Friday, May 29, 2009

Talking Strategy on Giant Post-Its

VPR is in the process of creating a new strategic plan that will guide Vermont Public Radio and inform our work over the next three years. Our current strategic plan, which ends next year, called for the transition into two distinct services and a complete overhaul of

The staff got together this week for what is probably the most fun part of strategic planning process - brainstorming! For 30 minutes we shouted out ideas for what we want Vermont Public Radio to be, do, and offer in the future. The ideas were wide-ranging: programming, technology, facilities, staffing and fundraising. We were encouraged to dream big, and to have fun...which may be why some of the suggestions included building a creemee stand in the music library and a wardrobe stipend for Vermont Edition Host Jane Lindholm.

Here are a few pictures from the session. A big thanks to Lawrence Webster for facilitating the meeting and for capturing all our ideas on those giant post-its! We'll continue developing the plan over the next several months. Stay tuned!

Sally Pinkas live performance today

VPR Classical was very pleased to welcome Sally Pinkas back to the performance studio for a live recital this morning. Walter Parker's introduction included the reminder that Sally was, in fact, the first classical musician who ever played in VPR's performance studio - back in 1995!

Since then the studio's acoustic walls have resonated with jazz, rock, folk, opera, - not to mention all kinds of staff events and meetings, and the sounds of "Bingo!" and phones ringing during our membership drives!

This morning's fare included Faure and Beethoven, in advance of Sally's recital coming up this Monday evening at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dispatches from VPR's English Garden Tour

VPR Commentator and Gardening Expert Charlie Nardozzi is touring the legendary gardens of England with VPR listeners, and he sent us a few tastes of what they’re seeing:

Friday: The Chelsea Flower Show was amazing. Beautiful gardens, huge displays of flowers, and great design ideas. It was wonderful have Thomas Hoblyn for one hour to talk about the designs and the insider’s view of the show. Some of the gardens have budgets up to £350,000! It's quite an investment. We saw British Gardening TV star Alan Titchmarsh taping segments live and everyone seemed to really enjoy the show.

We've been at the Garden House and Rosemoor gardens today. The Garden House was fabulous, a great example of a classic English garden, with cottage garden plants spilling out into walkways with great shrubs and trees. The bones of this garden are amazing. A 17th-century vicarage and walls is the perfect backdrop for Zone 3 to 9 plants. This part of England is actually almost subtropical with palm trees and other warm loving plants. Eveyone was wowed.

Rosemoor was more formal but interesting. Great old plants and beautiful examples of shrubs different foliage and textures. The rhodis, azaleas, poppies and wisteria are in full bloom. What a show! Tomorrow we're off to the Eden Project and then Heligan. Everyone is thoroughly enjoying England. We spend days chatting, laughing, and talking gardens. If I don't know the answers, someone usually on the tour does. It's great fun.

You can learn more about VPR's tours here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Music for the Quadricentennial

Staffers know it, so do many listeners. And word has gotten around, so local musicians definitely know it. At VPR we're very fortunate in the fact that the performance space in the heart of our Colchester building is one of the acoustically finest recording studios in the state.

I spent yesterday in there, interviewing and hosting several musicians for a showcase we’re producing for the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial anniversary. Not sure when it will air, but if you keep an eye on the website we'll let you know as soon as possible.

The day started off on the right foot (and the left, and the left-right-left!) with Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, the French-Canadian fiddler and guitarist/singer duo. They were in town for an evening concert at UVM, but they took a little time to stop by and share some of their wide repertoire of chansons, dances, reels and other traditional tunes. They’re great. Lisa has a longstanding connection to this area, as a protégée of the legendary fiddler Louis Beaudoin. Among André’s credits is several years with Quebec’s Juno-winning La Bouttine Souriante. We all got a laugh from Lisa describing her move from Canada back to the family home, after graduating: “It was in Maine. Northern Maine. So far North in fact that when I moved back I had to go NORTH from Québec City to get there!”

Next up was one of my favorite local acts, Marty Morrissey and VPR's own Robert Resnik. With more than 30 instruments and 50 years of experience between them (25 of those years playing together), these two really know how to share some learning, have a great time, and get everyone else involved in the fun too. And why not? There’s a lot to keep a songwriter entertained here: a rich maritime and military history, wildly unpredictable weather, breathtaking natural beauty (every season!), Champ, farming culture, and…yep, even rock snot. And other invasive species.

