Exactly ten years ago today, I had what was at the time a very weird experience -- I heard my voice on the radio. That's because my voice was hitting the airwaves as part of an interview with Melissa Block about kids music on NPR's All Things Considered. Over the course of five minutes, Block and I chatted about Dan Zanes, Brady Rymer, Laurie Berkner, and Justin Roberts, my kids, a philosophy of kids music, with a slight diss of the Beatles -- a band I really like! -- thrown in for good measure.
The whole process actually started a couple weeks before when I received an e-mail from Block herself asking for some more information about me. Fast forward a couple weeks, and after some discussions with Block and an NPR producer -- no doubt to make sure that I had something to say and could say it without sounding like an idiot -- I went to a local studio (not my NPR affiliate) and chatted about the various albums. I have no memory of how long the conversation went -- I'm sure it wasn't for much more than 30 minutes -- but the next day I got an e-mail saying that they'd edited the piece together and it would be airing later that afternoon.
I don't remember if I had an actual "driveway moment" listening to that piece, I don't even remember where I heard that piece (in the car, maybe, or at home). But I'm guessing that the piece generated quite a few driveway moments across the country, because eight months later, I found myself back on the air, talking about some more kids music. Three more times, Block and I chatted, and then starting in 2009, I started writing and recording honest-to-goodness reviews. My first NPR kids music review was for Lunch Money's Dizzy in 2009, and it remains one of my most favorite pieces of audio I created for ATC.
Since that review, I've done 20 more kids music pieces for ATC, featuring 24 albums. (Oh, and a commentary on the sound of a lawnmower. Yeah, I know!) It has been an absolute blast writing, editing, and recording these reviews, and working with the amazing folks at NPR who, if they've ever been frustrated with my written product or slow starts in warming up my voice ("a little more Shatner"), never mentioned it to me. I learned quite a bit about writing and editing for radio. And of course it's been a thrill to be able to bring serious (and fun) consideration of an oft-maligned musical genre to a broad national audience.
Having said all that, the worlds of public radio, of music consumption, of music promotion -- these have all changed significantly over the past decade. People can argue about the value of criticism, but it is hard to argue that the perceived value of criticism has faded over the past ten years. All Things Considered has not been immune to those changes, either, and the amount of reviews they've run from any genre of music, particularly over the past six months, has dropped dramatically. I do not think that will change significantly in the future, and so I'm not sure when I'll next appear on All Things Considered. (If I do, I'm not sure it'll be in the standard 3:30-ish review format I've honed over the past 6-7 years.)
I would be sad about that possibility, were it not for the fact that the past decade has just been so damn fun. I've never ever taken for granted the gift I was given with a short e-mail from an NPR host titled "Who are you?" a decade ago. So I just think it's an appropriate time for me to say "thanks" to everyone at NPR who have let me share that gift with all the wonderful musicians I got to talk about. I hope this piece on Jazzy Ash's Bon Voyage isn't the last piece I record or write for NPR, but if it is, I'd be cool with that.