As Interlochen Public Radio continues the process of digitizing the audio archives, Byron Hanson shares the history of radio broadcasting and classes at Interlochen.
Originally published October 2012.
Commercial radio had appeared in the early 1920s and the Camp had been producing weekly concert broadcasts each of the previous eight summers, but it was in 1938 that Radio Workshop was established to teach radio techniques to the campers themselves. Four teachers with diverse backgrounds provided hands-on experience in the theatrical, musical and technical aspects of this exciting new medium: William Dow Boutwell, director of radio for the U.S. Office of Education; and Rudolf Schramm, music director of the Federal Radio Project joined Dr. Maddy, who had pioneered teaching music by radio, and Jerome Wiesner, an expert technician from the University of Michigan. Together they taught foundation courses in program planning, audience preparation, script and continuity writing, directing programs, and studio engineering.
The students presented both radio dramas and educational programs on Wednesday night broadcasts from the Grunow building, which had been converted into a broadcast center with room for a live audience. One broadcast was an imaginary scene at the Maddy childhood home just after the turn of the century, featuring a young Dick Maddy playing the role of his father at the age of 12. Other programs included a demonstration of an orchestra rehearsal by Guy Fraser Harrison, Dr. Gagnier, faculty section leaders and students, a program observing 100 years of public school music in America, and, for the final week of Camp, a talk by Judith (M.) Waller, Educational Director of the Central Division of NBC (Chicago) envisioning the future of radio for education.
When television blossomed a decade later, it too offered great potential for music, drama and opera that soon gave way to more popular entertainment. Interlochen offered courses in television during the 1950s and 1960s, and the last single course in radio fundamentals continued until about 20 years ago. But that first summer of Radio Workshop demonstrated the natural alliance of Radio Drama with Theatre, ignited the desire of more campers to focus their Interlochen experience on acting, and prompted the hiring of an experienced theatre faculty for 1939.