There’s a warm remembrance of Bliss on the WRTI website, along with a lovely note by Debra Lew Harder. He died last week from COVID-19, following his wife Peggy, who was taken by the pandemic only a fortnight earlier. So sad.
I had seen Bliss playing in the bass section at various concerts, but first really met him at WWFM. He was interviewing conductor Roz Erwin and me, kindly promoting an upcoming concert that included something of mine, The Voice of One Who Spoke. I had little radio experience at the time, certainly nothing live—this was just a year into Fleisher Discoveries, which Jack Moore and I had cooked up in 2002, and always pre-taped. Although I can gab on cue, and sometimes even make sense, I was a bit nervous walking into the WWFM broadcast studio on the campus of Mercer County Community College as Bliss waved us in.
There isn’t much to the story, except everything that matters. Bliss immediately put me at ease by his kindness, professionalism, and humor. My eyes widened a little, watching him work the board, peek at the clock, and put on that game-face announcers do as the piece ends, swiveling their chair into position, locking onto the mic, hitting the on-air mic button, and then back-selling whatever piece just finished playing. He teased the interview with “my special guests in the studio,” did a live-read of an underwriter, hit a recorded 10-second something-or-other, came back on air, promoted his next piece, then turned to us and was his avuncular, smooth, prepared self as he began the interview.
But he was something more: Bliss was engaged. He asked whatever it was he asked, and we talked about whatever it was we talked about, but I could tell he was listening. It made me sit up a little. It made me feel that whatever I said mattered to him. He went with whatever we said, asked a brief question, or made a left turn if we made a left turn. He guided and followed, was ever at ease, and made me feel the same.
Then he thanked us with absolutely no hurry at the end of whatever time he had planned, and hit the ID exactly when he wanted to.
I got to know him as WRTI dragged me willingly more into the biz, as he came over increasingly to fill in. He was always prepared, always a professional, always unflappable, and—goodness, what an overlooked trait—always in a good mood.
Whatever I had been during my time on the radio, which continues tangentially with Fleisher Discoveries now as a solo podcast, I know was greatly informed by my wide-eyed watching of Bliss Michelson that day. I wanted to do what he was doing, with intelligence, humor, professionalism, and peace. Bliss, what a name you had. May you rest in peace with Peggy.