Thursday, August 28, 2014

Being Lily Tanner

Lily Tanner

I received a Facebook message last November that went like this: "I was thinking about my life and the future, and I came to the conclusion that being you in the future would be pretty cool."

That was Lily Tanner's opening line when she approached me about the possibility of being a summer intern at Jefferson Public Radio. "Not in a Fatal Attraction kind of way," she clarified, "but more in like I can see myself doing the things that you do."

I remembered Lily. 

Back when my daughter was a 6th grader at U-Prep, she tried out for the high school musical, which allows middle school kids to audition. She came home, excitedly telling me that not only had she made it into the chorus, but a high schooler named Lily had been very nice to her, making her feel comfortable and welcomed among all the older students. 

As the years passed and my daughter became a seasoned musical veteran at U-Prep, she's continued to pay forward the niceties Lily had shown her that first day. She's always made a point of putting her arm around the shoulder of younger theater newbies, making sure they felt part of the gang, and weren't terrified around the bigger, older students.

So of course I said yes.

Then I heard from Victoria Reed, another former U-Prep student who's now studying at UCLA. She was also interested in an internship over the summer, and I took her on as well.
Victoria Reed, in the audio production studio
It was a good thing I did, because the two young women had barely arrived when all hell broke loose. 

To be more accurate, a bunch of fires broke loose across six Northern California counties and two Southern Oregon counties, all within the JPR listening area.

The Oregon newsroom was covering the fires in their own backyard, while the interns and I got to work on the overwhelming task of finding an efficient way to cover the dozens of fires burning more than 150,000 acres in Siskiyou, Shasta, Lassen, Modoc, Trinity & Mendocino Counties on the south side of the border. Victoria wrote about how firefighters were using four-legged firefighters in the rugged Trinity Alps. Lily wrote about how neither rain, sleet nor snow will stop the U.S. Postal Service, but a fire can shut down a whole bunch of post offices. 

For the first time ever in the history of JPR's presence in Northern California, we had three people working on getting the news out there on our website and on the airwaves. We had thousands of hits on the site, and we were generating fresh news every day.

It was a glorious moment.

But news is just one little component of a day in the life of a public radio station. Especially an outpost that's run by a single individual. In a regular workday for me, half of it is spent hosting a music program on the airwaves. At the same time I'm still greeting people who walk in off the street and answering the phone (usually to help a listener find a song they heard, or fielding signal complaints). Other duties during an average work day include working with businesses and organizations who sponsor programming on the station and writing up contracts, recording promos, or serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre (which sometimes turns into bartending at the concessions stand). Not that I do it very often, but I'm also the head of dish washing, stocking office supplies and janitorial.

And on top of all that, there's this column.

To give the interns a complete, well-rounded experience at the station, I guided them through the art of picking a classical music radio show, and how to find their way around the music library. I taught them how to run the board, and how to enter information into our real-time on-line playlist (which is far more difficult than you might think; you pretty much have to fool a database into admitting that it has the information you're looking for). The interns also learned how to use audio editing software, and on a few lovely occasions I convinced them to widen the breadth of their experience by taking out the trash and clean up puppy pee. Olive, the new puppy in the Ing-Tompkins household, has now been banned from the station.

Lily also completed a project that JPR fans and music lovers of all kinds should appreciate. On occasion we convince some truly spectacular musicians to come into the JPR studios for a live interview and music performance. People like Michael Franti, Jeff Bridges, Chris Thile and Ottmar Liebert. The program director had hours and hours of live in-studio sessions that he wanted edited and uploaded onto our website so they could be accessed (like a podcast, but with a photo slideshow). He provided Lily with audio & photos from several years with of performances. In record time, she had edited and uploaded an online live session archive of more than 50 performances. You can now listen to Jake Shimabukuro, Sara Watkins, Los Lonely Boys, Colin Hay, Jamie N. Commons and Andrew Bird. She worked so fast, that the program director had a hard time keeping up with her. "Damn her and her efficiency," he said.

Today is Lily's last day at the station, as she heads back to UC Davis for her Junior year, and I gave her one last task to complete. I figured if she really wanted to see what it was like to be me, she needed to learn how the Mistress of the Mix puts together a column. I told her what I was going to say, directed her to write a short companion piece to go along with it, and to come up with today's playlist.

And of course she did it in record time.

Lily, take it away!

Hi there. Lily Tanner here. I am honored to share this playlist with you, especially since Valerie rarely has guest DJs on Mistress of the Mix. 

I was given carte blanche insofar as the theme of this playlist, and since y’all are only privy to one short glimpse into my musical life, I have decided to create a sort of musical profile of my summer. It’s like the movie Being John Malkovich, with you in the John Cusack role and me in the John Malkovich role. But less creepy.

The songs that appear on this playlist are either my perennial favorites (“Our Days Are Numbered,” “Happy Banjo,” “Whistle for the Choir”) or tracks that I have only recently fallen in love with (“Take Me to the Pilot,” “Superstar,” “Yer So Bad”).

Welcome to my playlist, “Being Lily Tanner,” and thank you for listening.

Mistress of the Mix by Lily Tanner on Grooveshark
  1. “Our Days Are Numbered” - The Mr. T Experience
  2. “Mushaboom” - Feist
  3. “When You’re Home” - Original Broadway Cast  I believe that every playlist should have a song from a musical in it, and as this is a song about a young college student who is trying to figure out her life, I thought it was appropriate.
  4. “Whistle for the Choir” - The Fratellis
  5. “Another Girl, Another Planet” - The Only Ones
  6. “Take Me to the Pilot” - Elton John
  7. “She Doesn’t Laugh At My Jokes” - Jonathan Richman  I included this song to be ironic, because Valerie actually laughs at all my jokes. ALL of them.
  8. “Broadripple is Burning” - Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
  9. “Fox On The Run” - Sweet
  10. “Ottoman” - Vampire Weekend
  11. “Superstar” - Carpenters
  12. “Come On Eileen” - Dexys Midnight Runners
  13. “Yer So Bad” - Tom Petty
  14. “Happy Banjo” - Dark Mean

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