Friday, April 30, 2010

Working In The Wind - 300 Feet Up

Thanks for your patience today while 89.5 WVPR and 88.1 WNCH were off the air. We've had equipment problems on Mount Ascutney that are complicated and time consuming to fix. (See previous VPR Blog posts from April 28 and April 21.)

Today, engineers removed antennae parts that had been broken by snow and ice. In the photo to the left, you can see the eight foot wide antenna bay being lowered down the 300 foot tower. VPR's Director of Engineering, Rich Parker, reported that it was extremely windy today and work was very slow. In the picture below, you can see the back-up antenna being threaded through the guy wires back up the tower. Engineers had to wait for breaks in the wind gusts in order to make sure it didn't get stuck or tangled.

As of this writing, we hope to have WVPR and WNCH back on at full power by nightfall. There is more work to be done in the coming weeks. We will keep disruptions to a minimum while still protecting the safety of our engineers and the integrity of the sensitive equipment.

Again, thanks for your patience during this period.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WVPR 89.5 and WNCH 88.1 At Low Power Friday

As you know, VPR has been experiencing some challenges with its WVPR 89.5 transmitter on Mount Ascutney. Engineers were on the mountain last week to troubleshoot two problems - a leak in the transmission line, and a faulty combiner. Thanks to assistance from Nassau Broadcasting (with whom we share a master antenna on the tower), we are at full power for the time being. We've determined that falling ice from the top of the tower is the culprit for the leak in the transmission line as well as some damage to our antennas.

Work has been scheduled for tomorrow (Friday 4/30) to remove the damaged antennas and to do preliminary installation work for the new combiner. As a result, 89.5 and 88.1 (and potentially translators in Manchester, Newbury, Woodstock, Brattleboro and Kendall at Hanover) will be operating at low power most of the day and will be off the air for approximately two hours in the afternoon. Once that work is complete, full power will be restored until crews can get up there to install the repaired antennas later in May.

This work is weather-dependent, so if anything changes with the schedule, we will let you know. Thank you again for your patience! We hope you can listen online if you are unable to hear VPR on the radio during this time.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Walking for MS is a VPR tradition

Saturday, a team of VPR staff, friends, wee toddlers and even some doggies participated in the MS Walk. This is the fifth year our team has assembled for the walk in Burlington to raise money for the local chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The VPR team is called Wayne's World in support of Wayne Perry, a former VPR staffer who has MS.

As the Walk is always scheduled for late April, it seems to coincide with the onset of beautiful Spring weather. This year's walk did not disappoint. We had a gorgeous, sunny morning during which we ambled six miles along the lake shore, through downtown Burlington's neighborhoods and down Church Street.

It's a great ocassion for us to help a worthy charity, get some fresh air, walk off that extra layer of winter girth (at least in my case) and catch up with our co-workers. Our team included super VPR volunteer Eugenia Saganich and amazing fundraiser Carol More, who has MS.

As we cross the finish line each year, Wayne is there to greet us with a large smile, thanking us for our efforts. Seeing Wayne makes it all worthwhile for our walkers.

Volunteer For VPR's Membership Drive!

Our membership drive begins next week, and we need people to help answer phones! Volunteering at VPR is a fun way to support your favorite public radio station.

To sweeten the deal, one lucky volunteer will win a $500 gift certificate to the Sweet Clover Market in Essex. At left is the sign outside their store!

Did we mention there's delicious food? Learn more about volunteering here. Hope to see you!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Work on WVPR 89.5

WVPR, 89.5 is currently operating at reduced power on its back-up transmitter. Engineers are working to address two problems:

First, the transmission line that goes from the transmitter up the tower to the antenna needs to be under pressure to operate, and we have discovered air leaking out of the line. Just like finding the cause of a flat tire, engineers must climb the tower and manually search for the source of the leak before it can be repaired.

Second, the combiner that serves WVPR and Nassau Broadcasting, the broadcaster that shares our tower, needs to be replaced. VPR engineers were able to make a temporary fix to it last month, but it did not last as long as we hoped.

