%s1 / %s2

Playlist: Rhonda J. Miller's Portfolio

Caption: PRX default Portfolio image
No text

Featured

Crazy Heart Author Thomas Cobb Not The Weary Kind With Novel In Spotlight

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 04:00

With Crazy Heart winning Academy Awards for best actor and best original song, Rhode Island author Thomas Cobb
says the seeds of his book were planted in his own days as a musician in a notoriously bad rock n' roll band and a less-than-professional music journalist. Cobb's novel Crazy Heart was first published in 1987. The soft-spoken professor never became weary as the book dropped in and out of favor to become a movie. Providence reporter Rhonda Miller has the story.

Thomascobbatric_small The first glimpse of Crazy Heart hero Bad Blake showed up while Thomas Cobb was driving down the street one day in Houston. Cobb heard this line: "Bad has the sweats again." As a writer, Cobb's mission was to find out who Bad was, why he had the sweats and what his story was. Cobb was in a Ph.D program at the University of Houston and that line became the seed of a short story. That story evolved into Cobb's first novel, Crazy Heart, published in 1987. The book was out of print for years and was reprinted in early 2010. Earlier attempts to adapt the book for film just didn't  work out. It appears the stars had to align for the reception the movie Crazy Heart is getting now. Oscar nominations are: Jeff Bridges for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Maggie Gyllenhall for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett for Best Original Song for theme song The Weary Kind. For Thomas Cobb, it's a story that grew from his time as a music journalist covering country western music in Tucson, playing in a notoriously bad rock n' roll cover band in Houston, years of earning advanced degrees and writing from the inspiration that always starts with a voice. Thomas Cobb has had the same office for 23 years at Rhode Island College, has been married for 23 years and has seen his novel Crazy Heart come to the screen after 23 years. Cobb is, obviously, not the weary kind.




 

One Man Dancing Creates Cajun Zydeco Festivals

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 04:18

The footprints of Franklin Zawacki are on the ground at Cajun and Zydeco festivals he produced in California and New England for three decades. Zawacki began as one man dancing and got thousands of people to dance with him. Reporter Rhonda Miller has more on this San Francisco poet and teacher.

Zawackilewis_small Franklin Zawacki discovered Cajun music when he was 19 and driving around the United States. In Lousiana, he helped a man with a broken-down car. The man was Cajun, a culture descended from French-speaking Acadians from Novia Scotia. The culture is mixed with African-American and Native American.

The Cajun man took Zawacki touring through Southwest Louisiana bayou country. They went to dance halls. The shy teenager could always dance.  It was a life-changing experience.

Dancing Into Death

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 04:25

None of us knows when our heart will beat its last beat. For Rodolfo Akel that last beat came on the dance floor. Friends in the Cajun and Zydeco dance community in New England suspect the music of the Louisiana bayou eased his passing.

Dancing_in_kitchen_small An engineer who organized Cajun and Zydeco dances in Connecticut was known for his generous spirit in teaching new - and often nervous - dancers. Rodolfo Akel came to the United States from Ecuador when he was 17 to study engineering at Cornell University. A mechanical engineer, he settled in the Hartford, Connecticut suburb of Suffield and worked his entire career at one firm designing power plants. Fifteen years ago, he began dancing, struggling at first to feel the beat. But he was persistent and became known as an exuberant  dancer, teacher and organizer of Cajun and Zydeco dances for Hartford Community Dance. Roldolfo Akel died suddenly on the dance floor at a music festival in southeastern Connecticut in June 2010. A few weeks later, on a day much like the one when Rodolfo passed away, at a dance in Rhode Island much like the one where he collapsed, many in the dance community consider the bittersweet passing of their 65-year-old friend.

Still Hungry After All These Years: Musicians Sing for Neighbors' Supper

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 03:45

Musicians in America's smallest state are kicking off a year-long project called Singing for Your Supper: The Rhode Island Hunger Project. The goal is to have one music venue each week sponsor a benefit concert for a local soup kitchen.

Jan_luby_at_stone_soup_small The economic downturn has hit hard in Rhode Island. Unemployment is 11.8 percent. The smallest state in America has been losing manufacturing jobs for years and new business is inching along. Ten years ago musicians
produced a CD called The Time Is Now to raise money and focus awareness on hunger. But many musicians say economic conditions in the Ocean State have only gotten worse, so the time is now, again, to help put food on the table of those who are straining to make ends meet.  

Singing for Your Supper: The Rhode Island Hunger Project kicked off October 16, 2010 at Stone Soup Coffee House in Pawtucket. Proceeds from the $10 admission and donated canned goods will go to the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, which is serving about 500 hot meals a week, with demand continuing to increase and many people coming from neighboring cities and towns.  
 

Occupy CAL Audio Postcard

From Rhonda J. Miller | 02:54

Occupy CAL Audio Postcard

Occupycalblue_small  Audio Postcard from Occupy CAL at University of California Berkeley.

