Backstage with Mister Rogers & More at WQED

In this episode of Yinzer Backstage Pass, we visit WQED, Pittsburgh’s public television station, for a tour of its historic studios.

You don’t have to get very far into the WQED building to be reminded of its famous former tenant. The space is filled with photos and various nods to Fred Rogers. That’s because Studio A, the largest of three studios, was home to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for many decades.

Paul Byers remembers those days well. He’s WQED’s director of engineering, and he’s been working at the station for more than 50 years. He recalls the early days when famous folks such as Yo-Yo Ma, Lynn Swann or Julia Child would stop by the building (often to make an appearance on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”).

Paul says that the studio was also home to a show in the late 1970s called “Previn and the Pittsburgh.” André Previn, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s conductor at the time, would interview guests in between performances from the orchestra. Paul recalls one especially exciting episode where John Williams conducted the PSO as they played his famous “Star Wars” score.

But Studio A was just the first stop of our tour. Paul pointed out master control, the WQED kitchen studio where Chris Fennimore’s shows are filmed, the tape archive and Rick Sebak’s editing room.

Paul even brought us to the office of WQED-FM 89.3, the classical music station, which I hadn’t realized was also in the building. Paul introduced us to Anna Singer, who programs the music at the radio station. She showed us some of the tens of thousands of classical music CDs that line the office.

If you want more Yinzer Backstage Pass, check out our visit to the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Center, where they control the Victory Lights.