Lois Reitzes’ 44 years at WABE radio!
Lois Reitzes’ voice is instantly recognizable: deep, with a gentle vibrato. It’s as familiar to many Atlantans as the Braves or Coca-Cola and it’s heard daily across WABE-FM’s many platforms.
Founded in 1948, and an NPR affiliate since 1971, the public radio station celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. Reitzes has been with the station for 44 of those years. When WABE was all classical music, she hosted the popular “Second Cup Concert,” spinning Bach and Beethoven. (Reitzes now programs and hosts the show on the station’s HD Classics channel.) “Spivey Soirée” was another Reitzes specialty that ran from 2003 to 2019 and showcased classical concerts from Spivey Hall, the performance venue on the campus of Clayton State University in Morrow.
Today she’s the voice of “The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Broadcast,” which she has hosted since 1992, and “City Lights with Lois Reitzes,” the arts and culture interview show at 11 a.m. each weekday morning.
Music has been the consistent thread in Reitzes’ life, although she has said she loves the Muppets and Mel Brooks as much as Mozart. Born in Evanston, Illinois, she started playing the piano at 3 and has perfect pitch. She earned a bachelor’s in music from the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University in 1975 and studied musicology in grad school at Indiana University. Her first job in radio was as a music host with WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. In the late 1970s, when her husband, Don, got a teaching job at Georgia State University, they moved to Atlanta, and in 1979 she launched her career at WABE.
Over the years, she became an Atlanta celebrity, her name synonymous with public radio. In 2015, the station changed from a classic music mainstay to a news and talk format. The switch gave Reitzes a broader and more varied platform with “City Lights.”
Her guests range from artists and actors to authors (Reitzes is a voracious reader), composers, comedians, restaurateurs, dancers and more. “Dance was not in my wheelhouse, but I soon learned that they are some of the best storytellers,” she says.
The racial reckoning after George Floyd’s murder in 2020 marked another important shift for Reitzes. She had regularly covered established black arts organizations such as True Colors Theatre Company and the National Black Arts Festival, but lesser known black artists and arts groups “had not been recognized as they should,” Reitzes says. Now they are.
Reitzes has seen seismic changes in radio as it moved from broadcast only to HD radio, streaming and podcasts. She has gracefully embraced every new development, moving from host to program director to director of Arts and Culture and now executive producer and host of “City Lights.” In 2017 she received the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities for her career.
She and her husband still live in the home they first bought when they moved here. He has retired, but Reitzes, 70, has no desire to stop doing what she does. “I’m just so fortunate to do what I love.”
Broadcast journalism is a highly competitive field, but both Georgia State University and the University of Georgia offer degrees in journalism, often a step toward a career in radio. Volunteering or interning at radio stations is also a great way to learn the business and develop contacts in the field.
STORY: Carol E. Ryerson
PHOTO: Joann Vitelli
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