Massachusetts’ WFCR adds to capital campaign with Cosby fundraiser

By Mike Janssen

New England Public Radio in Amherst, Mass., got a helping hand earlier this month from a famous friend when listener and local resident Bill Cosby staged a benefit performance for the station’s capital campaign.

Cosby’s March 2 show at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., raised $140,000 for the station, drawing more than 2,000 attendees who each paid from $37.50 to $75 to see the comic.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby with staff members of New England Public Radio. (Photo: NEPR)

The event stemmed from relationships between Cosby and various station staff that developed over the past few years. Cosby first got in touch Tom Reney, host of the station’s weeknight jazz show, says General Manager Martin Miller.

Cosby and his wife then began donating money by sponsoring challenge grants during on-air fund drives, for which they were credited as “Dr. Bill and Dr. Camille.” The comedian visited the station in 2011 for an interview, and when he came back for a second interview, Miller discussed the station’s capital campaign with him.

Cosby returned a third time and told Miller that he wanted to put on the benefit concert.

Proceeds from the event support a $7 million campaign for a variety of initiatives at the network. NEPR will expand into new, 15,000–square-foot facilities in downtown Springfield and also renovate a satellite facility on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The campaign will also support a youth radio project and partnerships with local venues on events and performances, and help NEPR acquire new frequencies and replace aging equipment.

Cosby is a noted jazz fan and has also played drums; check out this clip in which he describes an early musical experience with saxophonist Sonny Stitt.

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