Open Mic Spotlight:Liliana Manna

New York Festivals Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winners from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF Radio Awards Grand Jury member, Liliana Manna of Radio Rivadavia, and 2017 Bronze trophy winner shares her creative insights on her award-winning program “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts.”

(Left to Right) Liliana Manna and Rosario Lufrano of Radio Rivadavia Argentina

 

Liliana Manna is a journalist for Radio Rivadavia Argentina. She was the first woman in Argentina radio to be named a writer-broadcaster in the News Service of Radio Belgrano and served as producer on various radio and television programs. Her illustrious career spans 4 decades and Liliana has been honored as one of the 100 personalities of the decade from 1987 to 1997 in the category of Best Producer.

Ms. Manna has earned more than 7 Gold, Silver and Bronze trophies at the New York Festivals International Radio Awards. This year, she stepped up to the podium at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards gala to accept the Bronze trophy for “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts” for Best Human-Interest Story. Previous accolades include taking  home the 2014 NYF Radio Awards Gold trophy for Best Documentary for “30 Years of Democracy: Everybody’s Story.” Her award-winning streak continued, in 2014 she also won the Ondas Award, awarded by the Cadena Ser Spain, for best documentary radio program in the world “Human Trafficking: Merchants of Innocence” which on December 3rd was delivered in a special audience with Pope Francisco.

Keep reading to learn how Liliana’s award-winning program “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts” came to be produced, the challenges she encountered in production and how she overcame them, how her passion for radio developed, her personal dream project she’d like to create and more.

Liliana Manna with NYF Radio Awards Silver Trophy

 

NYF Radio: How did your Bronze Trophy winning program “Street Violence: City of Lost Hearts” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this program?

 

Lilian Manna: The inspiration was found in the sad reality that our country, Argentina, lives with regard to people who die day after day by violent episodes: armed robberies; Femicides; Unscrupulous motorists who do not respect the minimum standards of urban coexistence; Police violence; Increased drug trafficking; the application of laws that favor the delinquent more than the victim. These are social issues that have a very strong impact throughout the country.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Liliana Manna: The investigation was directed mainly to the victims, who suffered this violence and were able to survive. We consulted judges and sociologists to get some response to the increase of violence in all its forms in our society. And we also turned to two Nobel Peace Prize winners like Rigoberta Menchú and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel who provided their invaluable testimony when it came to finding possible ways to overcome these scourges.

Nobel Peace Prize winners, Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala) and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina)

NYF Radio: How did you attract most respected specialists to speak on this topic of street violence including two Nobel Peace Prize winners Rigoberta Menchú Tum (Guatemala) and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina); Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas –author of two boks about this plight-, Priest Father Pepe (hard-working in the slums) and Guillermo Whpei (President of the international Foundation for Democracy, who has observed the peace process in Colombia)?

Liliana Manna: Both Rosario Lufrano and I endorse a professional career of many years with an ethical basis that allowed us to gain the most precious of a journalist that is his credibility.

With Adolfo Pérez Esquivel we maintain permanent contact. He is a man who, despite the honorability of his Nobel Peace Prize, accesses journalistic interviews when he is asked questions of high social commitment. It reveals poverty; Hunger and violence.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum was able to interview her in our studies of Radio Rivadavia thanks to the management of Mr. Guillermo Whpei, President of the International Foundation for Democracy, during a brief visit to the country, invited by the Foundation. Mr. Whpei is a highly qualified voice to talk about issues of concern to Latin America.

Guillermo Whpei, President of the International Foundation for Democracy

Judge Daniel Rafecas, one of the country’s top judges, rarely has an interview. Before our proposal, he did not hesitate to speak of a reality in which the judicial decision is also compromised.

NYF Radio: What unique skills does your production team require to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?

Liliana Manna: In each Special Radio Production, we propose to (metaphorically) “create radio images” using most radio resources. We prioritize reinforcing the testimonies that are heard with special effects, with music carefully selected, for each moment. The pre- production takes us about 3 months of searching for the right characters and recording studio. We try to avoid telephone interviews so as not to detract from the sound quality. There are only three people on the team: the director and conductor, Rosario Lufrano, the sound editor, Toto Berlingieri, and I as a content producer and responsible for the airing.

NYF Radio: How was your program received in Argentina and has bringing to light the problem with so many respected specialists on this topic brought about any change?

Liliana Manna: The program had wide repercussions. We can honestly say that having had the testimony of Carolina Píparo, who in 2010, being 9 months pregnant, suffered a tragic robbery in front of her home, was a very important contribution to get the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation to approve a Law Protection of victims of violence. It was a long struggle faced by relatives who suffered different episodes of urban violence and who could not conceive that criminals had more benefits than the victims.

NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for radio?

Liliana Manna: I started in 1974 at Radio Belgrano in Buenos Aires. I was already a journalist and National Speaker. I was the first woman on the radios of the City of Buenos Aires, to integrate an informative service of a radio and to read Informativos that, until then was a masculine task.

NYF Radio: Will you talk about the importance of freedom of the press? Will

Liliana Manna: Press freedom is a key condition for responsible journalism. I was censored during the years of the tragic military dictatorship that we lived from 1976 to 1983. I could answer a lot more and also include “Corporate censorship”. I just want to say that in Radio Rivadavia we work with broad freedom of expression.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people who want to find their place for a career in the radio industry?

Liliana Manna: The most important advice I can give to young people who want to find their place in the radio industry is to tell them to embrace radio … with passion. Let them be aware that we are a means of communication to express ourselves with fundamentals. We are not the owners of the truth. We are a MEDIUM that we can contribute to the search for some truth by managing with reliable sources of information.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Liliana Manna: My personal dream is always focused on the next Special Production project. I am passionate about documentaries (on radio and on TV). I think it is important to exercise Memory and not repeat stories. A dream I have: interview a serial killer. There are many who still live. And that they serve their sentence of life imprisonment.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit:http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: Mark Travis, New York Philharmonic

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight shares the inside story on some of 2017′s award-winning radio programs and the creative insights from the incredible men and women who create these inspiring programs. This week, NYF interviews Mark Travis, Associate Director of Media, Production for New York Philharmonic. This year the New York Philharmonic earned a Gold Trophy (Director) for “Celebrating the 175th Anniversary Season” as well as a Gold Trophy for Music and a Bronze Trophy for Best Director for “Zubin Mehta at 80.”  “The New York Philharmonic This Week” also took home the Silver Trophy for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program.

Mark Travis and Alec Baldwin, Host of the New York Philharmonic

Mark shares his industry knowledge with NYF as both a New York Festivals Radio Awards Advisory Board Member and as a member of the Grand Jury. He has over 20 years of experience in the music industry as a writer, producer, broadcaster, lecturer, and audio engineer. Since 2011, Mark has been the Associate Director of Media, Production for the New York Philharmonic and he has produced the orchestra’s broadcasts since 2003. He has also served as a writer and producer for Chicago’s WFMT Radio Network where he wrote and produced over 800 nationally syndicated programs–notably the Bucksbaum Family Lyric Opera of Chicago broadcasts. 

The multiple Grammy-nominee and cancer survivor has been the recipient of over 25 medals and trophies for his broadcast work–including the 2015 Grand Jury Prize from the New York Festivals.

In the interview, below Mark shares insights on creating award-winning programming, how the New York Philharmonic first began broadcasting, his methodology for overcoming creative challenges, advice for future classical music enthusiasts who want to find a place in the industry, and much much more.

NYF Radio: How did your Gold Trophy winning program “Celebrating the 175th Anniversary Season” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this celebratory program?

Mark Travis: The New York Philharmonic is the longest-running orchestra in the United States and one of the oldest in the world. I wanted to find a way to acknowledge the Philharmonic’s milestone 175th anniversary season and draw attention to the organization’s activities surrounding it, notably the New World Initiative (http://www.newworldinitiative.com­)

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Mark Travis: I suppose the biggest challenge was figuring out how to summarize 175 years and over 16,000 concerts within the show’s two-hour time-frame. My solution was to focus on two works that have figured prominently in the orchestra’s history.  One of these was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which was featured on the orchestra’s first program in December 1842.  The other work is a repertoire-staple that the Philharmonic premiered: Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” Rather than just zero in on one great performance of these two works, I instead decided to let the broadcast unfold by assigning a different conductor to each of the four movements that made up the two symphonies. So audiences heard Arturo Toscanini conduct the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, followed by Bruno Walter leading the second movement and from there to Zubin Mehta and Jaap Van Zweden for the third and fourth movements. I took a similar approach to the Dvořák.  Here, it started with Leonard Bernstein and went from Kurt Masur to Lorin Maazel’s historic broadcast from Pyongyang and concluded with Alan Gilbert. All of the conductors selected were Philharmonic Music Directors of the past, present or future, save for Bruno Walter, who was technically a “Musical Advisor.”  By showcasing recordings that spanned eighty years, it was easy to form a compelling narrative.

NYF Radio: As Director and Writer of the programs, what unique skills do you need to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?

