Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How many SPR employees does it take...?

How many SPR employees does it take to record a promo?

I’d written a few 30-second spots promoting the Making Noise blog, and headed back to one of the mixing consoles to record.

“Uh…” I’d recorded in this room before, but Patrick had always been manning the computer. Today, though, he was downtown playing at Street Music Week.

There was a picture of our President in cool dreadlocks on the monitor, which I found amusing, but I could not find the Next Gen audio icon anywhere on the desktop. Another thing: Talk of the Nation was blasting over the speakers, and I had no idea how to turn it off without pushing the wrong button and wreaking havoc on the entire station.

The last time I’d recorded stuff on my own, Verne had set it all up for me. I’d made some mistakes, but I’d figured it out.

There was no way I was figuring this out alone.

Luckily, Neesha is a whiz with most things technical. She noticed right away that there were two machines hooked up to the one monitor. Unsuccessfully, she searched for the switch to change over to the machine I needed. With Jerry’s help, we figured out keystrokes instead.

“Oh!” Jerry suddenly announced. “Here’s the switch!” It was hidden behind the monitor. Neesha and I laughed. “That’s what I was looking for!”

Neesha hadn’t recorded audio for a while, but she got me set up in Next Gen’s promo file and gave me a quick refresher on the mini editor. Neesha and Jerry wished me luck as they left, shutting the door.

Okay, I thought, I can do this.

I sat down in the chair. I put the headphones on. I started recording.

I heard nothing on playback.


Once again, I looked down at the mixing console. I swear it looked more advanced than the cockpit of a 747. There were at least 12 pots (potentio-meter-something), with various on-off switches lit or unlit, volume sliders, Audition mode, and all sorts of other modes and lights and…

I could feel my eyes crossing, and had a vague memory of flunking the circuit-building part of my Physics final. How did anyone ever figure this stuff out?

Luckily, Brian Flick had just finished an important project, and had time to come and help me out.

“You need to make sure this—“ he pushed a button “—is on Audition, and this—“ he pushed another “—is off, and this—“ He pushed about eight more buttons, which all turned light green. “Okay, now you should be able to hear yourself.”

Viola! All of a sudden I was in business.

I thanked Brian profusely, and he gave me a hearty pat on the back. “Every console is a bit quirky, and so is every computer. We all have to learn each one all over again, too!”

I felt tons better.

So, how many SPR employees did it take to record one promo? Not including myself, it took three. And I never could’ve done it without them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Musicfest Northwest

Music provides an escape. It’s healing. And in spite of what you may think, even teenagers adore Beethoven.

This morning I walked past the retro-festive refreshments table and toward the room where I’d helped answer phones during the recent pledge drive. Gorgeous, flawless classical music was playing, and I thought, “They must be taking a break between performers.” I walked quietly and, just in case, peeped in through the door’s window. A thin, shy-looking young man wearing glasses was playing a clarinet. My jaw dropped.

“Hey, Heather,” Patrick Klausen said, waving me into the adjoining room and toward a chair next to the picture window.

“That’s not a recording?” I asked, disbelieving.

He smiled. “Nope. That’s Patrick Moeller.”

When he finished, everyone broke into applause. “He was good,” I said.

The look on Patrick’s face said, “That’s what it’s all about.”

I was immediately impressed by the professionalism young Mr. Moeller and the other performers seemed to possess. Half a dozen people sat in the room, clicking pictures or taking video, while multiple pairs of eyes peeped through windows on all sides. And yet, the performers did not seem shaken by the “fishbowl” feeling they must’ve had.

As a high school teacher, I am constantly and pleasantly surprised by some of the young people that live in our region. Talented, kind, and hard-working—it makes me proud to be a part of this community.

Next up was Eun-Song Koh, ready to jet off to college back east in the fall. Her eyes closed in ecstasy half the time, I felt as if I was watching a conversation between this young woman and her piano.

During her post-performance interview with Verne Windham, Eun-Song said piano was going to be her minor. “I’m going to major in violin. Violin is like a friend to me,” she went on. I just shook my head. If her conversation with piano was this good, I wanted to see her play violin, too!

Watching this old, old music being channeled through the young, nimble fingers of Musicfest Northwest performers was both eerie and enchanting. I had work to do, but I felt rooted to my seat.

Following Miss Koh was Margaret Klein, who would be playing a Beethoven sonata. For those of you who think teenagers in the Pacific Northwest only vent their frustrations at Tech N9ne shows or at “Twilight” premieres, think again. The intense, angsty expression on Margaret’s face rivaled Bella Swan’s and belied the sweet, white crocheted sweater she wore over her pink dress.

“My family has moved several times,” she said afterwards. “Whenever I used to get angry, I would play that song…It’s serious stuff.”

