Thursday, September 23, 2010

Radiolab Returns to VPR

Radiolab is back!

A new season of Radiolab is coming up for the next three weeks on VPR’s Saturday Special, and it promises what listeners have come to expect from these hour-long explorations into our world and our brains. You'll hear great storytelling and creative use of sound--and of course hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich! Here’s a preview of what’s to come, Saturday’s at 4 o’clock.

Oops (September 25th)

You come up with a great idea. You devise a plan. You control for every imaginable variable. And once everything is in place, the train hops your carefully laid tracks. In this hour of Radiolab, unintended consequences abound: from a psychologist whose zeal to safeguard national security may have created a a community whose efforts to protect an endangered bird had deadly consequences.

Words (October 2nd)

It's almost impossible to imagine a world without words. What would life be like without language? Radiolab asks a neurologist what happened when a stroke wiped out her words, and talks to a woman who taught a 27-year-old man sign language...and the first words of his life.

Falling (October 9th)

There are so many ways to fall: in love, asleep...even flat on your face. Radiolab plunges into a black hole, takes a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and debunks some myths about falling cats along the way.

We'd love to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions for the VPR Saturday Special and we hope you enjoy the programs!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Night of Storytelling Inspired by The Moth

The Vermont College of Fine Arts invites you to A Celebration of Storytelling on October 2. Everybody has a story to tell – about a life changing moment, a terrifying event, or a person who changed your life. This is your opportunity to share it with a community of fellow story tellers and listeners.

To participate in A Night of Storytelling, Inspired by The Moth, check out the VCFA website for guidelines and rules, then show up and put your name in the hat. About a dozen people will be chosen to tell their story on stage. VPR will be recording the event for possible broadcast of the most stellar stories. Those who don’t want to tell stories should come and listen.

Generations of storytellers have made their way through the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing, Writing for Children and Visual Art Programs. Novelists, children’s writers, slam poets and performance artists from all over the world bring their words to life on the Montpelier campus year-round. What better place to host a storytelling event inspired by The Moth?

Why is it called “The Moth”? The founder, novelist George Dawes Green, was sitting on the porch telling stories with friends while moths would circle the porch light. He and his friends realized “that the characters in their best stories would often find themselves drawn to some bright light - of adventure, ambition, knowledge.” The name stuck and now these events are being held all over the country. The Moth Radio Hour is broadcast on many public radio stations and the weekly Moth podcast is a ‘must listen’ for thousands.

The community is invited to this event and encouraged to participate. There are some rules, however: Prepare. Rehearse. Tell it to your dog or your plants and your friends. But do not write it down or make notes. And make sure you can tell the whole story within five minutes.

Please join the Vermont College of Fine Arts and VPR for this free event on October 2 at 7:30. And bring your yarns. Together we’ll weave an evening of stories. This event is sponsored in part by The Vermont Humanities Council

P.S. VPR presents a five hour Moth Marathon Saturday, October 16 from noon till 5. Also - The Moth Radio Hour returns with a new five-part series in November. Listen Saturdays at 4 beginning November 6th on VPR.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Behind The Mic: Vermont Reads

Vermont Reads producers Melody Bodette and Betty Smith shared their thoughts about this year's series, airing this week on VPR:

Each year VPR partners with the Vermont Humanities Council to produce a series on their Vermont Reads, state-wide reading program. This year, the council picked The Day of the Pelican by acclaimed Barre author Katherine Paterson. The book follows an Albanian Muslim family forced by war to flee Kosovo. They are resettled in Vermont and try to rebuild their lives here.

While the book is fiction, it was inspired by a family Paterson's church sponsored in the 1990s. And it's a story that's repeated over and over in our small state, as the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program brings 300 people here each year.

Our series combines interviews with Paterson, former refugees and the people who work with them, plus excerpts from the book. One of the challenges in a project like this is finding a reader who can embody the characters in the novel. We were fortunate to find Nijaza Semic, a home-school liason in the Burlington school district. Nijaza left Bosnia after war broke out and came to Vermont with her husband. In addition to giving us a compelling interview, Nijaza used her skills as a former newsreader in her native country to become the voice of the novel's narrator, Meli Lleshi.

This project also allowed us to learn more about some of the great work that goes on at the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, just one street away from us in Fort Ethan Allen!

You can hear the entire series online.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Listener Feedback: Gubernatorial Debate

A lot goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a live broadcast debate with the candidates for governor. The format needs to be clearly thought out, the hosts' questions need to be researched in advance, listener questions are sought and incorporated, the candidates themselves need to agree to the date involved, microphones need to be wired in place and checked for proper audio levels, media coverage needs to be considered, and more.

It's no small job but it's a great public service and very exciting to be able to provide a statewide opportunity for Vermonters to hear a one-on-one debate.

So it was especially heartwarming after the debate when a listener wrote in and said this:

"You put some needed and clear pressure on, grilled them, did not let them slide endlessly around the park and tried to get the treasured goods. The candidates responded. The result was 90 minutes of quality."

He also said in his note: "Who won? I think Kinzel and Lindholm won."