Mark Travis: I don’t know if the skills I bring to the table are unique so much as my programming philosophy.  Each week I strive to produce a program that I’d want to hear. I’m not thinking about awards or ratings or magic formulas while in the studio.  I’m considering how to create the best possible show using the pieces available to me.  Sometimes I have hundreds of elements and hours of material at my disposal. Other weeks I have maybe four. So, what I think really sets The New York Philharmonic This Week apart from other concert programs is the resulting variety. I’m not just speaking about the repertoire, but the fact that any given week we might present a documentary-style profile of a great artist, a themed “playlist program” with less than three minutes of talk, or a concert program with didactic highly-produced intros.  I understand this makes our series a little challenging for some of the program directors out there and I’m grateful that so many of them have stuck with us for so long, despite certain criticisms. In the end, though, I craft this program with love and respect for the listeners—from one fan to another.

NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for classical music? How did you come to share your passion on radio?

Mark Travis: I really can’t remember a time when music wasn’t a part of my life, but my formal training began in third grade with classical guitar lessons. I also flirted with the French horn for a short time before eventually discovering in junior high school that I could carry a tune reasonably well. I attended Northern Illinois University on a full-tuition scholarship for voice and while I never finished my degree, I landed my first radio job at Northern Public Radio at age 21. WNIU and WNIJ proved to be an amazing training ground for me with lots of practical hands-on experience. I’ve occupied numerous roles since then, but fine arts broadcasting is still a very important part of my professional life 22 years later.

NYF Radio: How did the New York Philharmonic radio broadcasts first come about?

Mark Travis: The orchestra has been on the air in one form or another since 1930.  The current edition came about in 2004 and it was largely the brainchild of my former boss at the WFMT Radio Network, Steve Robinson, and then-Philharmonic President, Zarin Mehta. Steve knew that live broadcasts were becoming an increasingly hard sell to the Network’s affiliates.  He argued that for a similar investment, the Philharmonic could present a wider snapshot of the orchestra’s season and everyone would win. The musicians could relax knowing that any imperfections on a given night could be cleaned up and member stations now had a show that could reliably occupy and fill a 2-hour time slot. Listenership almost doubled when we went to that format, so Zarin encouraged us to increase the number of broadcasts from 39 to 52 for the 2005/06 season. Listenership doubled again when we better stabilized a hard running time for the program with judicious use of fill music and it jumped considerably again when Alec Baldwin signed on to host the series in 2009.

NYF Radio: The program “Celebrating the 175 Anniversary Season” also earned a Bronze Trophy for Best Radio Special, to what do you attribute the success of this program and its wide spread appeal?

Mark Travis:  It probably doesn’t hurt that the two symphonies featured on this program occupy spots on most anyone’s “top 10” list for classical music.  I also think there’s a point of pride when it comes to the New York Philharmonic.  It’s been a cultural institution in this country for 175 years. Even people that have never studied music know of the Philharmonic,  so I think there’s a natural curiosity about its history and evolution. That’s, of course, to say nothing of the big personalities who have contributed to its success.  In any case, I’m thrilled that this show was so well-received.

NYF Radio: The New York Philharmonic earned a Gold (Music) and a Bronze Trophy (Best Director) for “Zubin Mehta at 80” and a Silver Trophy for “The New York Philharmonic This Week” for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Program, what are the common elements that make up these trophy-winning programs?

Mark Travis: Central to the success of the programs you mentioned (and really every episode of the series to date) is the orchestra. There would be no show without the engaging and imaginative performances the orchestra gives us week in and week out.  They are the foundation for everything we do and their excellence inspires everyone on the staff to also be excellent. As mentioned earlier, though, I think we present the story of this orchestra and this music in a very complete and unique way and I’m so very pleased that this has seemed to resonate with both critics and audiences.

NYF Radio:  As a judge for the 2017 Radio Awards and as an award-winner yourself, what advice do you have for future entrants into the NYF Radio Awards?

Mark Travis: I feel we are a little over-saturated by programs attempting to replicate a handful of firmly established shows. I’d encourage future entrants to take pride in their original voice and to take a few more risks.  As one of my mentors used to say to me, “Fail boldly and settle for perfect.”

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for classical music enthusiasts who want to find their place in the radio industry?

Mark Travis: Musicians often make terrific radio producers and personalities as they can offer anecdotes from their personal experience and their well-tuned ears, natural sense of timing and knack for precision is often quite welcome in the studio.   But whether you’re a former musician or a music-lover looking for a possible career change, I’d suggest that you volunteer or look for part-time work at a local station so you can see firsthand what the job looks like. I also can’t emphasize enough the importance of listening to new music and new recordings on a daily basis.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Mark Travis: I have a series in the works that explores the contributions of African-American singers to the world of art-song and opera.  It will profile not only trailblazers like Marian Anderson, George Shirley, and William Warfield, but also singers of the current generation like Eric Owens and Morris Robinson…plus many voices and personalities in between. I’m still searching for the right host, but I’m very excited to share some of the stories, interviews, and recordings I’ve collected. I’ve also always wanted to produce a program or series comparing and contrasting the development of heavy metal music to classical music. Oh and if Disney, ever decided to do radio adaptations of the Star Wars films again, I’d be first in line to offer my services.

For more information about the New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: Raymond Meade,The Railway People

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight shares the inside story on some of 2017′s award-winning radio programs and the creative insights from the incredible men and women who create these inspiring programs. This week, NYF interviews Raymond Meade, writer-producer, Demus Productions, Glasgow Scotland and bassist for the English rock band, Ocean Colour Scene. Raymond earned a 2017 New York Festivals Radio Awards Bronze Trophy for his compelling program created as a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust, “The Railway People.”

Raymond Meade accepting the 2017 NYF Bronze Trophy for "The Railway People"

The Scottish songwriter and rock musician was deeply moved by his visit to Auschwitz. His journey inspired him to write poems and create music to commemorate the Holocaust with an EP “The Railway People.” Raymond forged a friendship with Auschwitz survivor Eva Kor which resulted in the two friends returning to Auschwitz to record the program for BBC Radio Scotland.

NYF wanted to find out more about how this program came to be. In the interview below Raymond shares how he became inspired to write poetry and music based on his trip to Auschwitz, the creative challenges he encountered when creating the program for the BBC, how he met Eva Kor and what he hoped to achieve with his creative tribute.

NYF Radio: What prompted you to create the program “The Railway People” and how did you come to write music and poems based on your trip to Auschwitz to launch this creative program idea?


Raymond Meade: I visited Auschwitz as a tourist and was horrified by the experience. It completely numbed me. I had always wanted to visit the Camps but nothing could have prepared me for the experience. On my journey home to Scotland, it became obvious to me that I’d need to try and write about what I’d encountered. It started with some poetry which then led to some music and eventually I made the decision to try and create a whole piece to mark the memory of the victims.

NYF Radio: How did your meeting with Nick Low of Demus result in the documentary “The Railway People” and it airing on BBC Radio Scotland?

Raymond Meade: When the groundwork was laid and I knew for sure that the format was going to be a return to Auschwitz with Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, Nick called me to say he’d heard about my plans. He was keen to film it and record everything I was doing. I maybe didn’t see the potential in the whole thing to begin with but Nick thought there was a great story to be told and he was right. What unfolded was a truly incredible experience and I’m forever indebted to Nick for taking the chance on it.

Raymond Meade with Auschwitz concentration camp survivor Eva Kor

 

 

NYF Radio: You describe the program “The Railway People” as “my way of remembering the victims of the Holocaust.” What do you hope to achieve by respectfully drawing attention to this atrocity with your creative efforts?

Raymond Meade: All I’d hoped to achieve with the Railway People was to feel as though I’d done something to remember the dead. I think the whole point of going to Auschwitz is keeping the memories alive. It’s remembering what happened there and contributing to ethos of never forgetting. It’s not ancient history. It’s very recent. I wanted to be respectful and to hopefully find a new angle to tell this most tragic of stories.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

Raymond Meade: There weren’t really many creative challenges. My main issue was approaching a subject as colossal as the Holocaust and not being Jewish. I was conscious of that and I wanted to make sure that every tiny detail was fact checked and accurate. I was probably over analyzing everything but it deserved it. It simply had to be correct from the very beginning. There’s no second chances with something like this.

NYF Radio: How did you come to first meet Eva Mozes Kor and why did she agree to record your poem for the spoken word segment of your song tribute “At the Top of the Stairs?”

Raymond Meade: I felt a direct link to Auschwitz would give the project a lot of weight and I’d read Eva’s book a few months before I started writing the Railway People. I decided to email her and ask if she’d contribute a spoken word piece on one of the songs. She was very responsive and keen. She’d never been on a song before. She liked the idea and the approach but then went even further by suggesting we do the recording on the Selection Platform at Auschwitz Birkenau, the site where she lost her family in the gas chambers over 70 years ago. When I read that email, I had chills up my spine. I knew then that this was going to be extremely special and important. When we eventually met several months later and traveled to Auschwitz together, it was without a doubt, the most memorable thing I’ve ever been involved in. To go through those gates with an 83-year-old lady who experienced it first hand was truly mind blowing. The most humbling experience of my life.

Raymond Meade and Eva Kor recording poem

 

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The Railway People” such a successful program?

Raymond Meade: I think it’s been successful for the simple reason that it came from the heart. I didn’t set out to write a documentary, or a film or win an award… nothing like that. All I wanted was to find my own way of coping with the experience of visiting Auschwitz. The real surprise of the Railway People is the friendship that developed between Eva and me. That was not expected and there’s some light moments in among the darker tones. The fact that so many people made contact after it aired was amazing. People of all religions, ages, occupations, all felt the same way and that was a really satisfying feeling for me because I think it moved them in the right way. There’s been so many teachers and lecturers asking if they can have copies to teach it in their various classes and that has surprised me. It’s such a massive compliment and I feel I’ve made a worthwhile piece that might help introduce people to the atrocities that occurred there.

