WGBH-TV Encouraged Live Music for Decades

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Bill Cosel

We lost another great: Tony Bennett. I love the Boston Globe pictures of him from Evening at Pops on the front page and online.


Tony Bennett, right, and Arthur Fielder performed a Cole Porter medley at the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall in Boston on May 26, 1977, the first of six appearances there.


Tony Bennett performed at opening night at the Boston Pops in 1992.

That also reminds me of our show, Bennett and Basie Together at the Copley Plaza with Dave McKenna, piano, and recorded live with Count Basie Orchestra at the Berkeley Performing Arts Center. All WGBH productions and some of my early director assignments. So much fun.

Here is the first part of that concert, with Bennett and McKenna:


Later, we went to the Newport Jazz Festival; David Atwood will remember. Sitting in the Mobile Unit, I looked up and wondered why Herbie Mann (on flute) was sideways.  A camera in the pit tipped over. I think it was David Atwood, who was on another camera, who jumped to rescue and reset the camera.

Then there was weekly Friday Night Jazz live from Studio A. This weekly unrehearsed show was a joy to direct collaborating with the camera crew … none of us knew what was coming next.  This unleashed all our passions for a fluid sense, using all our skills, with freedom for all. Wil Morton made a mix on the fly, Chas Norton brightened up the studio.

One Friday on Jazz, I wondered if Thelonious Monk would show. The producers were at the motel getting him into the car.  Assured he’d be there, we went on the air with just the rhythm section, bass, and drums – WOW. Then, in walks Thelonious sixty seconds later as if it had been rehearsed.  In the spirt of LIVE television.

It was great when Jazz morphed into Mixed Bag with fresh moves, new voices, and sounds.  Lee Tanner and David Atwood drove the show forward. All were extemporaneous events.

Bill Cosel was a 1962 BU scholar, was hired as director 1964, and then served as producer director of Evening at Pops and many other music productions  for WGBH.


  1. David Atwood on August 4, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks Russ, I totally agree with everything you have said above


  2. shangeo17 on July 28, 2023 at 9:04 pm

    Hi. Bill
    You might not remember me but I delivered you your mail and ran errands for you. I was in the mailroom on Main St. and later worked with Fred on remotes at WHDH after the fire. I’m glad to see the names of Fred Barzyk , Charlie Norton, and yourself still posting. I remember all of you fondly. Wow, the years do go by!

  3. Russ Fortier on July 28, 2023 at 7:02 pm

    I’d like to add more context to the Newport story, and so, offer the additions below which, to me, are key to the story..

    David Atwood’s recollection is correct: the camera I was running tipped over.

    My recollection #1:

    The too-small platform on which the camera was located was poorly built. Add to this that an earlier rain storm had soaked and warped it. The cable skirt of the mount (not a true tripod, but a three-wheeled stalk – PD10?) caught on the separation between floor panels and this why the top-heavy setup pitched over.

    My recollection #2:

    When Atwood “jumped to the rescue,” I went to the stage to run the camera he abandoned to help engineering. I hope this puts to rest any impression that I passively stood by, hands in pockets, while the rest of the crew triaged the downed camera.

    So, it takes a village…

    But I also want to acknowledge that working as cameramen on Jazz and Mixed Bag made us proficient not only in the physical aspects of camera operation, but also the visual in a very special way.

    We were able to move large, pedestal mounted cameras around the studio as if they weighed little; racking turreted lenses quickly and silently. And selling shots to the directors, airing one and looking ahead to the next; some bought, some rejected, all followed quickly by others. Bought. Sold. Beautiful.

  4. Michael Ambrosino on July 28, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    Glad to hear that!

    Lynn and I will be in Lenox for a few weeks in August and I hope we can share a meal.

    Michael Ambrosino

  5. Marilyn Greenstein on July 28, 2023 at 4:10 pm

    I remember the Tony Bennett and Count Basie concert at Berkeley College in Boston. Bill? We worked on it together. I booked them. Count Basie died soon after that. You were great Bill.

  6. Claudia Allyn Downey on July 28, 2023 at 2:28 pm

    YES, WE WERE!!!!!

  7. Deedee Morss Decker on July 28, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    My first job at GBH in 65 was reading score for Bill in the bus, live at Symphony Hall on Friday afternoons. I was terrified, but we did it, week after week. Bill was a great teacher and friend during my few years at GBH.