After a short break we were joined by singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf. A farmer himself, fittingly, he had spent the earlier part of the day playing at the opening weekend of a local farmer’s market. He offered a final set of songs ranging from the whimsical to the poignant, covering everything from the flood of 1927 to the austere landscape of our northern winters, and that hallowed Vermont summertime tradition, the Strolling of the Heifers.

This was just one of those days where I felt lucky. Blessed to live where I do, fortunate to be involved in special gatherings like this, and grateful to have the ears and eyes to be able to take it all in.

Thanks to Robert, Nora, Chris, and everyone else who made the recording session possible.

The final words for the day come from Mr. Greenleaf: “I never get tired of looking out the window. This is a beautiful place we live in, Vermont. It’s worth a lot of songs.”

Look for a complete overview of our Quadricentennial programming on the Champlain 400 page at VPR.NET.


Cheryl Willoughby

VPR Dir. of Music Programming

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Long Haul

VPR commentators are a pretty eclectic group. So it’s no surprise that, when asked to write on a common topic, the come up with some fascinating ideas.

That’s what we did this spring. For our annual Commentators Brunch at Sugarbush Resort, we asked about two dozen of our regular commentators for an essay on the theme of “The Long Haul.”

What’d we get? How about a history lesson on the days when flocks of turkeys were driven to market from Vermont to Boston. Talk about a Long Haul. It’s a very entertaining piece.

But we also got the poignant, including a foot soldier’s thoughts on the infantry in which he serves. It’s a role, it is said, that goes back to the time of the Greeks.

And, of course, there was the personal. One commentator reflected on his immigrant family’s history, with a little piece of advice for how to appreciate the Long Haul.

The essays are delightful and thought-provoking. We’ll air a sampling of them in the next week during Morning Edition. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Jane Lindholm interviews Robert Siegel and Dina Temple-Raston

We were thrilled to welcome NPR's All Things Considered Host Robert Siegel and National Security Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston to Vermont last weekend to celebrate VPR's successful Creating a Sound Future endowment campaign. Visit our website for audio of Jane Lindholm's interview with Robert and Dina.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Take VPR's Underwriter Map on Your Summer Galavants

VPR recently launched this interactive Google map to help you locate the more than 200 businesses that support Vermont Public Radio. You'll find all the information about our underwriters in all corners of the state. Visit their websites or visit them during your summer travels - you can get directions right from the map from work, home, or wherever your travels take you. From lightning protection and baby clothes, from restaurants to learning centers to colorful, mismatched socks, if you are looking for it, there's probably a VPR underwriter that sells it.

Buying local is good for Vermont's economy, and why you buy local from businesses that support VPR, you're helping your public radio station stay strong, too. Please take a moment to take a look and be sure to tell them, you listen to VPR and proudly support local business.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Interning for Vermont Edition

UVM journalism student and Vermont Edition intern Jason Bushey is wrapping up his work at Vermont Public Radio, and he shared his thoughts about working at VPR:

On my first day as an intern at VPR, I came in expecting to do stereotypical “intern work”– making photocopies, answering phones, you know, the dirty stuff. However, almost right away I came to realize that this would not be the case when Vermont Edition host, Jane Lindholm, asked me if I wanted some coffee. (My response: “Isn’t that supposed to be my job?”) Instead, I was given real work in the office and out in the field, and I got to have an impact on some of the broadcasts. Here are a few projects I worked on over the past few months with Vermont Edition.

Recording “man on the street” audio:
Like most first-timers, I was a bit nervous to go up to random strangers on the street and ask them for their opinions on issues. However, once I got my first rejection, I realized that this would be the worst-case scenario – a simple “no.” Soon my nerves subsided and I felt comfortable talking with all kinds of people (including one man outside of City Hall in Burlington who had just left a child support hearing). With some practice, I got some pretty good tape of everyday people whose voices were heard on the air by listeners.

One crucial aspect of my interning experience was background research on future topics for the program. When I was given a topic to research, I worked to include as many sides of the story that I could find. This practice is definitely helpful for an aspiring journalist like me because it got me to dig deeper and farther on particular subjects that I may have not have thought to look at.

