I often describe my show as “gospel, spiritual and inspirational music from New Orleans and beyond.” This allows me to push the envelope of what most consider “gospel” music and, in turn, to introduce listeners to music that they otherwise might not discover on their own (Christian Zydeco, anyone?).
When I was first asked to fill in for the beloved Brother Jess’s gospel show, I was somewhat intimidated. However, when I went home and perused my collection, I realized there actually was a lot of gospel in there, I just had to tease it out. So I did just that, and I was delighted to find that listeners, as well as the station, were pleased with, and interested in what I had to share! Later, when Brother Jess stepped down and I was asked to become the permanent show host, I promised myself that I would create each show with a lot of love, accuracy, and respect. I still strive each and every week to keep that promise.
I’m a blues girl at heart, which is why a lot of roots music seeps in. So many blues and pop singers started in the church! Some crossed over into secular music and stayed there, some went back, but my mission each week is to bring as much of that music to my listeners as I can. There are endless interesting directions in which I can go each week, as gospel music spills over into so many areas, such as civil rights, work songs, and blues. I don’t pretend to be a preacher, but I do strive to bring out the depth, breadth, and soul of gospel; where it comes from, as well as how it relates to so many facets of life and history.
Folks often call me with requests to celebrate an event that is important to them, or perhaps they are grieving. Or, they will share that a certain song, or the direction in which I was taking a particular set, really resonated with them that day. They’ll say things like, “I woke up feeling down and your show really lifted me up.” When unable to attend services during COVID, some even called to say, “The gospel show is my church.” That is remarkably humbling.
Because of the nature of radio, the show hosts at WWOZ are engaging our listeners in conversations every day. Though we more often than not do not hear the listener’s side of those conversations, we are connecting with them in a very intimate way. It’s an incredible honor to be the station that they allow into their homes, cars, and lives, and with whom they choose to share their time, when there are so many other choices out there!
-Lauren Mastro, WWOZ Show Host
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