Thank you! A few other comments we received:

"Job well done last night with the questions and keeping at these two who continue to wiggle around answering straight on. It is clear that Dubie and Shumlin are not fond of one another. I think they are testy with eachother and you both do a good job of defusing the heat." - Amy Robb, Pomfret

"That was the best political debate by miles I ever saw. Bob's and Jane's preparation was super outstanding. The candidates were easy to appreciate for who they are. VPR did a fantastic job informing the public, so Democracy can perform its miracle. I could not be more pleased." - Dan Allen, Montpelier

"Thank you very much for hosting the debate this evening. I was very impressed with the way both Jane and Bob managed the evening and keeping the candidates "on task" to answer the question at hand and allowing the opportunity for the public to participate." - Mei Mei Brown, Brandon

We're so glad our preparation came through! Jane and Bob did their very best to help you draw clear distinctions between the candidates, the VPR staff behind the scenes were the broad shoulders of the debate, and you, the listeners, made it possible to begin with. If you missed the debate, you can listen to it online here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Listener Picnic Photos

What a day! About 900 people came to the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock last Saturday for the VPR Listener Picnic! The weather was perfect, the farm was beautiful, the music was fantastic, David Folkenflik was fascinating....and then there's YOU! It is always such a joy to meet and speak with VPR listeners - you make what we do possible! Thanks for making the day a success. Check out a slideshow of photos from the picnic below.

A special thanks again to for making the picnic possible, and to the Billings Farm and Museum for being such wonderful hosts!

Friday, September 10, 2010

VPR Classical: Your Proms Date

Forget about hurrying out to rent that tuxedo, and calling the florist for a last-minute orchid corsage. This is one Proms date that's strictly casual. (Except, perhaps, for those on the stage.)

Every year, Royal Albert Hall in London hosts the annual Promenades (Proms) concerts. It's one of the largest music festivals in the world, with more than 70 concerts in just a few week's time. The festival concludes each year in a huge, national celebration filled with celebrities, music, and fireworks.

VPR Classical will transport you live to the grand Last Night at the Proms concert in London tomorrow afternoon from 2-6pm. If you can't be at our Listener Picnic in Woodstock tomorrow, then you can still enjoy a festive day with this special one-time concert.

This year's event features conductor Jiří Bělohlávek with soprano Renée Fleming and the BBC Philharmonic, along with a new piece by Jonathan Dove commissioned especially for the occasion. You can see the complete program here.

Remember: no tux, no taffeta, no corsages. However if you really want to get into it, you may want to dig out your red umbrella and get ready to wave it around at the end of the concert. It's one of the many traditions at the BBC Proms 'Last Night' concert!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Exploring VPR Classical's Music

Earlier this summer I was contacted by the producers at Exploring Music with an intriguing proposition. They were beginning to work on a series called "Director's Choice", with radio program directors all over the world being asked to submit some of their favorite music to share with the audience.

The question: "Do you have any favorite pieces you can share with us?" My response: "DO I!"

But where to start? I have many favorites. My personal tastes in classical music run from opera to choral and early music, to Dvořák and very contemporary compositions.

In the end I decided to send in four recommendations, based solely on the criteria of what pieces I most wanted other people to have a chance to hear. They were:
Of the four I suggested, we recently learned that three had been selected to be featured on the "Director's Choice" series! There wasn't time to include the Neapolitan canzona, but the other three were chosen for the show.

In particular I am very happy that Troy Peters' piece has been selected. I first became familiar with Between Hills Briefly Green right when I arrived at VPR for my new job here in the fall of 2004. It's a lush, shimmering piece that beautifully evokes the verdant, fleetingly sweet days of Vermont's summertime. How perfect that it's being featured now, post-Labor Day, as we make the transition from summer to autumn.

This evening's performance of Between Hills Briefly Green features the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, in a recording made at Middlebury College in September of 2003 as part of the Orchestra's annual autumn "Made in Vermont" tour. I hope you'll be able to hear it with our other choices on this special "Director's Choice" program.

Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin airs this evening at 7pm ET on VPR Classical. Remember you can also listen online, here at VPR.NET!

VPR Music Director

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The VPR Saturday Special Goes Back To School!

Here’s something you’re not likely to hear as your kids go back to school this month: “Stay out of school until the books are gone!” But you’ll hear it spoken in earnest on this week’s VPR Saturday Special from American Radio Works.

This week we’ll hear about “The Great Textbook War,” a fight that erupted over controversial textbooks in West Virginia in the 1970s. A proposed change in textbooks and novels taught in public classrooms prompted a discussion on race, religion and class that boiled over into violence and captured the nation’s attention. Parents protested the schools, insisting that their kids stay out of school until the controversial texts were removed.

It’s a powerful hour of radio, and one that resonates today, given how heated discussions about religion and race still seem to be. Listen Saturday at 4 o’clock on VPR.

And listen to the VPR Saturday Special on September 11th and 18th for two more documentaries from American Radio Works. On September 11th, we look at the way teachers are trained, tested, hired and fired, and how that effects educational opportunity for impoverished students across the country.

And on September 18th, we examine why President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” dream is still beyond our reach.

We'd love to hear your comments, questions, and suggestions for the VPR Saturday Special and we hope you enjoy the programs!