Like Hanukah Oil, Endangered Ladino Language Endures Among Jews

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Ladino: The Endangered Language of the Spanish Jews series | 04:56

As Jews around the world celebrate Hanukah, some in Boston are singing in Ladino, a language UNESCO rates as "severely endangered" in its 2009 Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Ladino has been traveling with the Jews since they were expelled from Spain in 1492.

Gloria_ascher_ladino_class_tufts_univ The endangered Ladino language, also called Judeo-Spanish, is a language without a country. Ladino has been traveling with the Jews since they were expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. It has been kept alive in pockets of culture around the world, including Israel and Turkey, and some places in the U.S., such as New York, Florida and Seattle, Washington.

Some universities in Israel have established programs on Sephardic culture and the Ladino language, but in the United States, the longest-running - and many say the only consistent - Ladino instruction at a university is by Professor Gloria Ascher at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, near Boston. Ascher is Co-Chair of the Judaic Studies program at Tufts and initiated Ladino classes 10 years ago. Some students, professors and people from the community have studied up to four semesters of Ladino.

Besides Ascher, others find Ladino calling to them. Vocalist Julia Madeson has performed many styles of music, and now performs Ladino with area musicians, some of them students at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she is Coordinator of the Guitar Department. 

As Hanukah approachs and Jews prepare to commemorate the miracle of oil supposed to burn for one day -but lasting eight days - the singing of Ladino songs is also a reminder of the endurance of Jewish culture, despite the Jews' often forced scattering around the globe.  
 
 

Hundreds of Homeless Veterans Living in the Woods Along Mississippi Gulf Coast

From Rhonda J. Miller | 04:14

The goal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is to end veteran homelessness by 2015. But it's slow going in Mississippi, where hundreds of homeless veterans are living in the woods along the Gulf Coast.

Eddietowneiraqveteran_small The goal of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is to end veteran homelessness by 2015. But it's slow going in Mississippi, where hundreds of homeless veterans are living in the woods along the Gulf Coast.

From School Shootings to Kazoos, Common Fence Venue Encircles Tragedy and Joy

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 04:07

While America continues to grieve over the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and search for ways to keep such mass murders from happening again, the community formed around Common Fence Music finds emotional support in times of tragedy and rejuvenation in times of joy. This informal venue in Portsmouth, Rhode Island has been going strong for 20 years, packing in 200 people for nearly every show.

Commonfence_em_mf_small

While America continues to grieve over the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and search for ways to keep such mass murders from happening again, the community formed around Common Fence Music finds emotional support in times of tragedy, and rejuvenation in times of joy. Reporter Rhonda Miller stopped by this informal venue in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on a Saturday evening in January to see what’s been keeping it lively for 20 years, packing in 200 people for nearly every show.  

From School Shootings to Kazoos, Common Fence Venue Encircles Tragedy and Joy

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 04:07

While America continues to grieve over the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and search for ways to keep such mass murders from happening again, the community formed around Common Fence Music finds emotional support in times of tragedy and rejuvenation in times of joy. This informal venue in Portsmouth, Rhode Island has been going strong for 20 years, packing in 200 people for nearly every show.

Commonfence_em_mf_small

While America continues to grieve over the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and search for ways to keep such mass murders from happening again, the community formed around Common Fence Music finds emotional support in times of tragedy, and rejuvenation in times of joy. Reporter Rhonda Miller stopped by this informal venue in Portsmouth, Rhode Island on a Saturday evening in January to see what’s been keeping it lively for 20 years, packing in 200 people for nearly every show.  

As Pete Seeger Celebrates 94th Birthday, Biographer Reflects on Folk Music, Media, Democracy

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Folk River series | 16:41

Folk music legend Pete Seeger celebrates his 94th birthday on May 3. Independent producer Rhonda Miller talks with David Dunaway, author of the Seeger biography “How Can I Keep from Singing,” about folk music, journalism and democracy.

Coverseegerbiobydunaway_small Folk music legend Pete Seeger celebrates his 94th birthday on May 3. Independent producer Rhonda Miller talks with David Dunaway, author of the Seeger biography “How Can I Keep from Singing.” Miller’s interview is part of her Rhode Island College master’s thesis project called “Folk River: The Vital Current of Folk Music in America.” Miller talked with Dunaway at his San Francisco home in April, where he hosted the Sonic Soiree, the area’s listening lounge for independent radio producers. 

Labor of Love Has Roots in Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Labors of Love series | 04:13

An mesmerizing smile from a legendary blues musician was a spark that helped light the path to 20 years of producing community music concerts for one Rhode Island man.

Tomperotti_small Keeping a community music concert series going for 20 years has been a labor of love for one Rhode Island man.
A smile from a legendary bluesman at the Newport Folk Festival decades ago was the seed, but it takes a community to make a labor of love blossom.  

Labor of Love Has Roots in Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals

From Rhonda J. Miller | Part of the Labors of Love series | 04:13

An mesmerizing smile from a legendary blues musician was a spark that helped light the path to 20 years of producing community music concerts for one Rhode Island man.

Tomperotti_small Keeping a community music concert series going for 20 years has been a labor of love for one Rhode Island man.
A smile from a legendary bluesman at the Newport Folk Festival decades ago was the seed, but it takes a community to make a labor of love blossom.