Fred Kasten

Announcer & Producer

Fred is an independent contributing radio producer/host at WWNO. After working at WWNO for over 20 years as an on-air talent, producer and program director, Fred retired from full-time work in May of 2007. Fred is a native of Mobile, Alabama, a graduate of the University of Alabama, and a long-time resident of New Orleans.

In addition to his work at WWNO, Fred develops independent audio projects from a home studio, producing radio features, commercials and podcasts. Fred also does marketing and media consulting for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.

Elliott Hammer / Flickr

Great New Orleans jazz singer Germaine Bazzle’s formal music education began at the Xavier Junior School of Music under the tutelage of the accomplished and very demanding Sister Mary Latitia.

“She is the one, when you hear that little sound that I make, she is the one that demonstrated that to the orchestra when we were playing as she wanted something done,” Bazzle explained. “She wanted to show the trumpets or trombones, the brass people, how to do a certain thing. And when I started doing gigs I found myself doing that.”

Great New Orleans trumpeter and vocalist Gregg Stafford spent much of his childhood in the Central City neighborhood. He saw lots of parades, often sang in church, and developed a real love of music.

When it came time for high school, Stafford had the chance to join the school band — if his mother approved. So he told her, “I don’t have an elective at the moment, so the band instructor asked me, would I be interested in music? ‘Oh no, no, no, no; I don’t have no money to pay for no horn, so you can just scratch that,’” she told him.

Saxophonist Joshua Redman grew up in Berkeley, California, a very high achiever academically who turned to music for fun.

“I loved music, and I loved listening to it and I loved playing it, but I wasn’t serious about it. Music was kind of an escape, it was kind of a relief for me from the more rigorous aspects, the more studious aspects, of academics,” Redman says. “That was kind of how I let myself go and have fun.”

Courtesy of the artist

George Cables is a superb pianist, an outstanding composer with a real gift for melody. He was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Queens. He started piano in grade school, and liked taking traditional lessons and studying classical music right away.

“I did like the piano. I had a crush on my piano teacher,” he said.

Cables studied classical piano at the Manhattan High School for the Performing Arts, and found a way to incorporate jazz into his afternoon commute home.

Johnette Downing is an award-winning singer and songwriter of music for kids. A New Orleans native, and the daughter of musical parents, Downing felt the call to perform since she was in kindergarten.

Today on The Sound of Books with Fred Kasten, the new book by acclaimed stage and magic historian Jim Steinmeyer: Who Was Dracula? Bram Stoker's Trail of Blood.

George Duke is one of the most sought-after and accomplished players and producers in music. He grew up in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.

Topsy Chapman is one of New Orleans’ most engaging and soulful singers. Her mix of gospel, blues, traditional jazz and swing proves both captivating and uplifting. And, when Topsy Chapman blends her fine voice with those of her daughters Jolynda Phillips and Yolanda Windsay in the vocal trio Solid Harmony, it’s magic.

Robert Ascroft

Wayne Shorter is one of the top saxophonists and composers in jazz. It was, strangely enough, getting caught at 15 years old playing hooky from school that put him on a path into music. His punishment: enrollment in the music theory course at his Newark, NJ arts high school.

Bluegrass Hall of Famer Del McCoury’s folks came from the mountains of western North Carolina, but he grew up on a farm in York County, Pennsylvania, less than an hour’s drive from Baltimore.

“My dad and my older brother listened to the Grand Ol’ Opry every Saturday night,” McCoury said. It was before television, in the middle- to late-1940s.

“At a young age I heard Earl Scruggs, and that’s what got me into music.”