Meridee Duddleston

News Reporter, Arts Desk 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 morning news anchor and contributor of weekly Arts Desk features.

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.

Ways To Connect

Emil Rhodes, Family Collection

A new biography reveals what it was like to be the first woman to enter the all-male sanctum of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1930. 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. 

Music lives at LaRose Jazz Club in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. That's where sax player and local jazz legend Tony Williams has a steady Monday night gig. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston spends time with Tony Williams - now in his 80s - and finds out how this mainstay of the Philadelphia jazz scene keeps it fresh today and pursues his vision for tomorrow.

An educator, musician and mentor, Williams has been part of the jazz scene in Philadelphia and beyond for decades. His passion for jazz comes through as he blows on the saxophone in his Mount Airy home. Williams' humble altruism has also spilled out into the neighborhood. In the late 1970s, he spearheaded the formation of a number of teen jazz bands, including “Pieces of a Dream,” and the “Stenton Diner Teenage Jazz Band,” made up of teenagers from Germantown and Mount Airy.  And for over 35 years his Mount Airy Cultural Center has built a bridge to the next generation  - through jazz.

Let us know Where Music Lives in your community! Add your ideas in the comments section here and check out our other Where Music Lives posts.

This week, in 1722, an audience at London’s Stationers’ Hall first heard the now-famous Baroque suite commissioned for a king’s ceremonial boat ride on the River Thames. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston listens to Handel’s Water Music...in winter.

Born in Germany, George Frideric Handel moved to Britain as a young man and spent his most productive years there. He enjoyed the favor of the German-born King George I, and became a naturalized British subject in his early 40s. Handel's Water Music stands alongside his Messiah and Music for the Royal Fireworks as the best-known works of a composer who went from operas to oratorios.

DUDDLESTON: Music is a living thing. Along with a conductor’s interpretation, the performance of a composition reflects the sensibilities of the times.  A work can also grow in influence far beyond what it enjoyed during a composer’s lifetime. Water Music, so associated with George Frideric Handel, probably wasn’t an 18th-century blockbuster.

ZOHN: It would have been regarded at the time as kind of a relatively minor, obscure work by Handel. Nothing like it is today, where it’s one of Handel’s big hits.

DUDDLESTON: Temple University Music History Professor Steven Zohn, an expert on Baroque music, says King George I liked the hour-long work so well that he had the musicians play it three times. But five years later, when it was performed inside, no program survived; whether the audience heard all or just parts remains murky.

ZOHN: There was no full score for a long time. And, probably, Handel just kind of kept it close to his vest, you know, not wanting to let it out –because perhaps he had other ideas of how it could be used.

DUDDLESTON:  Later, during Handel’s lifetime, the 22 movements in the original single sequence were grouped together by key and instrumentation. And today, parts have played a role in television, movies, and advertisements. But Zohn says an undated score discovered in London in 2004 reinforces that Handel first conceived the work as a single composition to accompany one long, languorous cruise down the river.

  Information about Professor Steven Zohn's lecture at Princeton University.

This year's "One Book, One Philadelphia" choice gives voice to an American history story that's not widely known. The author of this year’s Free Library of Philadelphia selection spoke with WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston about her novel - The Buddha in the Attic.

Through mid-March the Free Library brings readers together to create new connections and understanding through literature. Author Julie Otsuka says she's not prescriptive about what readers take away from her short novel. Read it and decide for yourself.  

DUDDLESTON:  Author Julie Otsuka tells the story of first generation Japanese-American women who crossed the Pacific in the early 1900s as new wives of men known to them only through pictures and letters.   She depicts their steely bravery and how they come to grips with a reality that's a world away from what they expect.

OTSUKA:  I’m just, I’m kind of interested in fate.  You’re just assigned a mate pretty much at random and you have to make it work with that man.  There was no going back for these young girls because they were too poor to afford the ship passage back home.

DUDDLESTON:  The narrative is set against the backdrop of anti-Japanese prejudice  that led to the government-run internment camps during WWII.   The style, Otsuka says, is rhythmic - like the music of composer Steve Reich -  compulsive, propulsive with a hypnotic beat.

