Open Mic Grand Jury Spotlight: Mark Travis

New York Festivals Grand Jury are some of the best and brightest in the radio industry and the brilliant creative minds who judge the 2019 NYF Radio Awards. These award-winning directors, producers, journalists, writers, actors, creative directors, composers, on-air talent, and programming executives are all actively involved in creating today’s innovative radio content.

Open Mic Spotlight spends a few minutes each week with NYF’s respected Grand Jury members and each Spotlight interview shares the insights of these esteemed content creators from the wonderful world of radio.

This week we shine the spotlight on NYF Radio Awards Advisory Board and Grand Jury member, Mark Travis, Associate Director, Media Production for New York Philharmonic. Mark is an award-winning 18-year music industry veteran, who joined the New York Philharmonic as its full-time in-house producer in August 2011. For the previous 12 years he worked for Chicago’s WFMT Radio Network. He has written and produced The New York Philharmonic This Week since its inaugural season in 2004–05.

In 2018 New York Philharmonic earned a Gold Trophy for The New York Philharmonic This Week and a Bronze for Strauss & Bernstein from Hill Auditorium.

Mark Travis accepting the NYF Radio Awards Gold Trophy.

New York Festivals: How does your experience within the industry help you throughout the judging process?

Mark Travis: The industry experience that my fellow jurors and I bring to the table is a big part of what makes NYF so special. Unlike many competitions, NYF touts a panel of actual broadcast professionals and our service is voluntary—we do this for the love of the medium and out of respect for our colleagues. So when I judge a piece, I do so with a firm grasp of what went into producing it and I think this makes me a more empathetic listener. Rather than dwell on the shortcomings of a given work, I try instead to score each piece as a sum of the effort that went into it. To be clear, sloppy editing and poor audio quality aren’t going to help any piece, but if the story is engaging or the reporting complete and timely enough, I like to think I’m open to spotting those diamonds in the rough.

New York Festivals: What qualities are most important in award-winning work?

Mark Travis

Mark Travis: Award-winning work demands to be heard. There is so much content available across so many platforms that it’s easy for it all to morph into background noise. The best music, the best sound art, and the best stories find a way of penetrating that din and making the listener take notice. Or better yet: if the piece is really outstanding, it may just compel you forget the rest of the world until the story is done or you’ve identified the piece of music or the artist performing it.

New York Festivals: How do you think content creators will change the way they tell stories in the future?

Mark Travis: Marshal McLuhan considered electronic media to be “an extension of our central nervous system” (and famously said that “the medium is the message.”) Our fast data, cell phone age makes him something of a prophet, doesn’t it?  While I think good story-telling is a timeless art, I think the packaging and the number of options we make available will continue to evolve and grow. There was a time when the music of Van Halen, Poison, Pearl Jam, and Metallica would have been grouped together as “hard rock.” Yet now each of those bands represents a distinct sub-genre and there are probably 100 or more podcasts of varying lengths and publication cycles dedicated to each of those.  Expertise is no longer enough—specialization has become essential and I expect that will be even more so moving forward.

New York Festivals: What project meant the most to you in your own history?

Mark Travis: In 1999 I co-produced a piece on the legendary cellist, Raya Garbousova with Lois Baum for WFMT in Chicago. We gathered several great artists—notably Mstislav Rostropovich and Janos Starker to speak about Raya’s beautiful soul and peerless artistry. We also unearthed several rare recordings for the program and Mel Zelman narrated with signature warmth and gravitas. The piece only aired in Chicago and I’m not even sure that I still have a copy, but working on it sparked a flame that continues to glow 20 years and some 850+ nationally-syndicated broadcasts later.

New York Festivals: What advice do you have for young people just beginning a career in the industry?

Mark Travis: This is a line of work where you truly learn and improve by doing it. If you think a career in broadcasting is for you, then I encourage you to seek out and accept every opportunity available; internships, part-time work, contract work, volunteer work—whatever you can get. You’ll build a portfolio, but you’ll also hone your craft and find where you thrive. Finally, you should tell the stories you want to tell authentically and with your own unique voice.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit: https://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/ or to enter visit: HERE.

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