Friday, April 13, 2012

Get Lit!

 Cool English teachers such as myself do not ask themselves whether they will attend Get Lit!, Spokane’s annual literary festival, but rather how many events they will attend.

So it’s pretty awesome when your sister—a student at EWU—plunks down a stack of free event tickets on the dining table.

Last night I had the opportunity to see Steve Almond and Susan Orlean on stage at the nearly-stuffed Bing Crosby Theater.  The best thing, though, was the fact that these speakers were introduced by SPR’s very own Verne Windham (all professional in a suit and tie) and the charming Nancy Roth.  One of the fundamental values guiding SPR’s mission statement is:  “We actively participate in the cultural life of our listening communities.”  And there they were, actively participating.  It was inspiring and fun to see the mission at work.

While I’d never invite Mr. Almond to speak freely with my students, I couldn’t help but guffaw or gasp at every hilariously inappropriate thing he said.  Showing his versatility, Mr. Almond also read some serious bits.  I might have to pick up a copy of his book, God Bless America or one of his smaller texts, “Letters From People Who Hate Me”. 

Ms. Orlean’s “Surfer Girls” piece was introduced to former students by an EWU writing student.  It was fascinating to hear Ms. Orlean read from her new book about the German shepherd Rin Tin Tin.  I’ll check at Auntie’s to see if they have a copy of Rin Tin Tin or The Orchid Thief in stock.

I am looking forward to the rest of the festival’s events.  Hope to see you there this weekend!


A New Voice!

A few years ago, I really started listening to Spokane Public Radio and NPR.  I was impressed with the balanced, in-depth news coverage on all sorts of issues, local or global.  I was exposed to bands like Airborne Toxic Event.  And I was informed about community events happening right here in the Inland Northwest.

I felt immediately at ease when I was introduced to Shelley, Patrick, and the rest of the SPR staff.  Everyone was so laid back, welcoming, and knowledgeable.  Right away I felt I could work with these fabulous, intelligent people on promoting public radio in my hometown.  Unlike many other media sources, SPR isn’t as influenced by money or politics—something that, I think, is becoming more and more important in our world.

As a certified English teacher, I’ll get to do a lot of writing for SPR, not only for Making Noise, but for on-air scripts as well.  I even got to record some audio today!  I look forward to learning a lot about marketing and production—skills I hope I can take with me wherever I go next.

If there are any questions I can answer about KPBX, KSFC, KPBZ, or our upcoming pledge drive, please let me know in a comment.  I will try to answer as best I can!


Friday, June 10, 2011


So, the past couple weeks, I've been working on what are called "testimonials."  As many listeners of National Public Radio will already know, most stations are supported in part by underwriters; businesses and organizations who help support a show and in return we mention their support on the air when the show plays.  Testimonials are when we bring in people from those businesses and record them talking about how underwriting has worked out for them, so other businesses can hear that and decide to underwrite as well.

I've been tasked with running the microphone while we record these people and also editing down the interviews; removing all the dead space and cutting down the length so they can be played on the air.  What's amazing, that I've noticed during editing, is that some people (myself included) tend to pepper their speech with so many "um"s and "uh"s that they can't finish a sentence without using them, and some people can speak for several minutes without using them once or pausing to think about what to say.  Equally amazing is the fact that you wouldn't really notice either way unless you're actively listening to tell (or trying to edit those words out). 

We're all finished recording the businesspeople and now all that's left to do is "tag" the spots (record one of us talking about how people can sign up for underwriting) and edit it all together with music.  Then, they should be ready to hear on the air.  So next time you're listening to SPR and you hear someone talking about how great underwriting was for their business, now you know what those little spots are called and how they're made.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Blogger.

With Evan gone, there has been a Making Noise power vacuum at SPR. In light
of this opportunity, I, Luke the production intern, have seized power.  But by "seized power," I mostly mean "volunteered to start writing for Making Noise."  But since I will be the new blogger at SPR, here’s a little info about me:

As mentioned, I am the community production intern here, which is a volunteer
position.  About a month ago, I started doing work for the station because I’ve
always enjoyed listening to NPR, and felt like I wanted to do my part after
congress voted to stop funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
Being unemployed, however, I had more free time than I had money, so
volunteering looked like a better option than donating.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first came here, but I soon
found that everyone was quite friendly.  Mostly, it’s like a normal
office, wherein everyone has their own tasks that they’re working on in
their own offices, but nobody is so busy that they can’t take a little
time out to give some advice to a new production intern who can’t figure
out why the speakers on the editing station keep playing Beatles music
instead of what’s on the editor.