NYF Radio: How was the radio program received in Scotland and the UK?

Eva and Raymond

Raymond Meade: It was very well received. The press coverage was huge and most of the newspapers ran stories. There was national television coverage and plenty of radio interviews too. I think it became such an unusual relationship between Eva and myself and that caught people’s imaginations. A genuine closeness has developed and I now regard her as a very dear and special friend. We speak very often and have met up a lot in the time since the recording. I’m sure it’s a friendship for life and I’m very grateful to now have her in my life, even if she does constantly tell me that my jeans are too skinny and I need to eat more food! Haha!

NYF Radio: Your program “the Railway People” earned the coveted 2017 Bronze Trophy in the Heroes category, what does earning this award mean to you?

Raymond Meade: It was genuinely one of the most special nights of my life. I’ve never been involved in anything like that before and to win the Bronze Trophy was so unexpected. When I saw firsthand all of the talent in that room, I just felt lucky to be in that kind of company for a night. But, for my own program to then be acknowledged and included was something I’ll remember forever. New York has a special place in my heart. I’m there 5/6 times a year so it was literally perfect. A dream.

NYF Radio: How did your creative background as a musician aid you in expressing your thoughts about your visit?

Raymond Meade at the entry gates to Auschwitz

Raymond Meade: I think that songwriting is the way that I’ve always dealt with my life, through good and bad times. I’m fortunate to be able to put my thoughts into words and music. When I came back from Auschwitz, I knew there was going to be something coming. It’s like an incoming signal. You just have to be open to it and do your best to express it when it arrives. It’s essentially a crutch. A coping mechanism. I’m grateful to be able to do it.

NYF Radio: As a rock musician did you find composing a musical tribute honoring those who perished in the holocaust a different process than creating music for your group Ocean Colour Scene?

Raymond Meade: It was only different because it was such an important topic. The process was no different and the songs poured out. There was no force. It was all very natural and I think that comes across in the finished tracks. I spent a little longer on the lyrics but on the whole, it was pretty much the usual way I write music.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people wanting to create a program that they have a passion about or a cause they want to illuminate?

Raymond Meade: The only advice I could give is if you feel something and you can’t ignore it then you must pursue it. It becomes something you don’t have a choice in and that’s when the magic happens. If everybody told their stories and experiences then the world would be a better place for it. I would tell any young person to wear their passions like a badge. Take chances, write letters, knock doors, make the phone calls. You can’t ever know where it’ll take you.

NYF Radio: Now that you’ve been so successful in your first radio documentary, are there any other radio projects on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?

"The Railway People" EP Album

Raymond Meade: I’ve no problem in admitting that the NYF Radio Awards has given me a new lease of life. It has shown me that I might be able to do something different from playing music and that my writing is of a decent standard. I’ve set myself a target of making 3 radio documentaries before next year’s awards and I want to be back in New York to experience that special night again. I’m working on a true crime piece, a further Auschwitz piece and also a local heroes’ collection which will be a series of interviews. The interesting thing for me was seeing how many podcasts were included. It shows that a commission isn’t everything and that there is always a way to tell the world your stories. It would mean everything to me to return next year and to be considered again. Thank you for such a special experience. It’s been incredible.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

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Open Mic Spotlight: “Majd’s Diary” Sarah Kate Kramer

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Sarah Kate Kramer, Producer for Radio Diaries. Radio Diaries took home the New York Festivals Gold Trophy at the 2017 Radio Awards Gala in New York City for their program Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl.

Nellie Gilles, Sarah Kate Kramer, Joe Richman, Radio Diaries

Sarah has produced multi-award winning radio documentaries and first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator. She traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown, New York City.  Sarah produced radio stories and an oral history project while in Morocco as a Fulbright Fellow.  Prior to joining Radio Diaries, she served as editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and as a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio where she created “Niche market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York.

In the interview below, Sarah shares her creative process,  logistical challenges she encoutered when producing her documentaries, her thoughts on how becoming a radio diarist changes the lives of the diarists, her personal dream project, and much more.

NYF Radio: Radio Diaries earned the Gold Trophy for their outstanding programs Majd’s Diary: Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl, to what do you attribute the success of this program?

Sarah Kate Kramer: I think that one reason listeners responded so much to Majd’s Diary is because it’s rare for outsiders to hear a personal story from a woman in Saudi Arabia. Much of the international news coverage of women there focuses on a limited number of issues: the veil, and the ban on women driving. Because women’s voices are not often heard in the public sphere, there are a lot of misperceptions about what life for young women in Saudi Arabia is really like. Majd brought listeners inside her world, and even though the details of her life were foreign, Majd was able to create an intimacy that made it easy for people to relate to her. Listeners could understand her life and choices in a genuine way.

Majd Abdulghani

NYF Radio: How did you come up with the idea for this Radio Diaries project and to what efforts did it take to connect with Majd to create this program?

Sarah Kate Kramer: The very first Radio Diaries project was called “Teenage Diaries.” We gave tape recorders to teenagers around the country and asked them to document their lives for NPR. 16 years after that series aired, in 2013, we produced a new series with five of the original diarists called “Teenage Diaries Revisited.” At the same time, we partnered with NPR and Cowbird.com on a contest to find the next Teenage Diarist. We solicited stories from teenagers around the world, and we selected Majd as the winner. We had almost 1000 entries, but her story really stood out.

NYF Radio: What creative and logistical challenges were involved and how did you utilize technology to solve those challenges?

Sarah Kate Kramer: We are based in New York City, so working with a diarist in Saudi Arabia was definitely a challenge. We didn’t actually meet Majd in person until a year and a half into the project! Majd would record “diaries” and upload them to us using dropbox. We would communicate on skype and through WhatsApp. Luckily she is a very tech-savvy individual.

The other challenge comes with the territory of producing an audio diary. We invariably end up with tons of raw tape that we need to sift through in order to construct a radio story. Majd recorded almost 100 hours over two years. Her story ended up being 25 minutes long, so editing everything down was tough. But that’s our specialty here at Radio Diaries.

Majd Abdulghani

NYF Radio: Radio Diaries continues to rack up every major award in broadcast journalism for their extraordinary stories of ordinary life, what is involved in finding these exceptional people to share their stories?

Sarah Kate Kramer: There’s no one way that we find stories, it’s different every time! But I would say that the success of any story really comes down to the characters in it. As my colleague Joe Richman says, “you can make almost anything into a good story. What you can’t do is make anyone into a good storyteller.”

NYF Radio: Your team has produced some of the most memorable documentaries ever heard on public radio broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered, This American Life, BBC, and on the Radio Diaries Podcast. How does creating a radio diary change the lives of your diarists?

Sarah Kate Kramer: I’d like to forward this question onto the diarists themselves, so they can answer.  But I will say that the process of keeping an audio diary is a big commitment. Many of the people we’ve worked with have said that it’s helped them get to know themselves better.

NYF Radio: Where did the idea come from to create stories that incorporate citizen journalists? Can you talk about your creative process?

Sarah Kate Kramer: Since 1996, Radio Diaries has been giving people tape recorders and working with them to report on their own lives and histories. We’ve collaborated with teenagers and octogenarians, prisoners and prison guards, gospel preachers and bra saleswomen, the famous and the unknown. We give people recorders so they can tell their own stories in their own words, directly to listeners, without the mediation of a third-party narrator. We like the intimacy of the form, and the way it creates empathy between people who would otherwise never meet. If you want to know more about our creative process, I’d strongly suggest reading Joe’s Transom.org manifesto.

NYF Radio: Why did you create The Radio Diaries DIY Handbook and what have been the effects of this publication on the world of radio?

In the handbook, Joe said “I enjoy the puzzle-like challenge of making stories out of found objects.” Please elaborate on your enjoyment for creating stories out of found objects and how you ultimately take all those elements and transform them into riveting award-winning stories?

Sarah Kate Kramer: We made the handbook because we want to encourage people to tell their stories through radio. Why? It’s fun! We love the medium. And we’re living in an age when it’s more accessible than ever before.

“Making stories out of found objects” is a metaphor for producing stories out of the raw sonic material of people’s lives. When diarists record themselves for months on end, they capture all kinds of things: intimate confessionals, riveting conversations…and a lot of boring moments. In fact, the vast majority of what people record ends up in the trash. At Radio Diaries we mine the tape for the hidden gems, the moments that really bring you inside someone’s life. Those are our building blocks.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Sarah Kate Kramer: We feel really lucky every day to do what we do.

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

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Open Mic Spotlight: “The Messenger” Jon Tjhia and Michael Green

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews “The Messenger” Producer & Senior Digital Editor, Jon Tjhia of The Wheeler Centre (Australia) and Journalist, Presenter & Producer, Michael Green of Behind the Wire.

Abdul Aziz Muhamat "The Messenger"

“The Messenger” (Behind the Wire and The Wheeler Centre Australia) was honored with the 2017 Grand Award (National or International Affairs) for their ten-part podcast series. The program is based on thousands of voice messages sent via burner phone by Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a refugee detained on the Australian-run detention center on the Manus Island, Paua New Guinea, to journalist, Michael Green. This award-winning series was also recognized with 2 Gold Trophies.