On Friday, weather-permitting, an engineer will be on Mount Ascutney to try to perform a temporary fix to the combiner. We hope this is successful, but it will still be a temporary fix until we can install the new combiner, which has been ordered and should arrive in the next week to 10 days.

Prescott Tower will also be at the mountain, climbing the tower to examine the transmission line and find the pressure leak.

During the work, WVPR will be off the air to ensure the safety of our engineering crew. We may also need to take VPR Classical’s WNCH 88.1 signal off the air at that time, and our 89.5 HD channels will be off the air as well.

We know being without VPR can be frustrating, and we apologize for the interruption. We will keep you updated on what’s happening as soon as we know more. In the meantime, I hope you’ll listen to VPR online if you are able.

Thank you very much for your patience and support.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Classics For Kids

Every so often it happens that both Cheryl AND Joe take a Friday off the air, and when that happens VPR Classical is unable to bring you Classics for Kids at the usual times.

This Friday is one of those days. Cheryl will be in NY City attending a music conference, and Joe will be at the UVM Recital Hall preparing for that evening's Bowed Piano Ensemble recital.

This Friday, you can hear Classics for Kids at a special time: 1:54pm, just before Performance Today.

CFK will then return to its normal times (8:06am and 4:06pm) on the following Friday, April 30th.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Do You "Bow" A Piano?

(Bowed Piano Ensemble preparation - Santa Fe, April of 2006)

I had been in college for two years before I decided to be a music major. I still remember the look I got from the lady at the registrar’s office when I brought her the form that said “Drop: Geology 250 - Plate Tectonics. Add: Music 271 - Jewish Music.”

"Ooookay,” she said, and that was that.

I knew that being a music major meant that I had to join some sort of ensemble. I was already in the college choir, sang in an a cappella group, and took solo piano lessons, and that should have been enough. But when I heard about the Bowed Piano Ensemble, I knew I just HAD to audition. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The Bowed Piano Ensemble is the brainchild of music professor and composer Stephen Scott, a man who has studied, played, and enjoyed every kind of music from African drumming to Miles Davis to Franz Liszt. His most impressionable years were in the 1970s, when all kinds of composers were doing crazy things with computers and synthesizers. Others, like Scott and Curtis Curtis-Smith, preferred modifying existing instruments. It was Curtis-Smith who pioneered the idea of draping nylon fishing line with rosin across piano strings, and then Stephen Scott who turned that concept into the Bowed Piano Ensemble.

(Preparing a piano - Lunenburg, Germany 2007)---->

Nylon fishing line is only one of the “implements of piano manipulation” that are found in Scott’s music. Pieces of plexiglass are scratched up and rubbed against the strings, as are tongue depressors wrapped in coarse horse hair. Guitar picks pluck the strings, and orphaned piano hammers strike the strings, soundboard, and harp. There are countless other ways to make the piano creak, groan, sing, hum, buzz, and bang in ways that most of us have never heard.

I’ve performed a lot of music in my life but I have never hard to work so hard and focus as intensely as I did during my two years in the Bowed Piano Ensemble. The audition process was rigorous, as I had to prove I could sight-read complex rhythms in changing meters, and find my place in a weaving line, much like players in handbell choirs. The reward: the chance to play beautiful music all around the country and even across the world. In my two years in the ensemble, I was able to perform in Santa Fe, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New York, Charleston, and Berlin. My musical consciousness was expanded in ways I never thought possible.

<----(Lincoln Center, NYC, October of 2006)

This Friday, April 23rd, the Ensemble makes a stop in Burlington on a tour that also includes concerts in Cleveland and Boston. There will be a workshop with the group at 4:30, I’ll give a pre-concert talk at 6:30, and the main event starts at 7:30.

Stephen Scott and his Bowed Piano Ensemble represent the best of contemporary music. It’s challenging, yet thoughtful. It stretches piano technique, yet always remains tasteful.

