Monday, June 29, 2009

4th of July Programming Highlights

(View from stern of the Spirit of Ethan Allen III - how fortunate to be there just as the breeze was kicking up, the sun was setting, and the flag was flying. I took this on June 10th near the end of a dinner cruise.)

Fireworks, outdoor music, BBQs and good time spent with family and friends...whatever your plans this holiday weekend, VPR looks forward to being there with you!

Here are some of our programming highlights through the weekend:

VPR Classical - Friday, 7/3 (8-10am): Morning Classics - Cheryl Willoughby sets the stage for the occasion with music for the Independence Day weekend, and from the Samuel de Champlain year of 1609.

VPR - Friday, 7/3 at 6pm: Politics Takes a Holiday with the Capitol Steps. Tune in to hear Mark Sanford, Joe Biden, Arlen Spector, and several Somali pirates as The Capitol Steps perform their Independence Day special.

VPR - Friday, 7/3 from 9pm-Midnight: Jazz with George Thomas sings with the sweet home-grown sounds of Louis Armstrong, Coltrane (that's John AND his son Ravi), and many other representatives of the style described as "America's Classical Music".

VPR Classical - Saturday, 7/4 (Noon-5pm): Saturday Afternoon at the Opera with Peter Fox Smith, and an all-American lineup including Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F, Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, and soprano Renée Fleming, from her collection of American opera arias, I Want Magic!

VPR - Saturday, 7/4 at 4pm: In the early days of our nation, July Fourth wasn’t an official holiday at all. In fact, it wasn’t until 1938 that it became a paid day-off. So how did the Fourth become the holiest day on our secular calendar? Listen Saturday at 4pm for a special presentation of Backstory with the American History Guys. Find out how radically the meaning of the Declaration has changed since 1776, and learn the story of how Independence Day came to be what it is today.

VPR - Saturday, 7/4 at 9pm
: American Routes host Nick Spitzer stomps, shouts and heads up the conga line this holiday with two hours of unforgettable live music from New Orleans' French Quarter. We'll go onstage at the House of Blues in New Orleans, and from there we'll move on to a jam session with the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and bluegrass great Del McCoury and his band.

VPR - Sunday, 7/5 from 1-4pm: Join Robert Resnik and All The Traditions for a Champlain 400 Music Showcase, celebrating the wealth of music from our region. Songcatcher Deb Flanders, Québecois musicians Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, and farmer songwriter Alan Greenleaf make it a very special afternoon of ballads and stories from the Lake and its people.

From all of us at VPR, best wishes for a great holiday weekend!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Baseball moves me

A couple of weeks ago, I headed to Boston for my first Red Sox game of the season. Just thought I'd scout it out before the VPR bus trip next month to make sure the Fens is up to snuff for our listeners. I hopped the T at Alewife and rather than head straight to Fenway or pop off at Harvard Square for some Pinocchio's Pizza, I decided to ride the T to Northeastern University to see some legendary Boston sport spots.

While riding the T, I was able to re-direct a lovely couple from Tel Aviv, Israel onto the proper branch of the Green Line. A recent Boston Globe article tipped me off to the Cy Young statue standing on the site of the pitcher's mound of the long-gone Huntington Avenue Grounds, where the first World Series was played. Not far away is the former site of the South End Grounds (the Red Stockings' first home) and the old Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena). You can learn more about Boston's sports heritage in a great book by Allan Foulds called "Boston's Ballparks & Arenas."

Then it was on to Fenway to see the Sox trounce the Florida Marlins, 8-2. How could they lose? I was sitting in the luckiest seat in Fenway - Section 7, Aisle 7, Seat 7. I was wedged between two pairs of septuagenarians who had great Red Sox tales to tell. Murphy, on my left, played high school baseball against the Conigliaro brothers: Billy, Tony and Ricky. Learning the name of a third Conigliaro brother was like learning the name of the fifth Marx Brother (Gummo). When the topic of the all-time worst Red Sox reliever came up there were three votes for Eric Gagne and one for John "Way Back " Wasdin (allowed 54 home runs in 170 Red Sox appearances and compiled an 18.90 ERA in 3 1/3 innings in two playoff series for the Sox).