Voicing stories:
Honestly, when I first got the internship at VPR, I didn’t even dream of getting on the radio (and yet, anytime I told someone I interned at VPR, their first response usually was, “no way, you’re on the radio?!”). But VPR’s Newscast Editor, Ross Sneyd, heard the audio I collected for a debate over driving while talking on cell phones, and he asked me to write a newscast story and voice it for air. My greatest fear about getting on the radio was, “will I sound smart enough to be on VPR?” Ross, Jane and Production Engineer Chris Albertine gave me great advice on delivery and how to connect with a radio audience, and with their help I was able to get a brief spot on the air. Now, when someone assumes I was on the radio because I interned at VPR, I can at least answer, “well, not really. But there was this one time…"

Learning how to produce a radio show:
Finally, one of the most valuable experiences I took away from my internship at VPR was learning the day-to-day process of putting together a daily radio program. I had never worked in radio before my time at VPR, but I was an editor at UVM’s student newspaper. What I learned is that the two processes – putting together a radio show and creating a newspaper section – have something in common: both require several people working together in close orchestration to produce a high-quality result. The demands of a daily show require focus both in preparation and while Vermont Edition is on the air. I got to see how the process develops from an idea to a live broadcast by producing my own show (with, of course, the help of Vermont Edition’s producers) on magnet schools. Everything from research to booking guests to rescheduling guests when something comes up is required of producers, and my experience at VPR gave me really good behind-the-scenes insight into how challenging (and fulfilling) the job of a producer can be.

So, while I am trying to be a journalist and am always looking to be objective on a particular subject, I really have nothing but good things to say about working as an intern at VPR. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in journalism, so long as they’re ready to do real journalistic work, as opposed to making copies and coffee – I’m really glad I got to avoid that.

If you're interested in interning for Vermont Edition? Visit our website to learn how to apply.

UPDATE: Click here to listen to "Many drivers say they'd welcome a cell phone ban", by Jason Bushey, April 13, 2009.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Covering the marriage debate

Covering same-sex marriage has given VPR News an opportunity to use all of our different media to tell the story.

We've had plenty of pieces on the air, of course, from legislative debates to personal stories. But we also took advantage of online.

We streamed legislative hearings and debates when we could. We posted to when there were developments. One day, when Gov. Jim Douglas announced he'd veto the bill, Bob Kinzel put his cell phone on the podium next to his microphone.

We recorded the governor's statement in Colchester and posted the audio -- even though it wasn't quite of broadcast quality -- online until we could get the good material from Bob's recording.

And on that critical day when the Legislature voted to override the veto, we Twittered and updated and posted and aired every minute.

It's always exciting to be in the news business when a big news event is unfolding. It's even more fun when there are so many different means to get the news to listeners and readers almost instantly.

And our coverage continues. I recently went to a seminar at Dartmouth College during annual Law Week observances and recorded justices from three New England state supreme courts that have dealt with the issue. Audio of that session is online. And there's a story there, too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

VPR's World Channel: A Terrific 10-Year "Experiment"

This week, we concluded 10 years of the VPR World Channel on WWPV 88.7 FM in Chittenden County. VPR worked with Saint Michael's College to air the BBC World Service whenever students were not producing local programs.

It started off as a five-week experiment in December 1998, but the World Channel has been on the air ever since with a somewhat regular schedule during the school year, and expanded broadcasts when school was out of session. Here's a link to a story about WWPV in The Echo, a student publication at St. Mike's.

There are a few reasons for the change. The media landscape has changed drastically over the last ten years, and the BBC World Service is now widely available. Plus, maintaining the World Channel required a considerable investment of time and resources by VPR. As we continue looking for ways to keep expenses in line during this difficult budget year, we feel it's important to focus on our main services: VPR, VPR Classical, and

You can hear the BBC World Service overnight on VPR. It’s also available full-time via our HD-3 channels and streaming at Click here for all of your BBC options.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Ric Cengeri on Vermont's 251 Club

First it was covered bridges. Then poutine, followed by general statewide wanderlust. These are the things that motivated me to drive to and fro across Vermont to see as much as I could of this lovely state. Now it's the goal of visiting all of Vermont's 251 cities and towns as a member of the Vermont 251 Club.

