Storytelling: Why The School Band Matters

“In other parts of the country, people call band lovers band geeks. There’s no such thing as a band geek in New Orleans. We have band heads, where band is life, you know,” Herrero says. “It’s a way for people to express themselves in ways that they can’t in other avenues.”

Take 12 minutes to listen to this All Things Considered story about the Edna Karr High School Marching Band from New Orleans, a compelling feature that reporter Keith O’Brien put together over the course of the school year.   Outstanding use of audio, too.

Do as NPR suggests:

Editor’s Note: This is a story about a high school band. It is a story that demands to be heard, even more so than read.

At A New Orleans High School, Marching Band Is A Lifeline For Kids

But do go back and read the comments.  Like this one:

Tears seem to be a common reaction to this story. I too am a band geek and music kept me out of trouble in New Orleans. Only on NPR, on your drive home, can a story reach inside of you and lay open the feelings that compose your core; in this case, my core. Band saved my life.




Storytelling: The Rise and Fall…and Rise Again? of American Design

As a lifetime listener (truly) and longtime producer in the radio vineyard, I’ve heard lots and lots and LOTS of stories.   But every now and then one comes along that stops you in your tracks.  Like this two-part series on Marketplace, which has it all:  powerful writing, editing, and delivery, terrific use of audio, and an original and important topic that almost never gets discussed in the mainstream media.

And what personalities, and what sound bites the give us!  Entrepreneur Jim Jacoby:  (“A company that needed to be profit driven and hit certain numbers… and I was trying to [save] the world… those two things are hard to square,”)  obsessive motorcyle designer JT Nesbitt, (“If Jim hadn’t shown up I would be serving you lunch,” and design expert David Lenk, who utters perhaps my favorite lines in all of Part 1:

 “You can walk through any flea market aisle today and find a Sunbeam blender or an Emerson fan or Bakelite Zenith radio from the late ’40s to early ’50s and, not only do they look good, they probably still work.”

But, said Lenk, things started to change in the mid-50s. “The Harvard MBA grads started fanning out with their evangelizing of planned obsolescence, and finance became more important than corporate traditions of design or quality. And by the mid 60s it was all gone. It’s just junk.”

Gratifying to see that I’m apparently not alone in my thinking, either — these are at the moment the top two most-popular stories on the show’s site. Kudos to all involved for a great piece of radio.

Two obsessed guys and a radical motorcycle design

And, yeah, I remember picking up lots of old Zenith radios in the yard sales of my youth…and they all worked splendidly!

Zenith radio

Storytelling: Where Have You Gone, Rosie The Riveter?


“People really haven’t been riveting for quite a while,” said Mary Grieco, metals control engineer for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. “It’s a learning curve for everybody. There are no specifications anymore that tell you how to rivet, so we make the best engineering judgment on how to do it.”



On the heels of the excellent Marketplace story discussing the decline of – and the attempt to, er, “kick start” – American Industrial Design, comes a fascinating story in today’s local rag explaining just why it’s going to take so long to refurbish the iconic Longfellow Bridge spanning the Charles River between Cambridge and Boston.   Turns out it’s all about rivets and rocks … or to be more precise, the elusive, prized Rockport Granite – “The Granite of Character.”  Worth a read!

Description of Rockport Granite, taken from Sweet's Catalogue of Building Construction, 1915

Description of Rockport Granite, taken from Sweet’s Catalogue of Building Construction, 1915

Storytelling: “129 Cars”

I'm reminded of Ernie Boch: "Ask for the keys, it's yawh cah!"

I’m reminded of Ernie Boch: “Ask for the keys, it’s yawh cah!”

From time to time I like to share pieces of audio or video production that I think is especially fine or noteworthy.  For me, it usually boils down to storytelling, hence the slug.

As someone with a family background in the car business, I found this episode of This American Life to be especially good, particularly since it’s a subject and personality area that does not turn up often in pubradio land.  It’s called “129 Cars,”  and somehow it seemed just right to be listening to it on a Saturday afternoon driving from one vast parking lot to the next in a pre-Christmas shopping frenzy…


513: 129 Cars

129 Cars