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Toast of the Nation

Toast of the Nation

Feb 1, 2008 12:00 PM, by Becca Pulliam

As a radio producer, I strive to provide the best listening experience for the audience. One of the best ways to do that is to create something unique � so one-of-a-kind and compelling that people seek it out. I think that is what we are accomplishing with NPR’s annual live New Year’s Eve special, Toast of the Nation (TON).

In my 20 years with NPR’s Toast of the Nation, it has grown from live jazz presentations from three different locations to the six venues for this year � in Boston; New York; Washington, DC; Minneapolis; Denver and San Francisco.

The key is to schedule great talent at a great jazz/blues venue, and then to have the best producers and audio people at these locations. I have been extremely lucky because all the people that help produce and mix the show are long-time participants.

We want our listeners to experience Toast as one program. When the broadcast moves from location to location, we don’t want the audience to feel a jarring change. Our Boston venue is the David Friend Recital Hall at Berklee College of Music, while our new West Coast venue, Yoshi’s in San Francisco, is a 400-seat nightclub. But the audio teams managed the sound so that we created one program out of many parts.

Each year we like to augment our program, or add a new wrinkle to the broadcast. For our 2007 version, we added 5.1 surround sound from San Francisco and Denver with the encouragement and assistance of Neural Audio.

I was able to listen to both events, and the sound was just fantastic. Phil Edwards, the mix engineer from Yoshi’s, did a fabulous job. I really felt like I was in the middle of the event surrounded by the partygoers blowing their horns and celebrating. The Denver club, the Dazzle Restaurant and Lounge, was smaller and our Denver mix engineer Duke Markos and technical director Mike Pappas managed to capture the intimacy, energy of the crowd and vibrancy of the group, the Convergence Sextet, with 5.1. You have not heard it all until you’ve heard Convergence’s reggae version of Auld Lang Syne.

There is so much great live music across the country to choose from that this kind of live special should be done more often! Our listeners deserve it.

Pulliam is the senior producer of Toast of the Nation.

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