Later that week, NPR's Juan Williams visited the VPR studios. We got to talk baseball for a few minutes and it was great fun. Like two kids comparing our baseball card collections, we swapped tales of our boyhood baseball memories. Juan grew up in Brooklyn, post-Dodgers, so he was a Mets fan. Loved Tom Seaver. He also was a big Frank Robinson (Orioles) fan. Don't ask me how I remember this, but I mentioned to Juan that Frank Robby won the Triple Crown in 1966 (leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the same season). I started following baseball in '66 and the American League had back-to-back Triple Crown winners, with Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox winning in 1967. I thought it happened all the time. But no one has won a Triple Crown since Yaz.

Last night, I got over to Centennial Field in Burlington for my first Lake Monsters game of the season. I sat near a certified super-fan - Vic Bora of Burlington. Vic has attended all but one Vermont Expos/Lake Monsters game. One game missed since 1994. He's the Cal Ripken of Vermont fandom. He missed the game because of a wedding. It wasn't the one he attended in Poughkeepsie, NY. Vic went to that wedding and got back in time to see the game. No, it was a wedding in Waterbury the impinged on his perfect record. And to this day, he's not happy about it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Expanding VPR Classical

One thing I’ve learned about Vermont Public Radio listeners is that they'll tell me exactly what they think. Last night I heard loud and clear that listeners in Addison County want their classical music back. Bonnie and John McCardell hosted a gathering of listeners at their home in Cornwall to help VPR spread the word about plans to bring VPR Classical to Addison County. We've secured a license to build a new full-power station based in Middlebury and serving an area that reaches from Vergennes to Brandon and from Port Henry, NY east to Ripton. The cost to build the station is $346,000, including first year operating costs. As soon as these capital dollars are raised, the station will be built and begin broadcasting.

Several people mentioned their disappointment that classical music was moved off of VPR back in fall 2007. That was when VPR began broadcasting news and information shows such as On Point, Vermont Edition, and the Story during the middle of the day. Why did VPR make this change?

For years listeners had been asking for more news or more classical, and it was obvious we weren’t serving either audience well. Nationally, “mixed format” stations such as VPR were losing listeners, while news stations were growing and full time classical stations were doing well. VPR was seeing a decline in listeners, and we knew that in order to keep VPR strong it was important to change to a news station, but we were also deeply committed to keeping classical music alive on the radio in Vermont.

In 2004, we launched VPR Classical on WNCH in the Upper Valley region and added several other classical stations over the next three years. After a great deal of thought, research and planning, we made the change on October 1, 2007. Some listeners complained, others celebrated, and the end result is that Vermont Public Radio now serves more listeners than ever before: 182,000 people tune into VPR or VPR Classical each week.

Our top priority is to expand our VPR Classical network to serve more Vermonters. VPR Classical is currently broadcasting to about 60% of the state, and can also be heard on HD radio and The areas that are not covered include Rutland, Montpelier, Randolph, Saint Johnsbury, Middlebury, and Brattleboro.

We are very pleased to have been awarded this Addison County frequency during a rare non-commercial application window. These opportunities don’t come along very often. The only way we can expand VPR Classical is through these FCC windows that granted us this station, or through buying a station from a commercial or religious broadcaster.

If you’re interested in helping to fund the expansion of VPR Classical, please let me know. We recognize that it’s challenging to raise money for any project these days, but this is an opportunity we don’t want to miss. At a time when commercial classical stations are disappearing, we have an opportunity to show the country that Vermonters care about classical music and want it to be there for this generation and generations to come.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vermont Edition's Summer Reading Show: The List

When I was a kid, my school library would stay open throughout the summer. During those long, lazy days of vacation, we'd bike to school a few mornings a week and while away hours browsing the stacks and picking out new books to read. Aside from keeping us amused and out of trouble, we also received McDonald's coupons for every book we read. This seems like a strange practice today, but it certainly explains why I tend to associate summer reading with cheeseburgers.

Truth is I would have grown to love reading even without the bribery, and although I rarely get to read all of the books that pique my interest, reading lists are one of my very favorite things about summer. Visit our website for the complete list of books recommended during yesterday's Vermont Edition Summer Reading Show.