You can learn more about the Ensemble this week in a music feature I've produced. It airs on VPR Classical this Wednesday (April 21st) at 4:30 pm and on Thursday during the Noon hour.

Vermont Edition will also offer a short piece about the Ensemble this Thursday, listen in at Noon or at 7 that evening on VPR.

- Joe Goetz, VPR Classical afternoon host and recovering Bowed Piano Ensemble participant

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Morning Edition Is Bliss: Log In To Your Day

I consider myself pretty lucky: exploring all the goodies at is pretty much a part of my job. But even if it's not, we don't think your boss will mind if you learn more about a Morning Edition story at After all, public radio makes you smarter - which in turn makes you a more productive and creative employee. Who can argue with that?

Visit our website to see all of Harry Bliss's Morning Edition cartoons, and tell us how YOU wake up with Mitch Wertlieb.

Bouncing With Bud

When the Tom Cleary Trio arrived in VPR's Performance Studio this past Monday night there was an expectation for jazz improvisation of a high order.

All three musicians (Tom Cleary-piano; John Rivers-bass; Jeff Salisbury-drums) are faculty of the UVM Music Department's Jazz Studies Program. They teach and communicate with students and audiences every day.

While setting up microphones and getting the drums and bass lined up so everyone could see each other, Tom told stories about his recent work with Mike Gordon (from Phish) and with the Vermont fusion band Fragile Zoe (fellow UVM faculty).

Tom then continued to draw from his widely diverse background to offer some very focused insights into the music of the great bop pianist, Bud Powell.

The piano trio in jazz has a similar place to the string quartet in classical music. It's an intimate form built around careful listening, and rich simultaneous improvisation often filled with melodic and chordal allusions and direct quotes from other songs. Cleary's trio also infused their melodies with layered lines of musical meaning, shifting moods from quietly introspective to bright and outwardly colorful.

Thanks to listener support for making special live moments like this possible every day (and night!) on VPR.

- George Thomas, VPR Jazz host

You can also catch the Trio in concert this Sunday, April 18th at 3 p.m. at Christ Church Presbyterian in Burlington.

Monday, April 12, 2010

VPR Wins Six Edward R. Murrow Awards

We are thrilled to announce that VPR has been honored with six regional Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association.

VPR received awards for its coverage of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken captive by pirates off the Somali coast, Lynne McCrea's continuing coverage of a homeless family in Chittenden County, Nina Keck's investigative reporting on Vermont National Guard members who said they were denied promotions and permanent positions, our Champlain 400 series, Steve Zind's report on UVM's women's basketball team in the NCAA basketball tournament, and's news pages.

I caught up with Steve Zind to talk about his award-winning story, UVM Falls To UCONN In First Round:

This was one of my favorite assignments because it was so much fun! Having a court-side seat to watch the awesome UConn team was a thrill, but the best part was seeing the UVM women give their all against impossible odds and do it so cheerfully. They were inspiring. So were the Catamount fans who traveled to Connecticut for the game. That's what I tried to capture in the story. Plus, there was so much sound: the bands, the cheerleaders, the PA announcer, the radio play by play guy sitting next to me and the crowd. Having all that to work with helped me give listeners a real feel for what it was like to be there.

When I look at the number of regional and national Murrows VPR has won in recent years, I think its a real testament to how well things work around here. If the engineering, production, promotion, membership, underwriting and programming folks weren't as good as they are, the reporters wouldn't have the resources to do what we do.

You’ll find links the award-winning coverage at our website. Thank you for making this kind of award-winning news coverage possible!

And speaking of awards, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is among the winners of the 2009 George Foster Peabody Awards for her "precise, courageous and often moving accounts" from Afghanistan. Learn more about her award and listen to her coverage here. Congrats, Soraya!

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Community Forum Is Rolling

VPR's new Community Forum got underway with its first meeting today and it was a great start. The Forum is like a big focus group that helps VPR understand how we're serving our audience with VPR, VPR Classical, and New members are selected every two years.

