Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

WBOI’s Julia Meek wants you to ‘Meet the Music’

Program serves as showcase for area musicians

Daily Driver was recently featured on WBOI's "Meet the Music."

Wheat Williams

Whatzup Features Writer

Published December 21, 2022

Look up “doyenne” in Oxford Dictionary of English and you’ll see the definition: “The most respected or prominent woman in a particular field.” Well, if the field is public radio in Fort Wayne, then Julia Meek is its doyenne and has been a dynamic advocate for the local music scene going on 45 years.

When I spoke with Meek, she told me first-hand about the history of local public radio, beginning around 1978 when she was a volunteer at the birth of what is now WBOI 89.1. She’s particularly happy to produce Meet the Music, the weekly show that’s run since 2010, and which you can hear every Thursday from 8-10 p.m., with a repeat the following Monday. 

Over the years, Meet the Music has been put on hold and brought back more than once. Today, it’s better than ever as it showcases every kind of music that Fort Wayne musicians create: classical, jazz, folk, and rock.

Meet the music meets delays

Meek is a freelance graphic artist and muralist, which seems like a strange entrance into the completely unrelated medium of radio. But she always saw it as a way of promoting other kinds of art than her own. 

“I started with WBOI back in the late ’70s,” she says, noting it was called WIPU at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. “It is not natural to have a whole bunch of community volunteers at a college station, but they did.”

Meek explained how in 1981 some community “heavy-hitters,” including executives from Lincoln National Life Insurance and Magnavox, raised enough money to fund the station and incorporate Northeast Indiana Public Radio, which occurred the same week the IPFW campus was swept up in the great 1982 flood. They were barely able to launch. 

Yet, “It become one of the biggest and continued as one of the longest-run of the original campus community radio stations,” she said.

The station started out airing albums of classical music, then jazz and folk. They joined National Public Radio in the ’80s and began to broadcast local recordings of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and local jazz. 

Meek was involved in all of it.

“Well, then, fast forward to 2007,” she said. “We had some visionaries that really understood that we had to grow our base.” Before that, “community connections were not a priority, and this is where Meet the Music comes in. There’s lots of good music everywhere you go, but I’ve always felt, geographically and demographically, that Fort Wayne has an amazingly better-than-average talented music base, and a broad base, too. Just by the ethnicities that have settled here and continue to. And then, we’re a hugely strong jazz mecca here in the Midwest. It’s something that I’ve always reflected on and been proud of about Fort Wayne.

“I asked, ‘How can we grow? How can we get people to join WBOI that don’t even know we’re here?’ ” she added. “Then I thought, ‘Well, my goodness, why don’t we do a sound stage show?’ I pitched it.”

Then another disaster struck: The 2008 Great Recession. 

Meet the Music got shelved for about a year and a half,” she said. “There had been a lot of extra corporate money for all public broadcasting for many philanthropic things, and at that point, it just dried up and it’s never come back.” 

Meet the Music finally launched in October 2010, “and it’s been going strong. We’ve had thousands of musicians.”

TV-quality performances

The station didn’t only use its studio. They went out into the community, “and this is the best part of the folk tale,” Meek said. 

WBOI records live bands at Taste of the Arts every year, and from 2018 recorded several multimedia productions at C2G Music Hall, now the Baker Street Centre. Then they started recording Friday Night Vibes at The Club Room at The Clyde where they could use its large stage to present groups from multiple genres of music, including rock acts.

“But then the biggest challenge came … COVID happened,” Meek said. “Nobody could do anything.” 

Despite live acts being forced into hibernation in mid-March 2020, Meek kept the show on the air weekly by using archived material. 

Now, 2022 brings a whole new venture: public-access television. 

“We are doing Meet the Music shows at Allen County Public Library and their Access Fort Wayne Studio A,” Meek said.

The first video production was in April, with violin and cello duo Coplin & Hoffman and singer-guitarists Lysaght & McRae. 

Meek was particularly happy with the program’s Dec. 1 holiday television broadcast from Baker Street Centre, featuring traditional Irish string band Soltre, and young funk-fusion band Los Galaxy, along with light spinners and dancers from Pyroscope Entertainment. The official launch of the video series was Dec. 8, with the jazz quartet Renz & Friends and vocal duo Basketcase. 

The People’s Choice Christmas Special Classic was held Dec. 15, featuring Alicia Pyle, and the Rick Brown Quartet playing Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas

The next video edition will air Thursday, Dec. 22, with touring Irish duet Jack & Joe and electric guitarist Don Carr’s power-trio Daily Driver.

Yet to come, on Dec. 29, the Meet the Music Holiday Special will showcase the Grace Minnick Trio, Tommy Saul, Mike Conley, and Ty Causey.

No shortage of talent

Looking forward to 2023, there will be performances by the likes of folk-rock artist Sunny Taylor, blues from the Gabe Bailey Duo, western swing from Carolyn and Dave Martin, the string band The Goat’s Beards, singer-guitarist Steve Holloway, acoustic duo JJ & McRae, Americana band Roustabout, ukulele duo Beeze & The Rocker, classic rock band Zen BBQ, and jazz bass player Micheal Patterson. 

Meek says there is so much good new music in this town that she asks bands to be patient, because it’s going to take a while to work them into the program.

To answer a frequently asked question, yes, you have to tune in every Thursday or Monday to hear these shows. WBOI can’t provide previous episodes as podcasts you can download. That would require paying extra licensing fees for the copyrighted music, which they can’t afford. 

So tune in to WBOI and check the schedule at the Allen County Public Library’s Access Fort Wayne TV. Be amazed at Fort Wayne musicians old and new being showcased in Meet the Music.


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