Jon Tjhia is the Wheeler Centre’s Senior Digital Editor. He has worked on the Wheeler

Jon Tjhia, Producer/Digital Editor, The Wheeler Centre

Centre’s multimedia, editorial and digital projects since 2010, including #discuss, the short-form multimedia series Housekeeping, and long-form podcast series Better Off Dead (Finalist, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2016) and The Messenger (Grand Trophy and two Gold Medals, New York Festivals Radio Awards 2017). He’s a co-editor and co-founder of the Australian Audio Guide.

Michael Green, Presenter/Producer/Journalist for Behind the Wire

Michael Green is a journalist and producer in Melbourne, Australia. For the last few years he has been working on Behind the Wire, an award-winning oral history project about Australian immigration detention. You can listen to our podcast, The Messenger, about Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese man who is in immigration detention on Manus Island. He is co-editor of our book, They Cannot Take the Sky, published by Allen & Unwin, and the producer of our exhibition at Melbourne’s Immigration Museum, which opened in March 2017. Over the years, Michael’s written for The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Nature Energy, Nature Climate Change, Nautilus, Right Now and Overland Journal, among others.

In the interview below Grand Award winner’s Jon and Michael share what sparked their idea for their award-winning podcast series, how they came to work together and connect with Abudl Aziz Muhamat, the creative and logistical challenges they encountered and much more.

Michael Green, Behind the Wire with Sophie Black and Jon Tjhia, The Wheeler Centre at 2017 NYF Radio Awards Gala

 


NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this podcast series?

MG: The first night I exchanged voice messages with Aziz, I was overwhelmed by how warm and open he was, and by the sound and character of his voice. And that voice was coming from a hidden place. I just wanted to know everything I could about him, and what he was going through. I knew right then that radio would be the perfect way to share his story.

NYF Radio: How did the two of you come together to produce this program?

JT: In mid-2016, the Wheeler Centre ran a competition called So You Think You Can Pod – in which we invited aspiring producers to pitch a podcast series, judged by a panel including producers of Reply All, Soundproof and Ingredipedia. To cut a long story short – Behind the Wire’s pitch was the winning one. Michael was overseas at the time, and had woken up at some heinous hour of his morning to Skype in for the event – but ended up unable to establish a clear voice line during the event itself. Ironic, really; the process was a little reminiscent of Michael’s challenges in connecting with Aziz.

After the competition, we worked with Michael and his team [André Dao, Bec Fary, Hannah Reich] to support the development of their show, think about a structure and sonic identity, and so on. We thought the emerging story was unusual, surprising, nuanced and important, and we agreed on many aspects of the framing and the telling. We wanted to support and expand Behind the Wire’s very direct work in bringing (literally) unheard voices to the fore, and eventually, we all chose to produce the series together.

NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with Abdul Aziz Muhamat?

MG: For the last few years I’ve been working on an oral history project called Behind the Wire, about Australian immigration detention. I first got in touch with Aziz as part of that project – I was hoping to speak with him for a story in our book. Two people I knew gave me his number. And because of my track record, he was able to do his own research, and figure out whether he wanted to speak to me.

NYF Radio: What logistical challenges did you encounter while working with a refugee who was reporting while in detention?

MG: For the first few months we spoke, Aziz wasn’t allowed to have a cell phone, so he could only use it secretly, in his room when there were no guards around. There isn’t much signal at the detention centre, so he couldn’t make a call. We decided to use WhatsApp voice messages instead, but on many days, even that wouldn’t work.

NYF Radio: What risk did Aziz’s reports put him at and how did he avoid attention while reporting from the Manus Island detention center?

Australian-run detention centre on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.

MG: After Aziz had been speaking to me secretly for a few months, the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court ruled that the detention centre was illegal. After that, the authorities allowed some small freedoms, including cell phones. So, thankfully, he is now allowed to use his phone openly – although the lack of signal still makes it difficult to communicate freely.

NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by drawing attention to this story with your creative efforts?

MG: Right from that first conversation, Aziz said he wanted to speak out – to be ‘the messenger’ – about the situation in the detention centre, so that people outside would know what was going on. In Australia, the policy of indefinitely detaining asylum seekers and refugees is controversial. It’s a very high profile issue, and it’s in the news nearly every day. But a view from inside is rare, especially something as in-depth as The Messenger. We think it’s important to show the complexity of that experience.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

MG: We have a huge amount of material – over four thousand messages, plus other interviews, so thousands of pages of transcript. Our team – André Dao, Hannah Reich, Bec Fary and Sophie Black – has done a lot of hard work to bring the most resonant issues and emotionally powerful moments into the final show.

NYF Radio: In your opinion, what makes “The Messenger” such a successful program?


JT: Hm – it’s hard to talk about your own work in this way! But as Michael mentioned, it’s been important of us to expose the complexity of what’s happening in Aziz’s story, and the myriad tensions of the broader situation; I hope that comes across.

As a piece of radio, we’re very mindful of a listener’s attention, as well as the space you create when you invite someone into a world. We wanted that space to be a generous one, and for it to push against certain tonal expectations that exist around stories of refuge and trauma. That said, I don’t think it’s so far-fetched that, with a few changed circumstances, many of us could face similar challenges to the ones Aziz faces. He’s an articulate and affecting bearer of his own story.

NYF Radio: As a journalist, will you discuss the importance of freedom of speech?

MG: Australia has a long-standing policy of detaining asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Those detention centres are usually located in remote locations, far from outside scrutiny. The people held there are denied the ability to speak out about who they are and what they’re going through. That means there’s a huge gap in the public understanding of this policy and its results. It is also demoralising for the asylum seekers. I know for Aziz, it has been incredibly empowering to be able to tell his story and to be heard.

NYF Radio: How was the podcast series program received in Australia and globally?

JT: It’s hard to gauge with any definitive sense! At the least, we’ve tried to make the series – which happens to anchor in an Australian context, but pulses with a near-universal one – inviting to people anywhere. And here, it’s been a politically polarising issue for a long time, although I would speculate that the narrative is in the process of shifting.

On a personal level, we’ve been approached by people who’ve connected strongly with Aziz through the series. There’s been some academic interest in the work, too. I think the best feedback we’ve received is that it changed somebody’s mind; it’s not very often you hear that these days.


NYF Radio: Your program “The Messenger” earned the coveted 2017 Grand Award in the (National or International Affairs) category, what does earning this award mean to you?

JT: The Awards came as a shock to us; the Grand Award even more so! A real fright in the inbox, in the wee hours no less. We were most excited about telling Aziz, of course – he’s given a lot of himself to doing this work with us, and I hoped he’d take it as one sign that his effort has been acknowledged and appreciated, and his trust validated. It doesn’t change his predicament, of course, but he was thrilled!

The Awards have always been an opportunity to listen to more work from places and producers that we just wouldn’t stumble across in the course of our days. And likewise, we’re particularly grateful for the ways in which it’s helped to bring our work to a wider and different audience. As a small, independent team – largely running on unpaid hours – it’s exciting to have our careful, thoughtful work recognised.

But – the work continues. We’re still producing the series. Aziz remains in detention – in an unpredictable situation which we’re seeing fall apart as a government deadline to close the centre approaches.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people wanting to create a program that they have a passion about or a cause they want to illuminate?

MG: One thing that sets The Messenger apart is the depth of the reporting. It’s a long hard road, but my advice is to aim for as much depth as you can – be slow and careful and really get to understand your subject. The most compelling and original stories emerge that way.

NYF Radio: Now that you’ve achieved success with this project, what other radio projects are on the horizon? What’s next for you creatively?

JT: We have a couple of episodes of The Messenger to produce, and those are our focus for now. The Wheeler Centre has a few exciting radio/podcasting projects in the works which will be aimed at generating more critical and practical conversations around the craft of radio making, and working with independent producers, writers and so on. I’m looking forward to having more time to consider different ways that audio can be woven together with other formats of creative work – and also, to listen!

For more information on New York Festivals International Radio Award, please visit:http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/ and to browse the 2017 Radio Award winning programs go to: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/worldsbestradio/2017/

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Open Mic Spotlight: Anna Foster, 15 Minutes from Mosul

New York Festivals Radio Awards Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Anna Foster, Presenter and Journalist for BBC Radio Live. Anna presents Drive on Radio 5 Live-the BBC’s national news and sports network,  and for the past 15 years she has reported major stories from around the United Kingdom and internationally.

Anna Foster, BBC Radio 5 Live

Ms. Foster has earned an impressive number of New York Festivals International Radio Awards throughout the years, including earning the prestigious 2017 Gold UNDPI Award and a Gold Award for her program 15 Minutes from Mosul, her important story

on the refugee’s in the camps outside the Iraqi city of Mosul.

While reporting for BBC, Ms. Foster has traveled to Sierra Leone to tell the story of the Ebola outbreak, reported from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, covered the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels and explored the refugee crisis in Germany.

She has a passion for developing the next generation of journalists, and increasing the visibility of women in the media via mentoring and encouragement.

In the interview below,  Ms. Foster shares her motivation for creating her award-winning program, how she came to connect with the Iraqi’s in the refugee camps, the creative challenges she encountered and how she solved them and more.

