Phillips’ lifetime, completing it after the first harpist’s death in 2003.  True to Phillips’ desire, it’s as much about the challenges and triumphs of her own life, as about how the Orchestra grew and responded to its conductors - particularly Leopold Stokowski.

Carolyn Nicosia studied with Edna Phillips in the early 1950s. [After hearing our feature on Edna Philips, Carolyn contacted Meridee and shared a personal remembrance and an inscribed photo.  Thank you, Carolyn Nicosia!]

How I became a student of Edna Phillips:

My mother’s mother (Maria Quintile Riccardi) migrated to the U.S. from a village in Italy that had produced many harpists.  Her brothers also came to the U.S. and took up their musical careers.  Joseph Quintile was harpist for the St. Louis Symphony and later for film studios in Hollywood.  Anthony Quintile was a bass player who played at various venues and also taught bass and solfeggio (he taught me when I was a child of 8 or 9).

My mother’s brothers almost all made their living as musicians, mostly bass players.  Rex Riccardi worked with Petrillo to found the Musicians’ Union.  

Of my cousins, several of the boys also became musicians, either piano or bass.  One, Frank Caster, was a student at Curtis, who became a member of the Washington Symphony and then the San Francisco Symphony.  Another became a restorer of violins in addition to playing bass.

When I was a child I started harp lessons at age 6 or 7.  My teacher at that time was Joseph Leonardo.  It was he who found a small-sized Lyon and Healy harp for me and made arrangements of music so that no key changes were required during playing because my feet could not reach the pedals.

Over the years I was on and off again with practicing.  Then, during one of his family visits East, Uncle Joe Quintile told my mother that I should try again to take up the harp seriously, and it was he who contacted Edna Phillips and asked her to take me as a pupil.  I was about 14 or 15 years old.

As a student of Edna Phillips:

Edna Phillips came to our house to see my harp and meet my family.  She agreed to take me as a student.  Since we had little money and even her “professional courtesy” charge per hour was beyond our means, Miss Phillips agreed to take me for a half hour at her house on Sundays.

I traveled by trolley and 2 buses to her home near what was formerly The Textile Institute.  It seemed to me to be a very large and impressive house, but she was very kind to me when I went for lessons.

I remember Miss Phillips telling me stories about Carlos Salzedo of Curtis - his method of playing harp and his design of a new harp made by Lyon and Healy.  Miss Phillips later had one of the Salzedo harps.

One aspect of the Salzedo method was the way the arms were to be held, to give more strength.  Miss Phillips said that she was once playing for a great conductor (probably Stokowski) who felt that the new method wasn’t allowing her tone to be loud enough.  So she fooled him, playing exactly the same way in two instances, but in one of them she threw up her hands after the passage, to the great approval of the conductor who said she had given him just what he wanted.  

Once I was invited to stay for lunch and I met Mr. Rosenbaum and their two children.  It was all new and grand to me.  I remember the setting very well.

Another time the weather had become cold so Miss Phillips lent me a sweater to wear on my long journey back home.  I had never felt anything so soft!  I learned later that it was cashmere.

It wasn’t long before Miss Phillips realized that I wasn’t really a musician.  Knowing our limited finances, she suggested to my mother that I transfer to one of the students of harp at Curtis, Nanette Norton.  She told me wonderful stories about what they were learning from Salzedo.

However, as I mentioned above, I really didn’t have the talent.  It seems that the musical ability in our family has passed from generation to generation only to the males.  We females can sing well enough to join choirs or take music lessons on various instruments, but none of us are professional musicians.  So I gave up my studies.  I kept the harp for many years until finally I sold it.

-Carolyn Nicosia
 

Creatively Speaking
7:26 am
Mon November 10, 2014

From Philadelphia to The Top!

French horn player Ray Seong Jin Han, a freshman at Curtis, is accompanied by pianist Christopher O'Riley, host of FROM THE TOP.

The nationally syndicated public radio program From the Top features gifted young classical musicians from all over the country. They’re always super talented - and often very amusing as they chat with host Christopher O'Riley - which all adds up to great radio. More than 250 public radio stations broadcast the show.

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Creatively Speaking
7:15 am
Mon November 3, 2014

How a Mentor Inspired A Life In Music: Blanche Burton-Lyles Keeps Marian Anderson’s Memory Alive

Pianist Blanche Burton-Lyles, the first African American woman to graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music, was mentored by Marian Anderson.
Jessica Kourkounis

A classical pianist considered Marian Anderson’s protégé was the beneficiary of the opera star’s generous encouragement and wisdom.  As a child, Blanche Burton-Lyles lived in South Philadelphia near the home that Marian Anderson called her "dream home."  Anderson knew Blanche’s parents, and would invite the young prodigy to her home to play the living-room piano. It was a life-long relationship. And even in her later years, Burton-Lyles and Anderson kept up through letters after Anderson moved to the West Coast. 

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Creatively Speaking
12:40 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

A New Orchestra Brings Classical Music to Small PA Towns & Cities

Michael Butterman is music director of the Pennsylvania Philharmonic

The Pennsylvania Philharmonic, a professional orchestra launched over the summer of 2014, is hitting the road to bring classical music to Pennsylvania's many small cities and towns. With an emphasis on community engagement and performing for young people, the 70-member ensemble is breaking new ground at its children’s concerts, which is not ancillary, but central to its identity.

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Creatively Speaking
6:02 am
Mon October 20, 2014

Your Brain On Music: The Science Behind The Pleasure

It’s no secret that a favorite piece of music can evoke profound pleasure and emotion. We've all experienced the “chills” response. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston hears from a neuroscientist about the visceral and culturally conditioned effect of music on the brain.

For over three decades, Dr. Robert Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University has researched and broken down the complex set of interactions that occur when we experience sounds strung together to produce a full range of emotions - from the sublime to the soulfully sad.

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Creatively Speaking
11:33 am
Mon October 13, 2014

What Do Frederic Chopin and Abraham Lincoln Have In Common?

From the Raab Collection: a receipt for payment from Frederic Chopin's publisher, Schlesinger, for Opus 74 - what would end up being his final number opus. It's 17 songs composed by Chopin over his lifetime for piano and voice, set to Polish texts.

A family-owned business in Ardmore, PA is based upon a shared appreciation of one-of-a kind messages from the past. At any given moment, The Raab Collection contains letters, memos, signed photos, and other writings by some of the nation's, and the world's, most prominent historical figures.  

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