It has long been a dream of ours to create an original podcast as a platform to amplify our musicians’ voices and celebrate their abilities and this year we began making our dream a reality. We created a service learning project with students from our adult conservatory program, and teamed up with students from Mount St. Joseph University to create an original podcast series entitled “Hero Radio. Stories Beyond the Music”. In this podcast we interview and tell the stories of well-known musicians with ties to our home town of Cincinnati, Ohio.
We selected the hero’s journey as our model story archetype. Many well-known stories, from Homer’s The Odyssey, to The Wizard of Oz, to Star Wars are built upon this model of an ordinary person who hears the call to adventure, travels from the known into the unknown, faces helpers and obstacles, falls into the abyss, emerges triumphant and returns home a hero.
As we studied this story archetype, we learned that we all had our favorite hero’s journey tale: Quincy loves The Wizard of Oz and The Lion King. For Ashley, it was Dragon Tales. Carole identified with Rocky Balboa, and for Joe, Rudy’s triumph of playing football for Notre Dame University had special significance. As we studied the hero’s journey archetype, we also related the hero’s struggles and triumphs to the story of our own lives, identifying our strengths, our own calls to adventure, the obstacles we have overcome and how we have emerged the hero in our own life stories.
Creating an original podcast has many interdisciplinary components, as we soon discovered. In the five months since we began this project, we have developed a curriculum that identifies the learning elements involved, and supports the participants in each phase of the project. In the initial five months of this effort we have learned:
Story telling skills. We studied the hero’s journey story archetype and created a story map that helps us understand our own stories and understand and tell the stories of others.
Interviewing skills. We dissected our story map into a series of interview questions, and practiced interviewing people about their lives and their stories.
Visual art skills. We studied podcast artwork. How can a three-inch square piece of art communicate abstract ideas? How do you create it? What should be in ours? We identified three concepts our artwork should communicate: music, the hero, and interviewing, and we created collages to visualize how those ideas could be expressed visually.
Original music composition. We listened to and studied music that is used in podcasts and discussed how music tells a story. We listened to heroic movie themes, from Superman to Star Wars, and analyzed the elements that make a music composition sound “heroic”. We then chose key words that our music should convey, which were “winning/triumphant”, “exciting”, “action” and “strength”. We created a chord structure we thought expressed those ideas and composed our own original music. Everyone participated in the creation of the podcast theme song. Quincy developed a percussion beat, and Ashley improvised a melody based on our chord structure.
Watch Quincy create the percussion beat: Quincy on the drums
Watch Ashley improvise her melody line: Ashley on the keyboard
The art of the name! Our podcast needed a name and after several weeks of brainstorming, the group came up with “Hero Radio. Stories Beyond the Music”.
Researching and selecting audio equipment. A podcast has to be recorded, right? And we had to figure out how to do it. We found online tutorials and worked as a team to identify what we would need: Microphones, cords, pop filters and recording software. We went to Amazon.com and placed our orders. It was a very exciting day when the boxes came and we unpacked our Yeti microphones and equipment.
Usage of audio equipment. The program participants will be doing their own recording, so we had to figure out how to use the equipment. Sessions were devoted to studying and identifying parts of the microphone. We set up the pop filters and began recording ourselves.
Usage of editing software. We practiced recording our voices, and seeing what that looked like on screen. We learned about the concept of editing and how to use the software to take out pauses and unwanted parts of the recording. Sound levels were fun too, and we learned how to “keep it in the green” when recording.
Selecting interview subjects. The group’s ultimate goal is to interview Cincinnati Pops conductor John Morris Russel for an episode they have already entitled “Super Conductor”. But we have a long way to go before we get there. We have brainstormed about musicians we would like to interview, thinking about who we admire, and who we think has a good story to tell. We are learning how to do background research and prepare our questions prior to the interview.
Conversational flow. When you are interviewing, you have to keep the conversation going. We are learning conversation techniques and how to use someone’s answer to flow seamlessly into the next question.
Our goal is to begin airing episodes in 2017, one year from when we embarked on our own journey to create an original podcast series. Throughout this project, our participants have developed transferable skills that will serve them well in life and/or vocational pursuits.
They have increased empathy skills. They have explored their own stories, and the stories of others, in the context of living and overcoming the life challenges we share, regardless of who we are and where our abilities take us in life.
They have learned project management. Participants have an appreciation for how to deconstruct a large project into manageable units. At first, our participants were skeptical that they could actually develop and record a podcast. Now, they are quite confident that they can!
They have mastered transferable skills. Along the way, we have developed skills in recording, editing, and research. Most importantly, however, we have already seen how the focus on interviewing and conversation skills has improved communication for everyone in the group. Participants who were challenged to initiate and maintain a conversation now naturally approach another individual and ask, then respond, to several questions in a row. Imaging how this skill might lead to a successful job interview!
Read about Ashley’s success in the podcast project, and stay tuned for updates. We can’t wait to post the first episodes of “Hero Radio. Stories Beyond the Music”.