NYF Radio: What sparked your idea for this program?

Anna Foster: I’d been following the awful impact that the Islamic State group was having not just in Iraq and Syria, but closer to home too. I’d travelled to Paris and Brussels to cover the terror attacks there, and was desperate to tell the stories of people who were living under the control of this awful organisation. They were largely voiceless at that stage – the difficulty of getting in to IS areas and the danger that people faced speaking out there had led to a wall of silence. But as people finally managed to leave Mosul I saw a chance. I really wanted to make a radio programme about people – parents and children, teenagers, men and women – ordinary individuals with extraordinary stories to tell.



NYF Radio: How did you first come to connect with Manal and the other Iraqis in the refugee camp?

Anna Foster: We were in the camp, talking to the refugees, hearing horrifying stories of the lives they’d fled from. They were so warm and eager to speak, inviting us into the tents that were their new homes. I wanted to get a real sense of how they were living, so we were with a UNICEF medical team moving from family to family, giving vaccines to children who’d had no medical care under IS. Our fixer Mahmoud felt a tug on his sleeve – it was Manal’s relatives desperate to tell us her story. I still remember ducking through the canvas to see her two boys lying on a dirty mattress, with the thinnest arms and legs I’d ever seen. Their weak, pained cries took my breath away. It was such a tough moment, but I know I had to take pictures, talk to Manal, and find out what had happened to them.


NYF Radio: What risks if any did the people who shared their story have to come to terms with?

Anna Foster: Very often the people we spoke to didn’t want us to broadcast their names, because they had relatives who were still living in Mosul and at huge risk of violent reprisals. We had to be so careful, making sure we didn’t include faces in photos unless people’s whole families were known to have escaped from IS to safety. It was a huge responsibility, and I’m so glad that people trusted us enough to put their lives in our hands. Something like that really pushes you to make an incredible job of the material you get, to really do justice to people’s stories and make sure they’re heard around the world.

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter and how did you solve those challenges?

Anna Foster: I wanted to make something unconventional, something that wouldn’t just grab the attention of people following the news, but instead break out of that mold and really speak to anyone who heard it. Because of that it doesn’t have a classic narration style, it’s very raw, I wanted the listener to feel like they were standing right alongside me, seeing what I was seeing at that moment. Equally though, I wanted it to be a compelling and beautifully produced piece of radio that stood out. We took the 15 minutes theme – the length of time it takes to travel from Mosul to the camps – and counted that time down through the programme to highlight that even though people were out of the city, they were still so close to danger.

To find out more about New York Festivals Radio Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/


 

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Open Mic Spotlight: Ljudevit Grgurić “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles”

NYF’s Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Ljudevit Grgurić award-winning journalist and HRT Croatian Radiotelevision talk show host. Mr. Grgurić earned the NYF Radio Awards Bronze Trophy/Best Director for “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles.”

Ljudevit Grgurić award-winning journalist and HRT Croatian Radiotelevision talk show host

Ljudevit Grgurić initially intended to give the award he won at the 2017 New York Festivals International Radio Awards in New York, “Best Regularly Scheduled Talk Program” category, to his guest Branko Lustig. The renowned producer thanked him for the idea, only to give the award back to the radio host.

“Mr. Lustig, it is my heartfelt hope that a Holocaust Museum will be opened soon in our capital city of Zagreb. I promise before all present that I will keep this award in my home and give it to the museum the first day it opens its doors,” said Mr. Grgurić, expressing his hope that multiple Oscar award winner and his radio guest Branko Lustig would be present at the opening of the museum. The Croatia Holocaust Museum will open next year in Zagreb, and the NYF Radio Award will be displayed.

Branko Lustig and Ljudevit Grgurić

 

Ljudevit Grgurić began his radio career in 1980 at Radio Zagreb. He is a prominent media star of Croatian radio and television. His programs have always had the hightest listener’s ratings, including “Retrovizor,” his show on Zagreb’s Radio 101 which aired during the 1980′s to his present award-winning  program of 7 years running, “Hungry Ears.”  “Hungry Ears” airs on HR2, and to date  there have been 375 riveting interviews broadcasted featuring eminent guests from the world of entertainment, culture and politics.

NYF spent a few minutes with Mr. Grgurić as he shared the inspiration for his award-winning program, the preparation involved prior to production, the unique skills required to achieve success in the world of radio, and much more!

NYF Radio: How did your Bronze Trophy winning program “Hungry Ears: Branko Lustig, The World Would Not Exist Without Miracles” come to be produced? What was the inspiration for the creation of this program?

Ljudevit Grguric: Hosting Mr. Branko Lustig, the only Croat to win two Oscars, on my show Hungry Ears has always been a great professional desire due to his miraculous childhood, during which he barely survived the Auschwitz and Bergen-Bensen concentration camps, as well as his brilliant production work on Schindler’s List, for which he won his first Oscar for best film in 1993 together with Steven Spielberg and Gerald R. Molen.

Branko Lustig with Steven Spielberg and Gerald R. Molen.

 

I always believed the day would come when we would meet one on one in my studio.

NYF Radio: How did you recruit Branko Lustig, the producer of Spielberg’s Schindler’s List to come onto your show?

Ljudevit Grguric: When the 83-year-old producer returned to Croatia in his old age, to his home town of Zagreb, and when he was named the honorary president of the Festival of Tolerance Jewish Film Festival, the opportunity presented itself to ask him to appear as a guest on my show just before the start of the festival. I let him know that I not only wanted to talk about the festival, but about his unbelievable life story, which I was sure would fill our listeners with optimism, motivation, and strength in these difficult times.

I was unbelievably happy when he accepted and confirmed that he would be coming to my show.

NYF Radio: What did you hope to achieve by inviting Branko to your show to discuss his experience in the camps during WW2?

Ljudevit Grguric: I must admit that I was concerned as to whether I would be able to create a relationship of mutual trust with Mr. Lustig during our show, which is broadcast live.

It was our first meeting, and the hour ahead of us would face us with unpleasant topics and unpleasant memories of the difficult and painful days of World War II, which I would have to remind Mr. Lustig.

Everyone who does this job knows how difficult it is to explain what sometimes happens in the studio and what energy it is that helps your interviewee open their soul to you. During this conversation, some miracle (that word again) turned our conversation into the intimate memories and the great, great sorrow of a good-hearted man. It was an emotionally charged conversation that brought tears not only to my eyes but, I believe, to those of all of our listeners, even those lacking in empathy.

Branko Lustig

 

NYF Radio: After interviewing Branko, and hearing him recount the “miracles” he said he experienced, do you believe in miracles?

Ljudevit Grguric: There is only one word to describe Mr. Lustig’s life path from the Nazi concentration camps to the stage on which he was twice awarded the most prestigious film award, a word Mr. Lustig himself clearly emphasized during the show – MIRACLE!

However, to experience a miracle, you or someone who loves you unconditionally must have a good heart! I believe that everyone who listened to Mr. Lustig that day will remember this forever! Yes, I do believe in miracles!

NYF Radio: What sort of research and preparation was involved for you to conduct this award-winning interview.

There have been 375 episodes of Hungry Ears to date, and just as many various themes and guests. The first episode of Hungry Ears was broadcast seven years ago.

I prepare for each guest thoroughly, I read everything that has been published about them in the media, and I often consider interesting details from their lives with their acquaintances or good friends, within the boundaries of good taste, of course!

This is how I prepared for my conversation with Mr. Lustig. And when you are well-prepared, you can be creative when running your interview!

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Ljudevit Grguric: I wanted to put Mr. Lustig and his moving, emotional story on air in our country, which is still questioning its role in its peculiar history today, to provide our listenership with striking proof of how cruel and brutal humanity in this part of Europe was at one point in its history.

However, after this part of our conversation, during which we spoke of the senseless human crimes of this time, Mr. Lustig voiced a thought I deeply wanted to hear from him: that, in the early 1980s, he mustered the strength to forgive all young people living today in this world as the descendents of his enemies in the name of love!

History is lifes classroom, and Branko Lustig, as a surviving witness of a dark period in history, has made it his lifes mission to remind everyone that forgiveness has miraculous power!

I was especially surprised by a series of telephone calls at the end of the show in which veterans of our own Homeland War tearfully thanked Mr. Lustig. These painful conversations gave me comfort in knowing that empathy still lives among the common people of our country.

NYF Radio: As Editor and Host of the programs, what unique skills do you need to achieve the level of success that your programs have garnered?

Ljudevit Grguric: First and foremost, you must be as curious and playful as a child, as understanding, eloquent, and well-read as a wise man, and if God has also granted you a pleasant voice and a feeling for the rhythm and melody of spoken thought, you can bravely set sail on the waves of radio.

NYF Radio: Where did you first develop your passion for radio?

Ljudevit Grguric: I began in the 1980s as a DJ in a disco club. In those days, DJs announced the hit of the evening and ladies’ choice dances. Shut away in my glass aquarium, I often wondered when I would be able to say something wiser than those few sentences.

When I was named the best DJ in Zagreb, I was invited to audition for a job at a radio station in Zagreb that was just forming – Student Radio 101. After passing the audition, I was immediately tasked with coming up with a show on music history… I called it Rear View Mirror. After looking back, I bravely moved forward, and made it all the way to New York in the end!

