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Opinion | Here's to IPR's next 60 years

 Interlochen Public Radio 60th birthday celebration icon with confetti

When IPR went on the air in 1963, FM radio was the only way to connect with us. Now there's email, apps, social media, streaming and, of course, FM.

Note: a version of this piece originally appeared in the Traverse City Record-Eagle as part of the "Tuning In" series.

Interlochen Public Radio turns 60 this summer, and it’s a great chance to think about where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going.

When WIAA went on the air in 1963 (on July 22 at 2 p.m., to be exact), everyone listened on an FM radio.

In 2023, people not only listen on FM here in northern Michigan, but they stream us from all over the world on our website, through our mobile app, or via any number of third-party services like TuneIn.

In 1963, people got their information about programming from the broadcast or a monthly print mailer.

In 2023, people not only get info on the air but also through our website, our bi-weekly email newsletter, our social media accounts, our podcasts, and our mobile app.

One of our biggest challenges is how to serve such a wide range of IPR consumers. (Note that I said consumer instead of listener because there are just so many ways to connect with us beyond the radio broadcast)

Some people still only listen on an FM radio and don’t even own a computer or a smart phone.

Others only listen through a stream on their phone and don’t even have an FM radio apart from maybe one in the car.

In 2023, IPR’s content reaches people through so many platforms beyond the radio.

In our weekly email newsletters, we highlight news and music events of interest from the region and around the world.

On our social media accounts, we share photos and videos of things happening at IPR that a radio broadcast just can’t accommodate.

In our podcasts like Classical Sprouts and Studio A, we take deeper dives into pieces of music and have longer conversations than we can in a radio broadcast.

In the last couple of years we have started hosting ensembles in residence through our Sound Garden Project.

In 1963, our FM radio broadcast was the hub and everything else was a spoke, but in 2023, it seems more like FM is just a spoke. So what is the hub then?

I’d argue that the hub in 2023 is the music and the community. Everything Classical IPR does - on air, on our website, in our social media accounts, in our email newsletters - is in the service of music and the people who make it and the people who enjoy it.

Want to hear recordings from the current season of the New York Philharmonic or live broadcasts of Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra? That’s the radio spoke of IPR.

Want to see videos of music performances and events from the region? That’s the Instagram spoke of IPR.

How about extended interviews with musicians about their art and craft? That’s the podcast spoke of IPR.

IPR's mission has always been about connecting people with music and helping them experience and enjoy it - we just have so many more tools at our disposal now than we did 60 years ago.

Who knows what the next 60 years will bring for IPR? Or even the next 5 years? Maybe by then this column will be written by AI. Beep boop!

For now, I'm a human, and I'm still writing these articles, and you can contact me at amanda.sewell@interlochen.org with your thoughts.

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.