The Forum heard a "state of the station" from VPR's President and CEO Robin Turnau. In short, listening is up! We're still feeling the effects of the recession, and there is a hugely promising future. Then we launched into a robust discussion about VPR's programming. There were great comments about the BBC, On Point, Vermont Edition, jazz, Spark, VPR and VPR Classical hosts, Hearts of Space, and much more.

The Forum members also put their minds to VPR's digital future with a robust discussion about VPR's role online and ways that VPR can increase the value of

There was also a presentation by 10 members of the VPR staff who gave 3-minute snapshots about "How VPR Works." Vermont Edition Senior Producer Patti Daniels went so far as to bring props for Mitch Wertlieb (see photo, left) to give Forum members a real-life kind of experience.

It was quite a morning; and the Community Forum is ready to roll up its sleeves to help VPR provide the best public service ever. Welcome!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Morning Edition Is Bliss: On The Road

In a rural state like Vermont, commuting to work is almost inevitable. Make the ride more enjoyable by listening to Morning Edition with Mitch Wertlieb. Here's New Yorker cartoonist Harry Bliss's take on commuting with Mitch. You'll also find it in this week's Seven Days!

And while he will give you the heads up if the roads are slippery, don't worry - he's not really a backseat driver!

Visit our website to see this week's cartoon and to connect with Morning Edition on VPR.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

VPR prEview: VPR Goes To Fenway, Murrow Awards, Live From The Border

I stayed up late Sunday night to watch the Red Sox open their season against the Yankees. When the Sox were losing 5-1 in 5th inning, I’ll admit to being an unfaithful fan: I cut my losses, said goodnight to my friends and headed home. When I found out that the Sox had actually pulled out a win, I tried my best not to take credit, even though it was obviously because I had stopped watching!

The experience was also a reminder that you never know when you'll be surprised. That's true with VPR too – whether it's the multi-part piece on the Pony Express I heard on Weekend Edition or the story about the leopard seal that kept trying to feed penguins to a photographer on the latest episode of Radiolab – you just never know what you might hear or learn.

In this edition of prEview, you'll find details about the third annual VPR trip to Fenway Park and an upcoming live performance by the Tom Cleary Trio. Plus, Vermont Edition broadcasts live from the Vermont-Canada border next week.

Read the rest of prEview here....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sidehill Cronchers and Haggis

Joe Citro had some fun with his April Fool's commentary this morning. Known for telling tales about ghosts, monsters, and other supernatural happenings, this morning we learned about the elusive sidehill croncher, a deer-wild boar hybrid with shorter legs on one side to accommodate mountainside grazing.

One discerning listener, John from West Cornwall, thought it sounded familiar, and wrote us to tell a tale of his own:

I was struck by the commentary this morning on strange creatures of the Vermont woods.When the commentator talked about the diference in length of right and left legs, I knew the story was a hoax and taken from Scotland.

We all know the haggis, tasty Scottish culinary treat, now a sheep's stomach stuffed with goodies. But before it was made from sheep haggis came from the haggie, which roamed the Scottish glens, and had legs of different lengths on right and left, and could only run around the mountains, not up and down.

However, in Scotland the haggie were both clockwise and counter-clockwise runners. Their
mating ritual was particularly interesting when haggie going in different directions met. The resulting aerial acrobatics had to be seen to be believed, and could not be bettered even by Kelly Clark or Hannah Teter. The mating result became the sheep of today.

Haggie were captured to eat by running a fence up and down the hill. The haggie running into the fence and rolling to the bottom where they were quickly dispatched. The ease of catching them, coupled with the sheep being the result of their mating is why the haggie is not seen today, but is why the haggis is made from sheep parts. Thought you'd like the info.

Here's what we think: the Cronchers are related to the Haggie. A Haggie stowed away on a Viking ship to Greenland, moved south, and eventually mated with a wild boar. Simple as that!

Happy April Fool's Day!