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for young people who want to find their place for a career in the radio industry?

Ljudevit Grguric: My advice to all young people who dream about the appealing profession of radio or television host is, before making their final decision, to ask themselves a simple question – do they see themselves in the job, or do they see the job within themselves?

If the answer is that they see themselves in the job, I strongly recommend they begin thinking about another job immediately!

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Ljudevit Grguric: Of course, I believe that everyone has their own professional dream, and I am no different. But Im afraid to reveal it to you, because, in my country, we believe that dreams don’t come true if you reveal them.

But if we see each other in New York next year, then the doors to that dream will be open… Oh no, I’ve said too much…

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/


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NYF Open Mic Spotlight: Hee-Jung Chung “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme – Part Two

This week, NYF  Open Mic offers up Part Two of the interview with Hee-Jung Chung, Executive Producer/Director for Korea News Network (KNN). Ms. Chung earned not only a Gold Trophy for Best Audio Book – Fiction for her outstanding entry “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme -A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired,” but two other awards. She also took home a Bronze Trophy for Community Service and a Finalist Award for  Information Documentary.  Keep reading to find out how Hee-Jung came to create this extraordinary program, how she met Jaemun , the gifted blind vocal student/performer, how the Barrier-Free Opera was received by the pubic, and her dream project.

Hee-Jung Chung at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards

NYF Radio: How did you come up with the idea for this project?

“Meeting with a blind vocal arts student”

Hee-Jung Chung: March of 2016, I met Jaemun Jeong, a blind young man studying vocal arts. Every sound around him: from the sound of singing to the sound of a wind, sounded like a note in music to him, and his gift for music has been widely known to people around him. Although Jaemun is an opera singer aspirant, he said he had never attended an opera. When he went to see an opera for the first time in his life with me, Jaemun continuously asked what was happening on the stage. I got bombarded with constant questions from Jae-Moon, “Who came out? Why are they laughing? Why are they surprised…?” He was disappointed that he couldn’t see the facial expressions and acting of vocalists or the subtitles on the screen.

Jaemun reading braille music score

“Compensatory Senses”

There is a common view on compensatory senses, which means the lack of a physical sense is compensated with another physical sense. For example, a blind person will develop acute hearing. Surprisingly, most of the visually impaired that we interviewed had a sense of absolute pitch. The term “Ray Charles effect” refers to blind people developing acute hearing in music. Blind musicians such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Andrea Bocelli are well-known examples. Research shows that people who lost vision as a child are more likely to develop acute hearing, and therefore, since musical talent is related to one’s hearing, it can be inferred that people with acute hearing could develop a musical talent as well.

“People with Visual Impairments and Operas”

While interviewing people with visual impairments, we found that many of them like music. To the visually challenged, music is a fair genre because listening to music has no restrictions for people with visual impairments. However, operas were different. From splendid stage settings to showy costumes, constant movements of performers, and to the subtitles that show the translation of the songs, operas are a composite work of art that consists of more visual features than any other genre of music. To understand an opera more in-depth, the story and lyrics need to be understood alongside its respective visual components.

“Barrier-Free Opera that was never made before”

In reality, first-timers for opera can feel rather distant regardless of being visually impaired or not, simply because the songs are sung in an unfamiliar language. Moreover, the languages are sung in poetic or archaic diction which make it even more difficult to understand. In Europe, even if the opera is sung in their own native language, many audiences buy the scripts before going to watch the opera. Real-time subtitles may be convenient; however, it may also obstruct their views and decide to focus only on the play. Thus, to better understand how opera works, you need to study the relative subject in question. This kind of situation can come to anyone and at any time. But, if such a situation comes to the visually impaired, what then?

When we visited the Busan School for the Blind, none of the students had attended an opera despite many who wanted to. Just like Jaemun who aspired to become an opera singer. That’s when I thought that there needed to be at least one method or content that could help the visually impaired. That’s when “Barrier-free Opera” begun, where everyone can be free and equal to one another, and to ‘fill up the empty spaces in our society with music.’

Visually imparied audience of Barrier-free Opera

NYF Radio: What was the goal of KNN when creating this program, and what was the result of this creative project?

Hee-Jung Chung: Opera in the dark is first-ever showcase of “Barrier-free Opera” as well as 6th special documentary broadcasting of “Barrier-free Opera.” Many of you may have questions as to how this “Barrier-free Opera” can be progressed through complete darkness. To be clear, I was not try to initiate a visually impaired ‘experience’. Being in a dark environment as one condition, I invited people to create the perfect stage in their own imaginative mind by concentrating on opera’s music. In the end, I hope to have created a new genre where everyone can experience a cultural activity through this barrier-free content. Despite having started this opera for the visually impaired, I also hope that everyone can enjoy opera as it’s not an easy genre of entertainment.

On September 8th, 2016, “La Bohème, Opera in the Dark”, the first barrier-free opera in Korea, was presented live for 70 minutes in complete darkness by 10 cast members including vocalists, voice actors and a pianist. The performance was successful and well received by the audience. (Please refer to the survey mentioned below) An audience of 800 people relied only on the sounds in complete darkness and imagined their own version of La Bohème.

Explanation to audience of how to enjoy Barrier Free Opera

A radio program including the three barrier-free operas and the documentary of the production of all the operas was broadcasted in 6 parts from KNN‘s Power FM channel.

KNN Radio Special Program, Barrier-Free Operas in 6 Parts

Part 1 <Opera of Empathy, Crossing the Wall of Disabilities> Documentary on Program Production

Part 2 <La Bohè me, Opera in the Dark> Live recording of special performance

Parts 3 & 4 <La Traviata, Opera for All Parts 1 & 2> with scene description and voice acting added to a famous recording of La Traviata.

Parts 5 & 6 <Die Zauberflöte, Opera that Became Light Parts 1 & 2> with live audio description added to the opera performed at Seoul Arts Center.

Also, a TV documentary on  the opera in the dark  production was made and broadcasted from KNN.

TV Documentary on Opera in the Dark

The operas were advertised and promoted through various television programs including news programs of KNN and other programs, and are expected to be expanded to a long-term nation-wide public project. The broadcast content will be made into audio books for the visually impaired and distributed with braille pamphlets to braille libraries, schools for the blind, associations for people with visual impairments and barrier-free theaters in multiplex cinemas so that they can be accessed by the visually impaired at any time. The materials will be distributed to cultural facilities across the country including Busan Cinema Center and Seoul Arts Center, encouraging sighted people to enjoy operas in a different way and to think of the need for cultural contents that can be enjoyed by people with and without disabilities.

Even though this program started as a project for people with sight loss, we wanted it to sound natural and have musical completeness. Moreover, I wanted to create a special feature where people without visual impairments could also enjoy the opera by integrating the use of imagining their own stage-set. This project helped us open our hearts and to better understand the difficulties which the visually impaired are facing on a daily basis, but also to feel beyond our abilities to see. So, with this project, I proved that an ideal hypothesis is right: “Each effort for disabled peopleis an effort for every human being.”


NYF Radio: How was this program received by the general public?

Hee-Jung Chung: The audience gave an enthusiastic response. Although the opera was performed in complete darkness, not even one person left the seat. In the survey conducted to 100 people who attended the performance, about 90 percent said they were more than satisfied with the opera.

About the need to barrier-free operas, more than half of the audience said it is necessary even though they said they hadn’t thought about it before the performance. One of our audiences said “I felt my heart beating fast. Then I realized something could make my heart throb…and sounds and voices could express so much…I thoroughly enjoyed it.” The other audience said “To be honest, I just thought operas were difficult to understand…this one, however, I could understand. Also, I enjoyed imagining the scenes because I couldn‘t see anything.” They all saw the need for barrier-free operas and their potential.

A large number of the audience were visually impaired. Mr. Byeong-don Lee, the chairman of the Korea Blind Union said Blind people love music but operas were the most challenging genre. This is my first time to attend one so I came from Seoul with high expectation. This opera gave a great opportunity for all of us to understand one another, share each other‘s feelings through music and crossing the wall between one another.” and Mr. Yeong-hee Song, the president of Dialogue in the Dark were in the audience. La Bohème was a special opera to them. “I don‘t think this opera is made only for the blind. It was too enjoyable. Every cast member had a different voice but they went together so well. Just like a harmonious orchestra of voices. I could picture an orchestra. It’s so different and a performance designed for a certain audience could become something to be enjoyed by all. Someone said before that facilities designed for people with disabilities will become facilities for all after all. Same as with this performance. At first it was planned for certain people to enjoy, but I think it became a performance everyone else can enjoy. It was amazing and inspiring.”

Amongst music genres, operas are considered the most visual composite art. And La Bohème was presented only by sounds in complete darkness. Since it was heard through ears and seen with mind‘s eye, it became the only opera of the kind in the world.

Curtain Call of La Bohéme

Perhaps this opera was for us who miss out on so many things because of the things we see. With barrier-free operas that have become operas for all, we can dream of a barrier-free world.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Hee-Jung Chung: I believe people who believe in changing the world are actually changing the world. I always want to make program what can change even little part of the world. Now, I am preparing a performance of “Opera In the Dark” in English in New York (Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations) & Houston (Brown Auditorium Theater of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston or Brown Foundation Performing Arts Theater of Asia Society Texas Center, or Cullen Performance Hall of Houston University / Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Houston invited). If any of you want to know any further information of Barrier-Free Opera, please e-mail me. (dartemore@Hotmail.com) I need your interest. Thank all of you. Thank NYF!!

