BY GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — 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.”
In 1971 WIAA became a charter member of the National Public Radio network and added daily network news.
“A great thing about the station was that during the Senate Watergate Hearings in May of 1973 coverage was getting to the public through the evening news, but NPR, including WIAA, broadcast the daily gavel-to-gavel proceedings. Someone made a wise decision to let that happen, and the facts were presented with as little coloration as possible,” he said.
Paulson said the station began to carry live broadcasts by Interlochen Arts Academy students back in the 1960s and '70s, as well as programs by noted performers like conductor Eugene Ormandy, Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly and pianist Van Cliburn when they appeared at Interlochen.
“Cliburn particularly was interested in giving concerts to benefit the academy, and he was very interested in recording there,” he said.
The station has a growing place in the community, thanks in no small part to supportive listeners. IPR’s classical music airs at 88.7 in Interlochen, 94.7 in Traverse City, 88.5 in Mackinaw City and 109.4 in East Jordan/Charlevoix. News broadcasts are at 91.5 in Traverse City, 89.7 in Manistee and 90.1 in Harbor Springs.
“The community has discovered we have a lot to offer,” Paulson said. “I think IPR is a part of the community in northern Michigan that values the human condition, the arts, and enjoys calm but passionate discussion of the issues. Public radio’s mission will always be about enriching people’s lives, and IPR has a bright future because people in northern Michigan are willing to support it.”
Anyone who wishes to attend IPR’s 50th anniversary celebration on July 20 are requested to RSVP online at http://ipr.interlochen.org/50 or call 231-276-4400.