KALW Audio Academy Graduation Makes You Want to Listen Better
By Martha Sessums, President, ACE
“Listen. It’s harder than you think. It’s one of the hardest things to do, actually. Don’t worry about your next question. It will come. Listen to what people are telling you with your full attention and heart.”
Davia Nelson, Kitchen Sisters
It was graduation evening for the eight KALW Audio Academy graduates. The keynote speaker was Davia Nelson from Kitchen Sisters, an independent, non-profit production company dedicated to creating public media and educational programs that work to build community through storytelling. Her talk was full of the usual advice to graduates, but these graduates are community radio story tellers, from news to general interest. They wouldn’t stand for the usual story.
Julie Caine, KALW News Managing Producer, was the opening speaker, and she described an unusual news room at KALW. The Audio Academy, an ACE Learning Center, has become key to the news structure behind Crosscurrents, KALW’s daily news program. The atmosphere is supportive and serious, yet playful and fun. An award is presented daily for overcoming a problem or celebrating a success. It’s a non-descript gold statue covered with post-it notes that describe what the award was for, not the winner’s name. Dance music is played often, and there are weekly dance parties and baseball games. It is obviously an atmosphere incredibly supportive of the students.
“I am here to witness that you have found your voices,” said Caine. “I’m proud of everyone, and I’m hard to please.”
Matt Martin, KALW General Manager, underscored both the accomplishments and the challenges of learning the techniques of quality public radio storytelling at KALW. The station is located in temporary portable units on the Burton High School campus, which is undergoing reconstruction. The day is full of heavy equipment noise. The quarters are close too.
“I get to hear the life of the newsroom around the corner,” Martin joked. He also bragged, “We train and develop talents for community radio, but we get just as much back. [The station is] vibrant and interesting.”
Ben Trefny, News Director joined in. “Joy and play are a huge part of the newsroom. It’s supports caring about public media and sharing part of your life.”
The beauty of the ceremony was that each graduate was introduced by their Audio Academy mentor. It was a mélange of the graduate’s style, story adventures, successes and tough learning experiences. We heard about soap, lipstick colors, marriage, dancing, archery, sports, pigeons, Pro Tools, and the great “ear” each graduate has developed for telling an audio story. For all the fun, there was a serious side too.
“This is the most collaborative and nurturing environment,” said graduate Shereen Adel. “It’s hard to find a community like this. KALW keeps you on track and makes you feel better.”
The students learned about the importance of listening and telling an audio story. “I’m the steward of someone else’s story,” said Lisa Bartfai.
“Welcome to the sonic tribe, welcome to the fellowship of public media, one of the greatest communities to be a part of,” Nelson concluded in her keynote.
The graduates are: Geraldine Ah-Sue, Tammerlin Drummond, Lisa Bartfai, Truc Nguyen, Luisa Cardoza, Eli Wirtschafter, Ian Lewis, and Shereen Adel.
The 2016 graduates of the Audio Academy have found their beat and we look forward to listening to their stories. Congratulations everyone!