TRAVERSE CITY -- Interlochen Arts Academy founder Joseph Maddy might have expected student performances to fill the surrounding woods and waters with strains of classical music, poetry and drama when he opened its doors in 1962.
He might even have intended WIAA, the FM public radio station he launched a year later, to carry those same performances to local listeners. But Maddy, who died in 1966, just a few years after realizing his dream, never could have predicted the advances in technology that would turn his fledgling radio station that began with 8-hour daily broadcasts in 1963, into a 24-hour a day network of stations that broadcast and stream music, programs, news and information from Interlochen and around the world to all of northern Michigan.
Interlochen Public Radio is observing its golden anniversary with a July 20 celebration from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. The free event will feature food and beverages from local vendors and performances by Interlochen musicians and special guest composer B.J. Leiderman, some IPR staffers, plus local artists Saldaje and Joshua Davis.
“It would have been impossible for Joe Maddy to see back then what was in store for the station, or the impact it would have on the northern Michigan community,” said IPR’s General Manager Thom Paulson. “He never could have envisioned the Internet, the international performances, or the great programming from around the world we bring to listeners. He couldn’t ever have imagined everything IPR is doing now.”
Paulson, who started with the station in 1976, recalled his early years there and some earlier station history.
“WIAA’s first news programming was syndicated, not particularly timely, half-hour public affairs discussions on general topics like civil rights, housing and foreign policy that were pre-recorded on magnetic tape,” Paulson said. “Newscasts were assembled by way of what was referred to as ‘rip and reads’ from what came across the Teletype from United Press International and the Associated Press.”