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/


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NYF Open Mic Spotlight:Hee-Jung Chung “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme – A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired”

NYF’s Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week, NYF interviews Hee-Jung Chung, Executive Producer/Director for Korea News Network(KNN). Ms. Chung earned a Gold Trophy for Best Audio Book – Fiction for her outstanding entry “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme -A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired.”

Hee-Jung Chung accepting the 2017 NYF Gold Trophy

 

In part one of this interview with Hee-Jung Chung, offers insights into the logistical and technical challenges that she encountered when creating this award-winning program. Join NYF’s Open Mic us next week for part two of this revealing in-depth interview.

NYF Radio: KNN’s “Opera in the Dark; La Bohéme – A World Premiere of Barrier-Free Opera for the Visually Impaired” earned the Gold Trophy for their award-winning program that was presented live for 70 minutes in complete darkness by 10 cast members including vocalists, voice actors and a pianist. What technical and logistical challenges did you encounter when creating this program?

Hee-Jung Chung: I decided to produce the world’s first barrier-free version of ‘La Bohéme’ as an actual performance and present it like a showcase in order to raise awareness about the need for barrier-free operas.

Barrier-Free Opera Logo

 

This opera is dubbed barrier-free because all performances will be in the dark to showcase the operas to audiences under the same condition: a complete absence of light. While barrier-free contents with audio description in television programs and movies are being produced increasingly, no opera, which is a comprehensive form of art, has been made with barrier-free accessibility. Therefore, I had to stat from zero, creating everything from beginning to end. Since no barrier-free opera was made ever before and no opera was ever performed in complete darkness before, a number of unexpected variables and situations occurred. But through these hard obstacles, it taught us the real hardships and the difficulties people with visual impairments face in a day to day basis.

Challenge 1 . Understanding darkness

When I came up with this idea first, nobody understood what I wanted. Nobody thought it is possible. I had to take care of everything. Many of my staffs didn’t understand why do I need to make a performance in ‘complete darkness’. They were embarrassed about that performance will be held in complete darkness. “How will the vocalists come on and leave the stage?” “Will the voice actors be able to read the script?” “How about musicians? Will they be able to see the music or the keys on the piano?” Everyone was extremely worried. I wanted to motivate them. I wanted them to think about the purpose of this performance. For that, we had to understand darkness.  I don’t have a physical disability. Except for Jaemun Jeong (visually impaired vocal student/special appearance), our cast and staff do not have a visual impairment.

Voice Actors and Vocalist practicing La Bohéme, Opera in the Dark

In July when fierce discussions on darkness were taking place, we visited Dialogue in the Dark, located in Seoul to find an answer. ‘Dialogue in the Dark’ is a place where you experienced your daily life for 100 minutes in complete darkness. It is rather a special world where you can touch, feel and perceive by using all your senses except sight. We receive more than 90 percent of information through our eyes. Interestingly, however, we could imagine just because we couldn‘t see. Although all of us were travelling in the same place, what we saw in our minds was different from one another. What would it be like to have a drink we always have? Guess what? We  could not tell the taste of it, even when we drink coke. Actually, we didn’t have the slightest idea that it was a cola…(some guests said they couldn’t taste anything).

This journey in the darkness reminded all of us that how much we rely on our sight and how information can be distorted as we are too reliable on what we see. It is Yeong-hee Song, the president of this special place. After losing his eyesight due to a tragic accident, Mr. Song said he discovered a new world in darkness. “In my case, I became used to using other senses gradually that helped me perceive the world surrounding me without having to see. I think by doing so that find pleasure in perceiving the world in you own way.  It may sound way too optimistic to those who just lost their eyesight. I of course understand how they must feel because I’ve been there. I can assure them that they will become relaxed eventually and find a different means of communication that goes beyond eyesight.”

We found a clue here. Our audience will be listening to Opera La Bohéme in the complete  darkness. By concentrating only on music and sounds, which are considered the key elements of an opera, they will be imagining their own stages. To let them do so, we will keep it dark. Darkness is after all a key to a whole new world.

Also, I decided to do the trial in darkness. First, pianist So-hyang Sohn had to play the piano in darkness. I was more concerned about the pianist than any other cast. However, after her trial play in impenetrable darkness she can’t even see an inch before her, she said, “I’ve never played in the complete darkness before. I have been playing for 30 years, but what surprised me was the feeling on the tips of my fingers was completely different. The texture of the keys was something I’ve never touched before. It wasn’t what I knew before. Beside, because I couldn’t see anything, I could concentrate my mind. The level of focus went up. Interestingly I made a mistake when  I played with the lights came on (it was true…interesting) When I played with the lights out, I had to rely on the feeling on my fingertips and I could focus better. So, If I was playing in such a situation. I mean at a performance attended by people with visual disabilities. I though it would be meaningful and I could focus better.” How about the singers? SOP. Jiyoung Jeon said “When reaching a climax, when we need to focus more and breathe out longer, we sing with our eyes closed. If we can keep doing that from beginning to end, I think we can definitely focus better.”

Challenge 2. Making darkness

I had to check if it would be possible to perform an opera in the dark. When we first went a concert hall, we started to turn off the lights inside the concert hall one by one. Finally, all the lights were out, However, it wasn’t easy to make the concert hall completely dark. Emergency exit lights were quite bright, but those lights couldn’t be controlled here at the concert hall, but from the emergency control room.There were other problems apart from the emergency exit lights. Lights were leaking through the seats and on the stage. There were so many lights, a lot more than we thought. Hun-seok Jang, the lighting director who has taken care of the lighting for all the performances held at the concert hall of Busan Cinema Center, was astonished at bringing complete darkness into the concert hall. He said “Complete darkness in the concert hall only existed in the audiences’ imagination. There was never 100 percent darkness. When all the lights were turned off, there was always light. Therefore, it was really hard to get rid of all the lights completely. And I also realized that there were lights coming from everywhere that I didn’t notice before.” After contacting a number of departments and waiting for a long time, we were able to have complete darkness.

We also had to be concerned how the audience will respond to the complete darkness. Despite legal issues, it could not be tolerated for some audiences. We couldn’t just lock people up in darkness for 90 minutes. In every theater, audiences can leave to take care of psychological matters. If someone is psychologically scared, we need to be able to let him leave. The theater approved this performance only after receiving a memorandum of understanding that I am responsible for all these situations. Besides, we notified  about darkness to every potential audiences. We hired double numbers of ushers & staff, more  than the usual performance.

Challenge 3. STRUCTURE : Enormous meeting, rewriting, practicing and practicing…

It was not easy to structure the opera. Since there are many visual factors that have to be described in the opera. When you come to think of it, there are so many elements in operas that need to be seen with eyes from including dazzling stages, fancy costumes and singers’ gestures and even the subtitles, that is, translation of characters’ lines and songs. Besides, so many operas consist of singing from the beginning to the end, which would give little time to describe the entire operas. Above all, operas are considered as a difficult genre by sighted people. I asked myself again & again. Could people with visual impairments see through sounds and sighted people also enjoy operas without having to read subtitles?

Advisor Sumi Jo with KNN's Hee-Jung Chung

I formed a team of experts from different fields. A production team was composed of a producer who majored in vocal arts (me), a writer specializing in audio description, and an opera coach. Opera expert Sumi Jo, a barrier-free accessibility related group and organization for the blind volunteered to offer advice. Opera singers Jiyoung Jeon and Dongwon Shin who have played key roles in operas around the world joined us in our operas, and veteran voice actors such as Hye-jeong Seo, Deok-hee Choi and Han-seong Bae provided their voices for audio description and characters.

How much should be described by audio became the first issue. Sumi Jo, one of the world’s most famous opera singers, agrees to the difficulty to understand operas. She made such comments like “In Europe, subtitles are shown even when an opera is performed in the country where the same language is spoken,” and the problem gets bigger when singing with translated words from one language to another as the underlying meaning, nuances and accents intended by the composer could be affected. Moreover, another problem is when the lyrics in the songs are not heard clearly when they are sung. Sumi Jo said “It is sometimes hard to understand the words of the song that my partner vocalist is singing, Even though he is singing next by me.” While differences in nuances can vary greatly from language to language, it is the vocalization methods that make it hard to understand the words in an opera. Therefore, I decided to produce operas in their original languages rather than adapting the lyrics into Korean, and instead provide description  of scenes and subtitles.

Rehearsal of barrier-free opera

If the lyrics were translated and sung by vocalists, then scenes are the only ones needed to be described, thus making the performance far simpler. However, I did not want to diminish the visually impaired audience‘s first opera experience. After a number of meetings and modifications of the script, I was finally able to complete the music and script through translation, allowing voice actors to read the script during the breaks between phrases. Subtitles could be more effectively delivered by adopting more liberal translation instead of word for word translation. In Barrier-Free Opera, while piano was played, the narrator describes the stage and the motions of the characters. Italian words in songs were delivered in Korean by voice actors for each character after vocalists sang.



Challenge 4. Effort to Give an equal opportunity to Visual Impaired People

I also had to decide whether Jaemun Jeong, a blind vocal arts student who inspired us to start this project, should take part or not. I asked the vocalists including soprano Sumi Jo

Jaemun and Sumi Jo

about their opinions and it was decided that Jaemun should participate as Rodolfo in the duet in Act 4. When the cast were finalized, practice began in full swing including reading the script in the darkness.