Speaking of production intern, I should probably talk a little bit about my
duties here.  When I signed up to volunteer, I put three smiley faces next
to the “Computer Help” box  because that’s the kind of thing I’m
good at.  Fortunately, they had a lot of that for me to do.  Primarily, I
put up podcasts onto the Spokane Public Radio website and do the same for
news stories.  I also write some promos, provide a little tech support, edit
audio, and I took photos of Carl Kasell’s performance when he came to
Spokane (more on that later).  I guess you could describe me as an “intern
of all trades.”

And now, I’ve volunteered to start writing for the SPR blog as well, and
that’s where I am.  I’ll be taking Evan’s place writing about the
daily life here at SPR, as well as interesting happenings.  Or, if
there’s anything you want to know about KPBX, KSFC, or KPBZ, or just general stuff
you want to hear about, let me know in a comment.

      Until next time,

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fond Farewell

Farewell lunch with the gang
How time has flown over the last several months. The moment has come for me to write my last blog post as the marketing intern. The summer is fast approaching and with school almost done, I will soon be heading home to Denver. It seems like yesterday that I sat down for the first time at the station to write my introduction post. Before this, I had never had to write for an organization or even heard much about blogs before, it was difficult to put pen to paper and find my style of writing. Over time the blog has slowly, but surely improved and matured to what it looks like today. Designing and writing for the blog has been an amazing and enjoyable challenge that has allowed me to express creativity and share my thoughts.

The two semesters I have spent at SPR have been without question a rewarding and memorable experience. I have met some great people and developed new music interests while receiving invaluable knowledge about marketing and business.

The hardest part of concluding my internship is saying goodbye to all the staff that make SPR truly special. Many listeners are acquainted with the station’s program hosts, but I was lucky enough to get to know the staff behind the scenes. Even though I was the only guy in the back office, it was never difficult to strike up a quick conversation with all the women. Whether it was chatting with Ann, about this year’s excellent skiing conditions or discussing with Stephanie, the Volunteer Coordinator, our favorite TV series, I will miss each and every person at the station. It was great to be in a welcoming environment and I always looked forward to arriving at the office each day, except during pledge drives. I think everyone can breathe a sigh of relief now that I will no longer be asking them to take ridiculous pictures with donated items for the website during the pledge drive.

Reflecting back on my time spent in the office, I am amazed at how much I have transformed. Verne can attest to how nervous I was at first of doing even the simplest of tasks, such as take pictures in the studio of him and his guests, while on the air. Now, I don’t hesitate to snap a quick photo of an interview. There have been times where deadlines and unexpected events caused me anxiety, such as answering the phones during the pledge drive. A big thank you needs to go out to all those listeners that called into the station and were patient enough to repeat their contact info multiple times for me. One of the most stressful times I can distinctively remember was the day when I accidentally deleted The Making Noise blog. In a panicked frenzy I tried to remain calm, but was overwhelmed with the task of having to build the blog from scratch without anyone noticing what I had done. In the end everything ended up for the better and all those stressful times were learning experiences that made me stronger.

Last but not least, I can’t forget the readers of Making Noise. Through all the changes you managed to stay with the blog and continue to give your reactions to posts, vote on the poll question and leave comments. One of the most satisfying parts of being the intern at SPR was when I received responses back from people about the blog. Everyone has been so supportive and I appreciate all the feedback. My goal with the blog was to make it an interactive site where a dialogue could occur instead of a one-sided lecture.

I now pass the blog onto the next intern who will give it a new voice. Spokane Public Radio will forever be close to me and I look forward to returning back to school for my senior year, so I can once again volunteer at events and be a part of the public radio family.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Will Summer Ever Arrive?

The spring equinox may have passed, but winter seems to not want to take a vacation. Staring out the second floor window at the station on Monday, I was stunned to see such large snow flakes falling. Apparently everyone has come to the same consensus about the strange weather. Martha the front desk receptionist, on the intercom mentioned in a bummed voice that gardening season will be a little late this year.

Not everyone hates the snow. A friend of mine (who wishes it was ski season year round) was celebrating the whole 0 inches of non-accumulating snow, even if the rest of the world criticized his Facebook post. This time last year, I was pulling out the shorts and getting ready to throw on some tanning lotion to begin bronzing up for the summer. This year, my morning routine consists of first instinctively grabbing the t-shirt and cutoffs and then realizing I need to make a realistic switch to jeans and a sweater. Living in Spokane, many people get used to the rainy and cloudy weather, but after a several months of relentless cold and non-stop windy weather it shouldn’t be much to ask for a few continuous warm and sunny days. Looking at the 10 day forecast today, there is some possibility for a sunny and relatively sizzling Easter weekend in the 60s.

What are your thoughts on the strange weather pattern we have had this year?