ellen_kushner (ellen_kushner) wrote,
ellen_kushner
ellen_kushner

Final "Sound & Spirit" broadcasts

One of my life's dreams was to have my own show on public radio. When I moved from NYC to Boston in 1987, that dream came true when I became the overnight radio host at WGBH-FM.  On air live from midnight to 5 a.m.,  I learned my craft in the "graveyard shift" as  I listened to - and played - reams of diverse music from the amazing WGBH music library. WGBH added a Sunday afternoon world music shift, and also made me the writer/host for a very eccentric national concert series (The Nakamichi International Music Series), whose producers & I joyously broke all the rules of classical announcing. In the next 2 years I created a trio of equally unlikely Jewish holiday specials. At that point, PRI asked me to pilot a national series that combined my passions for world cultures, history, humanities, and every kind of music. That show became my national series, Sound & Spirit, broadcast on nearly 300 stations nationwide.

By the time I left Boston in 2006, my awesome staff & I had created well over 150 shows. To my amazed delight, PRI chose to continue offering them to stations around the country. Only this year did they finally decide to retire the broadcasts. And so, next Sunday, June 27, 2010, will see the final radio broadcast of PRI's Sound & Spirit with Ellen Kushner.

There isn't room here for all my thoughts & feelings about it. So I hope you don't mind if I simply share with you, below, the letter I wrote last month to all the stations who've carried the show.

And the best news of all is that Sound & Spirit is going to remain available online! Thanks to the generosity of producing station WGBH Boston, you can listen on demand to shows ranging from Riddles, Storytelling, Tricksters, Borderlands, Dreams (with guest Neil Gaiman) to Surviving Survival (with guest Terri Windling) . . . all by going to: http://www.wgbh.org/pri/spirit  any time you want!

So, whether you're a longtime radio listener, a frequent webbiste, or someone who's only just learning about this interstitial hour of indescribable radio . . . happy listening.  And thanks.

Letter to Stations from Sound & Spirit host Ellen Kushner


When Sound & Spirit made its national debut back in Spring of 1996, I had no idea how much of a change it would make in my life. Or, rather, I didn't realize just what sort of change it would be. Doing a show about the music, traditions and beliefs of people around the world and through the ages meant I had to open myself up to everything, without judging (except, maybe, aesthetically) a huge variety of human experience. I just plain learned a lot about our world, and got to hear some really good music.

But my greatest learning came from you and your listeners. As you can imagine, the personal letters we got about each show were a revelation: moving, heartbreaking, hilarious, erudite, engaged - they reminded me of the range of humanity whose lives can be touched by public radio at any time. And they made me feel very humble, as what was sometimes just another sprint to a tight deadline on the part of my gifted, overworked staff and me could be a transformative experience for a listener. It wasn't really my voice or my words or my ideas that touched them, it was the material about the world we all live in that I was able to convey through the broadcast medium, thanks to you.

Traveling to stations for local events made all that even clearer. It was such joy getting to parts of America I'd never seen before, to be welcomed into each new community as a friend because of Sound & Spirit. I got to experience the spirit of each place, and I hope I brought a little of each back to the show. I know it changed the way I see our country, giving me an education I didn't know I'd lacked. Hanging out with colleagues at conferences all over the country was part of that experience.

What else? Well, I have to confess that doing a weekly one-hour show with an average of 100 sound cues in 59 minutes (yes, we counted once!) also taught me more about meeting a deadline and showing up on time than anything before or since -- and these are lessons that have stood me in very good stead as I continue my many-branched career in writing, publishing, teaching, public speaking, and performing here in New York City, where I've lived for the past four years.

I am very, very grateful to you for hosting Sound & Spirit on your air all this time. I'm deeply grateful to WGBH & PRI for supporting our quixotic venture from the beginning, and for keeping most of our archive of shows online for people to listen to on-demand. (I hope you can let your listeners know that the show is still available that way: www.wgbh.org/pri/spirit )

I'll miss you. So let's stay in touch, OK? I'm online at http://www.EllenKushner.com. Recent & upcoming projects include a new novel, a children's Chanukah book (and stage show in NYC), an anthology for teens . . . and, yes, a RADIO play: "The Witches of Lublin," a "Jewish holiday magic realist klezmer musical historical drama" I'm writing with musicians Yale Strom & Elizabeth Schwartz. Because I love radio. And there's still so much to talk about.

Warmest good wishes,
Ellen Kushner
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