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Posted by on Jan 13, 2020 in ACE Learning Center, ACE Partners, Continuing Education | 0 comments

High Fives for Audio Academy Magic and Championship Raspberry-Rhubarb Pie

By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Listener Supported Public Radio and Sona Avakian, Audio Academy Fellow

The 11 entries in the 2020 Pie-Off competition. Angela Johnston’s raspberry-rhubarb pie (on the left, with the lattice crust) took the cake. Photo credit: Ben Trefny.

We just held a New Year’s party to celebrate 2020. It was great fun — a potluck dinner followed by our annual Pie-Off competition. This year, Angela Johnston, Audio Academy class of 2014, defended her championship with a delicious raspberry-rhubarb pie. As is the case with most KALW events, Audio Academy alums were everywhere: David Boyer (’14), Rai Sue Sussman (’14), Shereen Adel (’16), Christine Nguyen (’18), Maggie McKay (’19), Sarah Lai Stirland (’20), and Sona Avakian (’20).

As we start the new year, Sona wrote up some thoughts about her part in the class of 2020:

Sona Avakian (left) and Sarah Lai Stirland at KALW’s New Year’s party. Photo credit: Ben Trefny.

I feel incredibly privileged to be in the Audio Academy class of 2020. When a friend of mine [Rai Sue] enrolled in the very first class seven years ago, I was so jealous whenever I heard her name on the air as part of Crosscurrents‘ closing credits. Finally circumstances in my life aligned, and I applied. Luckily, I got in.

I don’t think I have ever high-fived as many people in my whole life as I have in the past five months I’ve been in the Audio Academy. Pitched a successful story? High five! Got some good tape? High five! Nailed a tricky interview? High five! The staff at KALW are extremely supportive, and I’m grateful. My ideas have been encouraged and cultivated. Every success, no matter how minor, is celebrated.

At the station, some days are slow. Some are frustrating. Some days go by in a blur of high fives. As I write this, my first feature is about to air this week, I’m reporting for my next feature and getting together a pitch for a third. It’s busy!

And why did want to be in the Audio Academy so badly? Several reasons. Radio as a medium has stood the test of time. It’s portable. It’s in your car, your shower, and directly in your ear. It kept countries around the world informed during World War II. Radio has adapted itself in the Internet age in way that other mass media have not been successful. Oration is the oldest and purest form of communication and entertainment we have. Radio is just an extension of telling stories around a campfire, which has happened since the beginning of time. And on radio (or in a podcast) sounds that accompany your story can make or break it. You can have crickets, eerie music, the slam of a door. All are sounds that manipulate emotions. It’s invisible work. It’s magic. And who wouldn’t want to be in that world? In a blur of high fives?

Judges carefully consider the competition at the 2020 Pie-Off competition. Photo credit: Ben Trefny.

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