And if that's not enough, NPR has a whole section of their website devoted to summer reading.

As for what I'm reading this summer, I'm almost finished with Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, which I first heard about a few years ago on Studio 360. Next up? Tough to say, my list just got longer!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sing a Song of the Lake

This past Thursday evening, the last piece neatly settled in place for VPR's musical celebration of Lake Champlain. Like the Lake itself, the legacy of songs about it are a rich blend of history, culture, and - most important of all - the diversity of people connected to this special region.

Singer, songwriter and historian Deb Flanders joined Robert Resnik in the VPR Performance Studio for conversation and an enchanting set of songs including classics like The Butcher Boy and 10,000 Miles, along with a few newly written tunes.

VPR's music showcase is part of the Champlain 400 project.

On July 5th, All The Traditions will feature the voices and music of the French Canadian fiddling/guitar duo Lisa Ornstein and Andre Marchand; singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf; and this intimate recording session with Deb Flanders.

Later in the summer (August 2nd at 4pm) we'll share highlights from all of these performances, with a lively set of traditional and original songs about the Lake from Robert Resnik and Marty Morrissey.

A Quadricentennial celebration calls for music of equal scope and magnitude, and these talented musicians deliver!

Friday, June 19, 2009

NPR's Juan Williams Visits VPR

We were pleased to welcome NPR News Analyst Juan Williams to VPR yesterday for breakfast with VPR staff and guests. He was in town for a speech to the Vermont Business Roundtable in the evening.

Juan drew on his more than thirty years' experience as a reporter, commentator, and author in a lively conversation about media and the news it covers.

Here are some photos from the event. Also, don't miss Mitch Wertlieb's interview with Juan, which aired yesterday morning.

UPDATE: Listen to the keynote address by Juan Williams to the Vermont Business Roundtable, part of the VPR Presents series.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Win Tickets to Queen City Radio Hour

We're giving away tickets to The Queen City Radio Hour, live at Burlington's Flynn Theater on Thursday evening, July 2. Hosted by Tom Bodett (Vermonter and panelist for NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me), the variety show celebrates the Champlain Quadricentennial and features Rusty Dewees and musical guests The Horse Flies, Anais Mitchell, and others.

The show is produced by Vermont independent film maker Jay Craven (at left) and will be taped for later broadcast on VPR. Enter to win tickets online here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ottaviano Who?

About a quarter of a century after Johannes Gutenburg revolutionized publishing words with the invention of the printing press (in 1440), Ottaviano Petrucci was born on June 18, 1466 in Italy.

His legacy would not be nearly as legendary as his German counterpart, but for musicians, Petrucci’s innovations have proven to be equally important. In 1501, he created the first set of sheet music printed from moveable type. Many great composers from the early sixteenth century had their music published with Petrucci’s method, which consisted of three impressions. First, the staves (the sets of parallel lines upon which musical notes are written) were pressed. After that, the notes came along. And in the third impression, words were printed under the notes on the staves. This method was dominant for several decades, before another innovator—Pierre Atttaignant of France—developed a method in which all three stages could be accomplished at once.

Much like Gutenburg’s press, the work of Petrucci, and then Attaignant, revolutionized the way music was read and performed. The sudden ability to mass-produce music manuscripts led not only to standardization of musical notation, but also to much greater distribution of those manuscripts. Musical traditions in different regions in Europe gained exposure elsewhere, and this led to an increased awareness of music theory. Composers began to learn from one another. A new era had dawned in Western music.

The name Ottaviano Petrucci is certainly not one that is heard often these days. But there is a large collection of music that bears his name, and everyone has access.

The Petrucci Music Library of the International Music Score Library Project is an enormous collection of nearly 30,000 scores by over 1,500 composers. It launched several years ago, endured a shutdown caused by copyright concerns, but it has since re-opened with better oversight. For example, scores that are not public domain in the United States cannot be downloaded within the United States—the library’s server is able to discern these things by IP address. You can browse the collection here.

Happy browsing, and happy birthday June 18th, Ottaviano Petrucci!

Joe Goetz
VPR Classical

VPR Wins Four National PRNDI Awards

Over the weekend in Portland, Oregon, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI) honored VPR's news coverage with four national awards.

