By Karen Andrew
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Carolyn Watts was a pianist and Cincinnati radio and TV pioneer who learned much of her craft in her hometown of Providence, R.I.
The downtown Cincinnati resident died Wednesday of cancer at her home. She was 88.
Born in Providence in 1914, she was a Phi Beta Kappa who earned a bachelor's degree in music and languages from Brown University in 1935.
After college, she worked as a pianist at the Biltmore Hotel in Providence.
During World War II, Ms. Watts ran a bandage center for the Red Cross and played piano for the USO and the Officers Club in Providence and the Naval Hospital in Newport, R.I.
She appeared on her mother's daily radio program, The Carolyn Wallace Show, on the Yankee radio network.
She moved to Cincinnati in 1947 when her husband, Benjamin A. Watts Jr., was transferred by his employer, Brockway Glass Company.
In 1948, Ms. Watts was hired by WKRC as music director.
Her duties included providing live music for all radio and TV shows. She played the background music for live TV dramas such as The Storm, whose scripts were written by Rod Serling.
She left WKRC for WSAI in 1954 to host a General Electric-sponsored series, The Carolyn Watts Show.
The program featured radio essays, commentary, book reviews and piano-playing. It was the only women's show at the time in which fashion and recipes were never mentioned.
While working, Ms. Watts earned a master's degree in education from Xavier University in 1958. She later taught ninth-grade English, dramatics and news writing at Lyon Junior High School in Cincinnati.
When the University of Cincinnati began its classical music and public affairs FM station, WGUC, Ms. Watts joined the staff as a writer, commentator and music specialist. Hers was the first voice heard on the new station on Sept. 21, 1960.
"She had an excitement about her," said her daughter, Caryn Watts of Hyde Park. "She had a wonderful sense of humor."
Ms. Watts hosted classical music programs, including Luncheon, Dinner Concerts and Backstage at the Orchestra. Her Up the Down Staff won a Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) award.
She also produced and hosted a weekly series, Symphony Concert, which received a CPB award and an Armstrong Foundation Award from Columbia University in 1975.
Ms. Watts later served as assistant manager and acting manager at the station. She retired from WGUC in 1980 but continued to perform piano concerts for a number of organizations.
She served as a moderator for classes at the Institute for Learning in Retirement and was a member of the MacDowell Society of Artists and Writers, the Contemporary Club and the Woman's City Club.
She was preceded in death by a brother, George F. Troy Jr. and a sister Martha Hurd, both of Barrington, R.I.
In addition to her daughter, survivors include another daughter, Bethany Shield of Brielle, N.J.; and four grandchildren.
Services will be held in Rhode Island. A memorial service is planned for Cincinnati.
Memorials: Carolyn Watts Memorial Fund, c/o Gilligan Funeral Home, 2926 Woodburn Ave., Cincinnati 45206-1491.
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