NPR’s StoryCorps brings soundstage to Inner Harbor

October 28, 2006

1 day ago NPR’s StoryCorps brings soundstage to Inner Harbor

Basha Jordan Jr., right, speaks with StoryCorps founder David Isay, left, before conducting a taped interview with Violetta Daughtry.

(Chris Ammann/Examiner)
Basha Jordan Jr., right, speaks with StoryCorps founder David Isay, left, before conducting a taped interview with Violetta Daughtry.

BALTIMOREThe next few weeks are the perfect time to put on a sweater, head down to the Inner Harbor and listen.

To each other.

StoryCorps, the acclaimed National Public Radio-affiliated project, has pulled its mobile recording booth — after roaming the country for the past 1 1/2 years — to Baltimore for its final stop of 2006. Through Nov. 18, StoryCorps founder David Isay and his team will collect local tales and intimate stories of relationships and everyday life for inclusion in an archives project at Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.

WYPR 88.1 FM, Maryland’s NPR affiliate, partnered with StoryCorps to bring the project to town, and if you’ve heard the sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic, often inspiring personal vignettes on NPR’s Morning Edition, you already understand its unique ability to document and transmit compelling oral histories.

“About 15 years ago I gave a couple of kids in a Chicago housing project a tape recorder for a week and asked them to talk to the people in their lives,” Isay said, describing the inspiration for the project. “The kids talked to their grandparents, a granddaughter interviewed her grandfather. It gave them permission to ask questions they hadn’t asked before. When those grandparents died, those tapes became incredibly valuable to them.”

StoryCorps began in 2003 with a sound booth in New York City’s Grand Central station, encouraging loved ones to interview each other, whether they be friends, spouses, grandparents, siblings, parents or mentors, for 40-minutes or so. The dialogue, recorded and helped along by a StoryCorps’ facilitator, is reproduced for the participants and later archived in the Library of Congress. About one out of a 100 is edited into a three- or four-minute segment that makes it to the public airwaves for broadcast.

Off to the side of the harbor’s visitor center on Light Street, passers-by can put on headphones and listen to samples such as Danny and Annie Perasa reminiscing about their first date 26 years ago; a grandmother revealing her own mother, an immigrant, to her granddaughter; and 12-year-old Tyler Hightower interviewing his aunt Melva.

“My favorite kind of story is when two people, who know each other well, come together and learn something new about each other,” said Maddy Nussbaum, a StoryCorps facilitator. “But that happens every time. There is always that moment of revelation. Every story is amazing. You can’t qualify or quantify people’s lives.”

Interviews can be reserved at StoryCorps.net, an online resource center that includes a reservation and payment system (there is a $10 contribution required), step-by-step technical instructions on how to record, sample recorded interviews, and a ‘question helper’ utility and troubleshooting guide. StoryCorps records six interviews during the week and eight on the weekend, roughly 50 percent of the slots have been filled. More information can be found at http://www.wypr.org.

Violetta Daughtry, 44, a successful recovering drug addict, and now administrative staffer at the Tuerk House in West Baltimore, was interviewed by her pastor, Basha P. Jordan Jr. on Thursday. She is also a former prostitute who lost her children and went to jail. They sat across from each other in the small, diner-like booth.

“I talked about my life,” Daughtry said.

rcassie@baltimoreexaminer.com

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