We won first place awards for its coverage of the death of 12-year-old Brooke Bennett and subsequent reporting on Vermont’s sex offender laws; and for Philip Baruth's commentary on Vermont’s low birth rate.

We received second place awards for the documentary “Those CCC Boys,” and for Jane Lindholm's interview on raising pigs.

The awards were presented in the large-station category, which means our entries into the contest were considered alongside those from the largest public radio stations in the country. Only Chicago Public Radio won more awards than VPR in this division.

You can hear the award-winning stories here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Volunteering: The Job that Pays in Doughnuts

Volunteer Shelagh Shapiro sent us these thoughts about volunteering at VPR:

When people ask me what I do, a question which is perhaps an unfortunate fallout of living in a world where one must DO something quantifiable in order to be counted, I most often start by saying I work at VPR. Achieving the intended reaction from the other person—that incredulous look of joy and fascination—I stumble over myself with the apologetic explanation: “I’m a volunteer.” Apologetic not because I regret what I do, but because, again, if we don’t earn our keep in a quantifiable way, do we exist?

Before I began to work here (as a volunteer), I got to know the voices. Mitch Wertlieb, Walter Parker, Cheryl Willoughby, Neal Charnoff, Bob Kinzel. I knew them just as you do, and shared a unique, if one-sided, relationship with each of them. Back then the term “VPR studios” evoked my own personal Charlie Bucket, standing outside the gates of the Wonka Factory. What in the world goes on in there? Not that “no one ever goes in, and no one ever comes out," but it’s radio, so we don’t see it. It’s magic, really, what happens inside.

Eventually, an opportunity arose for me to become a VPR volunteer. It was an opportunity that had existed all along, only I hadn’t known it. (I’m tempted here to go into a whole ruby slippers tangent, but I already got away with the Charlie Bucket thing, so no.) I told them about my background in writing and public relations, from when I used to work for real, and VPR showed me to a desk that sported the nameplate George Thomas. George Thomas! Well for heaven’s sake; I knew him. Wow. Small world.

I’ve been a VPR volunteer for two years now. The people here give me work to do, I do it, they say nice things and give me other work to do. It’s a bit like a job. It is. It is a job. I work at VPR. This means there’s always music or news or an interesting interview playing through speakers. It means I can wander down the hall, peek through sound-proof windows, and watch Jane Lindholm interview Bernie Sanders or Peter Galbraith or Vermont lawyers who represent Guantanamo detainees. I can watch Joe Goetz introducing Suite #2 from the incidental music to Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg. Also, the studios are the radio equivalent of Wonka’s chocolate factory. No Everlasting Gobstoppers, but frequent doughnuts.

My relationships with the VPR hosts are no longer one-sided. Walter Parker rides a motorcycle. Cheryl Willoughby is an amazing photographer. Neal Charnoff loves movies. Mitch Wertlieb’s daughter is turning one soon. Who knew? It’s like they’re real people. And the other real people, the ones behind the scenes, work hard to bring public radio to Vermont. They welcome assistance and encourage input. Even from volunteers.

All of which makes me wonder if I should stop apologizing. I work at VPR, which means I work for Vermont. Contributing ideas, energy and time to enhance my favorite place. In return, VPR rewards me with a life that is that richer, fuller.

So if I don’t earn my keep here in a specifically quantifiable way, do I exist? In fact, I do.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Howard Dean on healthcare reform, today on Vermont Edition

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was the guest today on Vermont Edition.  Gov. Dean discusses his new book, "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform."  Dean also reveals why, after seven years of silence, he is speaking out against the Douglas Administration's policies for the Housing and Conservation Fund and the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Fund. 

VPR Presents Gloria Steinem

"I know someone is really smart when I can understand everything they say." This was one of many notes I took during Gloria Steinem's appearance in Burlington Thursday night.

At 75, Steinem's energy still fills a room, uniting the crowd of 600 women who came to hear her. She covered a wide range of topics including the connection between sex discrimination and racism, the fact that slavery is more prevalent today than it was in the 1800s, and her warning that America is in a time of transition that holds both promise and danger.

One moment stood out for me: a girl celebrating her 15th birthday asked Steinem what advice she had for her and her young friends. Steinem replied, "Don't listen to me, listen to your dreams." And the whole room sang Happy Birthday.

