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Public radio's Mona Seghatoleslami leaving for N.Y. airwaves

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tuesday was Mona Seghatoleslami's last day at West Virginia Public Radio. A little more than four years ago, she joined the staff at WVPBS and has been one of the people working both in front of a microphone and behind the scenes.

"In the beginning, it was that job where I thought I'd work two or three years then move on to my next job," the 30-year-old explained. "I just sort of forgot about the next job."

It's part of a cycle repeated often in small cities like Charleston: fresh out of college or grad school students take entry-level jobs in companies and agencies in rural parts of America; they stay for a couple of years, then move onward and upward.

Leaving, she said, isn't easy, but leaving she is: This<co Wednesday> evening, as a matter of fact. Next week, she starts her new job at public radio station WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., a city of 210,000 people -- approximately four times the size of Charleston.

Mona will host an afternoon classical music show and act as an ambassador to classical music in the area. She will arrive in Rochester well prepared for the job.

In the last four years, Mona has done a little bit of everything at West Virginia Public Radio. She's been one of the classical music announcers. She has produced special shows for broadcast and regular arts segments for West Virginia Morning. She has served as the station's music librarian, overseen the Classical Music blog and was frequently called on to help with station membership drives.

WXXI actually wanted her to come to Rochester earlier to help with their membership drive, but Mona stayed to help one more time at WVPR.

Peggy Dorsey, who oversees the pledge drives, said, "She always does what you need her to do. She's enthusiastic and upbeat."

Josh Saul, who blogs for "Mountain Stage," said, "Mona makes it easier for some of us to do our jobs. She's just that kind of person -- very encouraging."

Her absence will likely be felt well beyond West Virginia Public Radio. Since she arrived in 2007, Mona has been active with the local music and theater scene. She's played in the orchestra for half a dozen local musicals, acted as the PR rep for the Charleston Chamber Music Society, helped with the production of Bob Thompson's annual "Joy To The World" concert and written reviews for the Gazette.

She also taught classes at the University of Charleston and still managed to break out her viola from time to time.

"Four to six of us would get together informally to play chamber music," she said. "We'd meet in my dining room. It was mostly drinking wine and holding instruments."

Mona came to Charleston in June 2007, six months after she'd earned master's degrees in Musicology and Library Science from Indiana University. She'd started out as a musician and music student, studying viola at Illinois State University.

Mona loved to play, but she found that she loved the stories behind the music even more. While studying at Indiana, she got her first job in radio, working part-time at WFIU in Bloomington.

"Coming to Charleston was a big step for me," she said. "It meant getting to eat on a regular basis and not living on my credit cards."

James Muhammad, director of radio services at WVPBS, was instrumental to hiring the young musicologist in 2007. He said, "I was very impressed with Mona. She was a young person who was passionate about public radio. She had a thorough knowledge of classical music and music in general."

Her first day, she remembered, was supposed to be June 20, but because of West Virginia Day, she had the day to herself. It was also the kick off to Charleston's FestivALL.

"FestivALL was how I got to know Charleston," she said. "There was a lot going on. Everything was mapped out. So I kind of got the hang of the city very early. I saw what you could do."

There was a lot more going on here than she expected. She made friends fast.

"I was embraced by the librarians and by the chamber music people," she said. "They took me under their wing."

She said leaving is bittersweet.

Muhammad is happy for her success, but called the loss to WVPBS "huge."

He said, "Mona did more here than a lot of people realize, and it's very difficult to recruit talent like her, to get them to come to the mountains."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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