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NPR's StoryCorps comes to Kalamazoo

April 1, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Local residents began signing up two weeks ago to be interviewed by StoryCorps, a national oral history project hosted here this month by Western Michigan University's public radio station, WMUK.

The StoryCorps MobileBooth converted trailer will be parked at the east end of Bronson Park April 5-28 to capture interviews, portions of which will be broadcast on WMUK 102.1 FM and possibly on National Public Radio.

Those who are interested in telling their story should register for an appointment by visiting the project's Web site at www.storycorps.net or by calling (800) 850-4406. The StoryCorps MobileBooth will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Friday, and from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

A trained StoryCorps facilitator will guide the interview and handle all of the technical aspects involved in recording the personal histories. At the end of a 40-minute session, participants walk away with a CD recording of the interview, and with their permission, a copy of the CD is sent to the Library of Congress or preservation.

In addition, StoryCorps shares interview excerpts every Friday during NPR's "Morning Edition." Listeners across the country have heard veterans talking about their years of military service, a grandmother imparting advice on marriage, a birthmother explaining why she gave her son up for adoption, and survivors of 9/11 recalling their experiences. The stories vary greatly in both subject and narrative voice, and as a collection they present a rich and textured picture of American life.

StoryCorps is a creation of Sound Portraits Productions, an independent production company based in New York City. Modeled after the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s, the national project aims to instruct and inspire people to record each others' stories in sound.

Like the WPA's Federal Writers' Project, the oral histories gathered by StoryCorps will be stored at the Library of Congress and will be accessible to future generations. Unlike the WPA, however, StoryCorps will not employ writers to collect these stories. StoryCorps is inviting people to interview one another.

"We've found that the process of interviewing a friend, neighbor or family member can have a profound impact on both the interviewer and the interviewee," says David Isay, the award-winning producer behind StoryCorps. "We've seen people change, friendships grow, families walk away feeling closer, understanding each other better."

Isay started StoryCorps in 2003, by opening the first soundproof "StoryBooth" in New York's Grand Central Station. In 2005, the project hit the road for its first national tour with two custom-built "MobileBooth" trailers outfitted with recording studios. Within a decade, he hopes to travel around the country collecting the stories of more than 250,000 Americans.

"StoryCorps is a manifestation of the 10-year mission of Sound Portraits Productions," explains Isay. "(We strive) to tell the stories of ordinary Americans with dignity, celebrating the power and poetry in their words. We believe that listening is an act of love, and that StoryCorps will engage communities, teach participants to become better listeners, foster intergenerational communication, and help Americans appreciate the strength in the stories of everyday people they find all around them."

Media contact: Gordon Bolar, (269) 387-5719, gordon.bolar@wmich.edu

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