Pamphlets and posters containing both normal writing and braille were produced so that visually impaired people could read them.

 

Challenge 5. Expressing opera only relying on sound

Since there would be no sounds generated by acting, special sound effects indicating the direction of motions were also produced for the opera. To help the audience to picture the space and movements, we therefore decided to create such noises. We created sounds by tearing paper, painting with a brush on canvas, and clinking glasses…etc. Effects were added to those sounds to indicate directions. E.g. As that Rodolfo and Mimi are walking on the snow, leaving the stage to the right, (Sound of 2 persons’ footsteps moving from  left to right, or assuming the door is on the right side of the stage, I set the door opening from the right side of the stage. On the empty stage where there’s no light, these sounds described space and movements of the characters. Since the opera consists only of sounds, I wanted to let the audience imagine by hearing the sounds. As to let them imagine the settings by listening to sounds, three-dimensional sound effects were added and all the sounds were becoming complete.

Stay Tuned for part two of the interview with Hee-Jung Chung and learn more about this break-through award-winning program.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/



 

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NYF Open Mic Spotlight on Dick Golden “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius”

NYF’s weekly Open Mic Spotlight Interview features prominent award-winner’s from the wonderful world of radio. This week NYF interviews 2017 Gold Trophy winner Dick Golden, Host and Producer of “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius” (University of Maryland University College (UMUC) & George Washington University).

Dick Golden Accepting the Gold Radio Trophy at the 2017 NYF Radio Awards

 

Dick Golden is a revered broadcast veteran and the beloved host of popular radio programs on jazz and the Great American Songbook. For over a quarter of a century Golden’s show “Nightlights was heard thought out Cape Cod and Southern Massachusetts sharing songs and fascinating conversations with jazz greats including Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney.

Dick currently produces and hosts GW’s award-winning cultural, educational program GW Presents American Jazz heard nationally on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio as well as Washington’s Federal News Radio. The series is produced in partnership with Tony Bennett’s Exploring the Arts Foundation. He serves as staff advisor to WRGW, the university’s student-run radio station. Dick has lectured at educational seminars for The Smithsonian Associates, and has hosted concerts for The Voice of America as well as programs with U.S. Service Bands in D.C

Keep reading to find out more about Golden’s inspiration for his award-winning program, the creative challenges he encountered during production, how his passion for jazz developed, and much more.

NYF Radio: How did your Gold Trophy winning program “American Jazz: Tribute to Genius” come to be produced?  What was the inspiration for the creation of this celebratory program?

Tony Bennett with Dick Golden

Dick Golden: The American Jazz “Tribute to Genius” program’s production was inspired by the celebration of Tony Bennett’s birthday on August 3rd and Louis Armstrong’s birthday on August 4th. Tony Bennett’s artistry, 17 years into the 21st century, has helped bring the songs contained in the American Songbook, the standards written by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Duke Ellington, the Gershwin’s, etc. written in the 20th century to new generations of Americans. Bing Crosby once observed that, “Louis Armstrong is the beginning and end of American music.”  Both artists, and their music, represent some of the highest achievements in American popular culture.

NYF Radio:  What was the process in curating the music and stories to be featured in this celebration of the music lives and legacies of the jazz greats, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett?

Dick Golden: For the past 40 years I’ve produced and hosted radio programs that feature American standards and jazz.  So much of the traditional jazz repertoire is made up of American standards and this is the intersection I’ve focused on my programs. I’ve never tired of studying the lives of the composers and artists. Tony Bennett, an NEA Jazz Master and this year’s recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize, has been an essential part of our programs and I’ve had the pleasure of many interviews with him and some of that material became a part of the first hour of “Tribute to Genius”. Louis Armstrong has been another essential artist in my radio career. In 2001, I was Senior Producer for a 13-hour NPR tribute to Louis and the research and interviews with eminent jazz musicologist Gary Giddins and others inspired my deep appreciation for the impact Armstrong continues to have on musicians.

Louis Armstrong

 

NYF Radio: What creative challenges did you encounter during the production of this program and how did you overcome them?

Dick Golden: The major challenges in producing a program to celebrate this music and these artists is to have to contain the tribute to only 2 hours!!

NYF Radio:  Where did you first develop your passion for Jazz? How did you come to share your passion on radio?

Dick Golden: Growing up in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s I was truly fascinated by radio…to be able to connect to such a diverse number of different realities that we’re floating through the air and cold be accessed by turning on radio and going up and down the dial to this day, even witha working knowledge of the basic science behind it, continues to this day to be magical!!! When I was growing up the radio spectrum was not just filled with stations that played pop music, but you often heard the voices of Sinatra, Ella, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, etc and this was the music that touched heart and soul of even a 12-year-old… and my appreciation for the music and the power of radio continues to deepen!

Dave Brubeck with Dick Golden

 

NYF Radio: How did the GW Presents American Jazz series, on Sirius XM Satellite come about?(Michel Freedman of University of Maryland University College (UMUC) & George Washington University , Senior Vice President & Professor of Journalism , USA weighs in…)

Michael Freedman: The spark for this series was actually created while I was serving as GM of CBS Radio Network and Dick Golden was program director of the CBS affiliate on Cape Cod, as well as that community’s beloved and longtime #1 radio host.

I had occasion to meet the great Tony Bennett in Manhattan and that led to a conversation about how to keep this wonderful music on the radio. We agreed to produce a series of specials for the network and it was Tony who introduced me to Dick! Once the connection was made, the three of us set about to further this cause and we began producing radio specials together at CBS. When I arrived at GW as a vice president and professor at the end of 2000, the three of us decided there was more to do and ultimately created American Jazz in the fall of 2001 on local radio in Washington. Tony Bennett himself opened the door to Sirius XM Satellite Radio by making a call on our behalf – without our knowing it. And the rest, as they say, is history! Over the years, Tony has contributed mightily to the series through interviews with Dick (excerpts of which have been used on the air) and his incredible support of the series and his dear friend, Dick Golden. Bottom line: Dick is a treasure and all of his listeners know it!

NYF Radio: Your show is in 15th year, and it’s also broadcast on the renowned jazz radio station, WGBO Jazz 88.3, with studios in Newark N.J., and transmitters in New York City’s Times Square, to what do you attribute its longevity?

Dick Golden: I believe the program endures (as mentioned I began the essentially same program as a 6 night a week, 4-hour program in September of 1977 on Cape Cod at WQRC radio) because the music is timeless. The American Songbook is populated by thousands of 32 bar songs that are really short stories about the human experience. When performed by artists who not only have unique voices and great musicality, but perform the songs with emotional honesty, this music, like great art, never grows old.

NYF Radio: How do you determine your weekly show’s format and how do you begin to prep for the show?

Dick Golden: One aspect of producing the weekly program that seems like an anachronism today is that I record each hour in real time. I don’t record voice tracks separately and then mix in music…as I’m playing a selection and listening in my ear phones I’m often inspired to play a different follow up tune because of something I heard… This method allows me to experience the program the same way the listeners will. I often use birthdays as a catalyst to feature an artist/composer’s work for an hour…I try to avoid any extraneous talk that detracts from the music but do try to remember to mention composers and recording dates to give context to music.

NYF Radio: Do you have any advice for jazz enthusiasts who want to honor this musical genre in the radio industry by creating their own formatted show on jazz?


A couple of years ago the PD at Real Jazz Sirius Radio forwarded to me an email from a listener who grew up in New Jersey and loved Real Jazz.  He was thrilled to discover the American Jazz program because it was produced by GW and HE was a GW student. I reached out to Ryan Goynos and invited him to drop by radio studio when I was recording. I was very gratified that he had such a love of Billie Holiday, Basie, Ella, Tony Bennett, etc. He told me that he and his brother both LOVED this music and could his brother join Ryan in attending another recording session.  I replied “of course…does your brother live nearby?” Ryan said, ” Yes, he also attends GW…he’s my twin brother!”. When Chris came into studio with Ryan I interviewed them on the program and had them choose 8-10 selections. It was such a great experience that I suggested I assist them in recording an audition CD for GW’s student radio station WRGW (on the air since 1929) and they co-host a weekly program called Capitol Jazz! I would encourage anyone in radio who loves this music to create podcasts and to convince PD’s to make some room in a station’s format ( weekends, overnights, etc.) for this music. Produced and hosted by someone with appreciation and knowledge of the music, I believe the program will find a very bright, loyal and engaged… and grateful audience.

NYF Radio: What is your personal dream project that you’d like to create? Or have you already created it and if so, what was it?

Dick Golden: If I had Warren Buffet or Bill Gates wealth, I would assemble a team to create a radio version of what Turner Classic Movies is to film…A broadcasting platform that presented this body of American music in the most engaging and intelligent style. Knowledgeable and passionate hosts…Wonderful feature and interview to educate and inform listeners … Wonderful features and interview to educate and inform listeners…creative programs that would encourage interaction with audience. The listeners I’ve heard from over the years are so involved in listening to this music and so inspiring in their reaction to what they hear.

For more information on New York Festivals Radio Program Awards, please visit: http://www.newyorkfestivals.com/radio/

 

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