Mary Ann Hubbard, AG75

By Kristin Livingston

For years fans of National Public Radio have been treated to a range of programs, from news to classic favorites such as "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me," knowing by each hour’s ever-present tagline that all of this has been made possible “by you, our listeners.” At 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, that familiar tagline has been made possible for more than eight years by one voice: Mary Ann (Saloschin) Hubbard’s, AG75.

(Watch the slideshow to hear Hubbard’s tale of the “opera chicken” and to see photos of her journey from Torn Ticket to WBUR.)

"They can hear us in Brookline?"

Hubbard never will forget the day she realized that the waves of Tufts’ tiny, student-run radio station, 91.5 WMFO, rolled all the way to Boston. At the time, she was a grad student in theater, acting alongside now-famous Jumbos like Peter Gallagher, A77, and the undergraduates of the original Torn Ticket (now Torn Ticket II) theater troupe. She’d been bitten by two bugs: acting and radio, hoping that someday she could mix the two, and get paid.

After “taking my little portfolio up and down Newbury and Boylston Streets” she landed a few gigs, but eventually fell into teaching social studies and coaching theater. A few years later, she reports, “I said, ‘No, no, no, that’s not the track I want to go on,’” and so she moved back to her hometown in the Washington, D.C. area. There she landed an early morning shift at 103.5 WGMS, a commercial classical radio station.

What's in a name?

If the name Mary Ann Hubbard doesn’t ring any bells for listeners, that’s because Hubbard’s stage name is Mary Ann Nichols, almost a reversal of her maiden name, Saloschin. Her first boss in the radio business asked her to create a stage name that people could pronounce, a name that would make it easy for them to reach out to her.

(Listen to Hubbard discuss the origins of her stage name—and its correlation to an English serial killer.)

Ironic, considering the genre of the station.

For some, classical radio would be a bear to cover. Composer names like Liszt and Dvořák, and even seemingly innocent names like Wagner (pronounced with a V, as if Dracula were dragging it out of you), can twist the tongue into a pretzel or simply leave the speaker in a humiliated heap—especially on live air. Fortunately, Hubbard has a classical music background, having played viola for most of her youth. She already knew the “t” in Bizet is silent.

She also had help from coworkers—and listeners.

(Listen to Hubbard describe a listener’s Hungarian language lesson.)

“I remember someone writing in to say, ‘I really like Mary Ann, but can you work with her on her sibilance, like sixty-six degrees?’” A fellow host told her to smile when she spoke, which did the trick, “especially since when you smile it comes across more warmly.”

Roll Call

A few years later, Hubbard moved back to Boston with her husband, Jack, and eventually picked up a morning drive slot for 102.5 (now 99.5) WCRB, the New England Classical station. As part of what was the first all-female radio news team in New England, she got creative on the airwaves with bits like Sally Ann Smith, a fictitious southern reporter whose ear and taste for classical music peaked with her farmer friend’s “opera chicken.”

“I found a way to use the acting in there with the radio stuff,” she writes. “It was a really good place to be for yet another 12 years, and that’s how I started doing pre-concert talks for Boston Classical.” In 1996, Hubbard swapped stations to WBUR as a fill-in news anchor and development officer. Soon enough, the program directors realized her acting skills could come in handy.

“What had been happening was that the announcers would be doing the news and then they’d have to put on a new hat,” quickly switching to the weather and the all-important “we are funded by you, our listeners” and other sponsor lines. “It’s really a shift in your mindset and delivery,” Hubbard writes. She moved from development and is now dedicated to the famous line, among others. And after eight and a half years, “I couldn’t be happier.”

Kristin Livingston, A05, can be reached at kristin.livingston@tufts.edu.

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