MUSIC:  Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint

OTSUKA:  I kind of feel like that's something that I'm aspiring to do with language. I mean I feel like there’s this secret underground rhythmic grid that holds the story together that has nothing to plot or with character, but it just has to do with the sound of the language and where the accents fall literally on the words.   Just the sound of words and language.

Audio Pending...

You know it when you hear it. This week, WRTI pays special attention to the historic expansion, 323 years ago, of the woodwind family - the addition of the clarinet.

MUSIC

DUDDLESTON: The unmistakable sound of the cat from Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf speaks to young and old. But without the inventiveness of a German instrument maker named Johann Christoph Denner back near the end of the 1600s, it would not have been heard.

Professor Emily Threinen of Temple's Boyer College of Music and Dance says there were reasons the sound of the clarinet was so novel.

THREINEN: What was different from other wind instruments at that time was that it had a single reed on a mouthpiece, unlike the oboe which has a double reed.


DUDDLESTON: In the next century it evolved from a single low-register instrument to one with two.  But it took some time for the clarinet to move up in the musical world. Originally, the woodwinds didn't have the status of the strings.

THREINEN: Wind instruments and wind players in the early forms and early design of wind instruments themselves were really attributed to more of the common person, or someone who was just sort of an entertainer and would pull out their flute and play "folksy-type" music around the pit fire.

MUSIC

DUDDLESTON: Today, the modern clarinet in the hands of a jazz or classical musician is a completely different proposition.

THREINEN: Right now clarinets can play very bright and shrill quite easily, but to produce a really dark, resonant, beautiful quality of sound itself is, I think, the greatest challenge of the instrument.

A new year, a new book to nurture the hearts and minds of Philadelphians - and everyone!  The award-winning novel by Julie Otsuka - The Buddha in the Attic - is a Japanese-American story of things left behind. It's this year’s One Book, One Philadelphia choice.

Starting January 17th through mid-March, The Free Library of Philadelphia will lead readers on a journey through the lives of Japanese-American “picture brides.” Their story starts with a voyage in steerage in the early 1900s, and culminates as they’re sent away to government internment camps during World War II. Otsuka’s rich portrayal reveals as much about our national character during those years as the personal resilience of these first-generation immigrants.  

This past fall, the author shared her thoughts about writing The Buddha in the Attic - a prequel to her first celebrated novel, When the Emperor was Divine.

More about the Free Library of Philadelphia's One Book, One Philadelphia initiative.

A long war between France and Spain winds down with a peace treaty.  A cross-border royal marriage solidifies the deal.  Over the course of the next several hours, Italian composer Guiseppe Verdi tests the limits of a king’s power, the good intentions of a jealous princess, and the loyalty of a dear friend. Underscoring it all, are the righteous fury of the Spanish Inquisition and the unfulfilled love of Spain’s Don Carlo and the virtuous Elizabeth of France, culminating in one puzzling conclusion.   

September 17, 2012 - With federal and statewide elections around the corner, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is taking a hard look at the state's voter ID law. With few exceptions, the law requires PA voters to show a qualifying photo ID to get into the voting booth. Will it be effective on Tuesday, November 6th?  That question was the focus of oral argument before the Commonwealth's High Court last week. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston presents a glimpse of the session. The hearing was broadcast by Pennsylvania Cable Network. Updates below...

Taking action against the battle of the bulge can feel like an Olympian effort, deserving of a bronze, silver, or gold. And there's always a new magical promise for dropping those pounds. WRTI's Meridee Duddleston checks in with leading obesity experts about what actually works when it comes to slimming down.

The Philadelphia Orchestra has filed its plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in which it has agreed to pay $5.49 million to creditors. Just over a year after seeking relief in bankruptcy court, the Orchestra has realigned key financial obligations by moving from a defined benefit to defined contribution retirement plan, renegotiating its lease with the Kimmel Center, and ending its relationship with Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.

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