My first visit to Vermont was in 1994 as I hunted covered bridges in Arlington, Springfield and Weathersfield, among other locales in southern Vermont. What I love about hunting those wooden spans from a bygone age is that they run quite slowly and are incredibly photogenic. To date, I've photographed approximately 650 covered bridges in Vermont and elsewhere (although I'll confess to losing count around 400).

After moving to Vermont in 2003, I continued to stalk the wooden behemoths, but then my stomach took over when I discovered poutine. This French fry, cheese curd and gravy concoction is more beloved in Quebec, but there are restaurants around Vermont that serve the saucy dish. And I was determined to find and sample them all.

That was followed by a directionless wander around Vermont, happening upon "new" towns rather randomly. Then I remembered a friend mentioning something called the Vermont 251 Club. The general idea was to visit all of the state's cities and towns.

Back in the Summer 1954 issue of Vermont Life Magazine, Dr. Arthur Peach suggested in his "At the Sign of the Quill" column the creation of a club for people who visited those 251 cities and towns. The Vermont 251 Club was born and is still going strong today. The Club's website ( notes that there are just under 600 members today from 169 different Vermont towns and 20 states.

When you visit the site, you can join the club and then check off the Vermont towns you've already visited, either from an alphabetic list or on a state map. The hardest part is determining exactly what constitutes a visit. The Club states that to visit "means not to 'just drive through,' but to linger a bit, talk to someone who lives there, visit a store or the post office, take notes for a diary, perhaps stay overnight." So, there have been some towns (like Salisbury on Route 7) that I've driven through but never actually visited until recently.

Following the 251 Club mantra made me turn off the main thoroughfare and actually find the town center itself. What a difference that makes. Granted there are some towns, like Berkshire, that don't have much there. I'm not sure where you'd stop to get a taste of the town. On the other hand, East Berkshire (which is not on the list) was a quaint little place.

Thus far, there have been three towns I hadn't visited before that have absolutely won me over: Isle La Motte, Orwell and Proctor.

Isle La Motte is a treasure, with its St. Anne Shrine, quarry, pre-historic reef and apple orchards, visited by the likes of Samuel de Champlain, President William McKinley and Vice President Teddy Roosevelt (he was staying here when he learned of the assassination attempt of President McKinley).

Proctor is a town of marble. Be sure to drive into town to see the marble bridge, sidewalks and museum. And to drive outside of town to take in the spooky, yet gorgeous, Wilson Castle (haunted tours are conducted around Halloween).

And then there's Orwell. I don't think I'd ever heard anyone even mention this town before I drove into it. It's virtually untouched by 20th century development. The town hall, bank, church, library, country store, town green and gazebo appear to be replicas from someone's train set. Too perfect to be believed until you visit.

I have just over 100 Vermont towns to visit to become a PLUS member of the 251 Club - a level achieved once you've made it to all of the towns. I believe that's when you learn a secret handshake, go on long speaking tours and earn the undying respect of anyone who has ever attempted to visit all 251. So far, what I've found is that my love for Vermont grows exponentially with each town that I visit.

I'll post updates on my travels here on the VPR Blog. I hope you'll check back as I visit one town after the next in my quest to touch them all.

Vermont Edition has been doing a bit of 251-ing of its own. Visit our website for our series of audio postcards from Vermont towns, and nominate your own town for a future visit.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Meet NPR's Robert Siegel May 16

We're thrilled to welcome NPR’s Robert Siegel to Vermont on May 16, and you're invited to join us for brunch with the long-time host of All Things Considered at 11 a.m. at The Essex in Essex. He’ll be joined by NPR Counterterrorism Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. Tickets are $60 and benefit VPR. Seating is limited, so please call us at 1-800-639-2192 if you’d like to have brunch with Robert Siegel.

Robert got started in radio news when he was a college freshman in 1964 and has reported from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Israel. He’s one of the best-known voices on NPR. Check out Robert’s full bio at

Dina Temple-Raston is the counterterrorism correspondent for NPR. She was a long-time foreign correspondent for Bloomberg News in Asia, joining NPR in March 2007 after a sabbatical in which she completed two books, learned Arabic, and received a Master's Degree from Columbia. You’ll find Dina’s bio online here.