One of my favorite books that I have reread many times is Steinem's memoir "Revolution From Within." We see a woman who has always looked so strong and has been such a powerful force for change here and around the world - we assume she's always been that way, right?  Not quite. "Revolution From Within" reveals Steinem's inner struggles and charts her personal growth as she became a woman with an unstoppable vision.

VPR Presents Steinem's talk and the discussion that followed here.

Steinem was brought to Vermont by Vermont Woman Newspaper.

Franny Bastian
Senior Producer
Vermont Public Radio

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Century of Service

Last Friday, we gathered for our annual employee recognition lunch to honor staff members who have reached milestone years of service to VPR in 2009. This year, we celebrated six staffers:

Left to right, that's Steve Zind (15 years), Cheryl Willoughby (5 years), Sam Sanders (30 years), Walter Parker (25 years), Tim Johnson (5 years), and Robin Turnau (20 years). We did the math; that's 100 years! Every person who works at VPR makes it a stronger organization, but as a staff working as a team and family it becomes worth even more than a century of service. Congratulations!

Monday, June 8, 2009

An epic candlepin series

The second stop on the Vermont Public Radio tour of Vermont Candlepin Bowling centers was made on Saturday, June 6 when VPR Classical's Joe Goetz and VPR's Ric Cengeri traveled to Upper Valley Lanes & Games in White River Junction.

In a battle reminiscent of the 1964 World Series between the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, this one wasn't decided until the late frames of Game 7. It was the young upstart (Joe) taking on the seasoned veteran (I previously bowled two games of candlepin a few weeks before in Derby). Joe made up for his lack of experience by viewing hours of old candlepin broadcasts on youtube. He spent as much time preparing for his candlepin debut as he did when learning Chopin's Scherzo No.2 in B Flat Minor.

The two bowlers had contrasting styles. Joe started at the back of the lane, taking long strides, throwing the ball hard and fast. I reduced my approach to three steps and took a slow steady swing with the ball.

Amazingly, through six games and seven frames, we were locked in a tie. We had each won three games and had the exact same cumulative score through those 67 frames. Then in the 8th frame of the seventh and deciding game, Joe notched a spare while I scored 9. It proved to be the difference as Joe went on to win the final game, 81-79. His cumulative score was also better: 550-549.

So for now, Joe Goetz, the classically trained pianist and self-taught bowler stands as VPR's Candlepin Champ.

Click here to learn more about Candlepin bowling in Vermont.

(In addition to White River Junction and Derby, there are candlepin bowling centers in Canaan and Wilmington, Vermont)

Work today on Mount Mansfield

WVPS will be at low power today starting at 9AM to allow removal of towers and antennas on Mt. Mansfield. In addition, WVPS may be off completely occasionally throughout the day. WVTI and WVPA HD may also be affected. We apologize for the inconvenience. You can listen online during the interruption.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

You Have to Hook'em While They're Young

We often have visitors to our studios, but it's an extra-special treat to welcome young people to Vermont Public Radio. On Wednesday, VPR President Robin Turnau gave a tour to her daughter Maddie's 6th grade class from the Charlotte Central School.

I've never met a listener who doesn't feel lucky to have discovered public radio. I didn't get hooked until after college when I drove a lot for my job, and remember wondering why I didn't start listening sooner. Truth is, it just never crossed my radar.

Maybe these sixth-graders won't start listening right away, but we hope that introducing young people to public radio while they're young will set them on a path to living a curious, engaged, and informed life.

Click here to hear an audio clip recorded by the class.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Job Opening at VPR

Here are just a few of the reasons why we love working at VPR:

People who are: creative, energetic, enthusiastic, love food, share their favorite books, collaborate, have interesting lives and play well with others.

Nice digs: Modern studios, cozy cubicles, and Fort Ethan Allen is a great place to walk at lunch time.

Awesome food: at staff parties and VPR events, donated during pledge drives, and occasionally shared in the VPR kitchen.

When you tell people where you work, they exclaim "You work at VPR? I love VPR!"

To learn about our current opening for a producer/announcer, click here.

Vermont Public Radio is an equal opportunity employer.