Joan Canfield: Botanical music host

October 1st, 2009  |  by  |  Published in People  |  5 Comments

Joan Canfield

First radio task: Organizing more than 12,800 CDs into a searchable database
Current shift: 6–8 p.m. weekdays
Challenge: Correct show timing and programming lineup and being sufficiently prepared to go on air
Power of music: “That ability to remind the listener of a specific time or memory, that’s the really neat thing.”
Career advice: “Everything you’ve done contributes to what you end up doing, you just don’t know where it’s going to lead.”

How does a botanist from Virginia end up broadcasting classical music? Volunteering.

“I turned 50, stopped and re-examined life,” says Joan Canfield, host of KHPR’s Evening Concert show. After an intense and rewarding career in conservation, she wanted to do something different for community service.

“I heard this blurb on the air for Hawaiʻi Public Radio needing volunteers. So I started as a volunteer; from there, I was hooked. I noticed that everyone was like me, a bit kooky, a lot of fun and we are all there as a labor of love because of our passion for music.”

Canfield grew up playing the piano and cello. “It really was just picking back up from my childhood,” she says of the career transition.

Although still involved with the University of Hawaiʻi, she spends most of her time in the studio arranging shows and helping colleagues. She selects programming around composers’ birthdays or the anniversary of a piece’s first performance—“a real variety of things, including things that I’ve never heard of, thanks to resources like the Internet.”

Although not a request show, listeners call. “Broadcasting enables me to connect with people emotionally. I’ve had little children ask the name of a violinist to callers saying a song I played made them reminisce about when they were at war in Korea,” she says. “My number one fan a few years ago was a Hilo woman in her 80s. She was basically a shut in. People like her depend on the radio as a companion. It really makes you humble that you can play a role in keeping people’s spirits up.”

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  1. Charlotte Vick says:

    October 8th, 2009at 5:30 am(#)

    Joan’s show is a delightful and she is she. So glad you have showcased her work at HPR.

  2. Walter Creed says:

    October 8th, 2009at 8:17 am(#)

    Joan’s mellow voice and wide knowledge of music make her a great host KHPR’s “Evening Concert.”

  3. Johnny Hunt says:

    October 9th, 2009at 3:28 am(#)


    What a great article about you. Congratulations! I think it shows that you evidently bring a passion to whatever work you choose!

    A fellow fish and wildlifer, and ‘kook’. Besides,as Annie Lennox once said, “I honestly think the world is barking mad”.

    Johnny Hunt

  4. Michael says:

    March 4th, 2010at 6:47 pm(#)

    I listened in tonight via an NPR app on my iPhone.
    I’m on the east coast main land and you are a gazillion miles away.
    How much fun is this!

  5. Claude S. Ayakawa says:

    October 30th, 2010at 4:12 pm(#)

    I have always loved classical music since I was a little boy and listening to Ms. Canfield lovely voice every week night and whenever she is on on KHPR makes listening to music even more enjoyable. Especially when I used to drive home after spending the day with my mother at her nursing home in Kapolei before she passed away last February.