  8. musicincorrales on July 28, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    I think the caption on the second photo of Bennett (1992, holding mic with both hands) is incorrect. According to the BSO website, John Williams became conductor of the Pops in 1980.

    • Jay Collier on July 28, 2023 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks, Lance! I removed that reference.

  9. Prestone on July 25, 2023 at 4:33 pm

    Whew!!! Threw me for a bit there.

    Don’t remember the early TB Pops show or the Jazz show, but I do remember being backstage at Pops 92 chatting with Mr. Bennett about painting. As in, what to do if you had the idea but not the talent to realize it. He said, “keep trying.” It was a fascinating conversation. So much so, I nearly forgot to cue him to go on.. Almost but not quite. And anyway, he was a gazillion times more professional than I ever dreamt of being.

  10. Preston on July 25, 2023 at 4:28 pm

    OK – but who is this Frederick Barzyk?? And where’s Fred?

  11. Philip Garvin on July 24, 2023 at 4:11 pm

    My comment is about Bill Cosel, I was not involved with Pops during my two and a half years at WGBH.  But Fred Barzyk mentioned the sense of family and creativity, so I would like to say something about the role Bill played in all that.
    I met Bill when I first arrived at WGBH in 1973 as the 26 year old producer-director of Religious America.  Michael Rice had taken a chance on a novice filmmaker, but to cover his bet he asked Bill to provide some “guidance” (otherwise known as supervision) for my sometimes headstrong approach. Most people don’t know that Bill had gone to seminary and was familiar with religious life and spirituality.
    Throughout the production of the 13-part series Bill used an incredibly soft touch with me and lovingly helped produce an unusual group of documentaries.  Not surprisingly, we became lifelong friends.
    Turn the clock forward about thirty years: I was running HDNet, which I had co-founded with Mark Cuban, and we needed a director for a Placido Domingo concert we were doing.  Bill came to the rescue and led the production of a very special evening.  Bill’s love of music combined with incredible attention to musical detail matched his awesome humanity.
    Philip Garvin

  12. William Nathan Cosel on July 23, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve had some calls… This is not my obit, it’s Tony Bennett’s obit with my memories of him. I’M VERY MUCH ALIVE. Enjoying remembering what fun I had in the world of television. XOXOX Bill Cosel

    • Jay Collier on July 23, 2023 at 1:44 pm

      Oh no! I’ve edited the post a bit. I hope that will dispel any misunderstandings!

  13. Frederick Barzyk on July 23, 2023 at 8:39 am

    Yea!!! Bill!!!! You and so many others made WGBH the best TV station in the country. It will take some historian to make sense of the energy, creativity, and sense of family that was WGBH. Write more if you can. I tip my hat to you as the best music producer/director in the land. much love, Fred

  14. Chas Norton on July 22, 2023 at 8:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your memories and bringing back the flavor of excitement of the early years – for me – at GBH.
    More about Jazz and Mixed Bag and our colleague Lee Tanner.

  15. Larry leCain on July 22, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    Loved hearing your recollections Bill! Weren’t we lucky to be at GBH then?

  16. David Atwood on July 22, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    What a time! JAZZ, (as I remember that aired on Wednesdays 7:30pm) was a joy. I was on the crew hanging lights etc. (Thanks Chas) until they found out I could run camera pretty well then I got assigned to the show. It was an ad libbed shot feast. But I think the main attraction for the amazing collection of front line jazz musicians that came to do the show was the audio. As I remember we were respected for the audio quality so they felt comfortable doing the show.

    We did two Evening at Pops shows with Tony, 1977 & 1992 For the 92 show as we started into rehearsal Tony walked over to me, called me by name to say hello. Then he tactfully asked if I couldn’t shoot him principally from the other side, different that the earlier show, I was so charmed at how he went about it I agreed on the spot.

    Yes, that camera tipping over happened in Newport. It was Russ Fortier’s camera I believe, I jumped to the rescue and ran it for the rest of the show as it was damaged but once we got it upright I could get a shot from it.

  17. John B. Gray on July 22, 2023 at 5:17 pm


    What a lovely sharing!

    Many thanks!.


  18. William Charette on July 22, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    Great refections Bill. Would love to hear more from you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.