Were you here for the celebratory weekend that surrounded Interlochen Public Radio’s 50th anniversary celebration? If you were, perhaps you saw a leather cowboy hat perched atop a tall man’s head? If you did see such a sight, there’s a very good chance that said cowboy hat was resting atop the head of the man behind the music for most of National Public Radio’s best known and most loved programming, BJ Leiderman.
When one thinks of such NPR mainstays as “Weekend Edition,” “Marketplace,” “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and “Car Talk,” one may envision the lead in and lead out music as being composed by a rather unapproachable individual in his New York flat, surrounded by books, scribbled papers and seated at an almost buried piano musing over “what tones embody the news?”
While we are unsure of BJ’s actual living or working conditions, we can assure you that this man is anything but stuffy, in fact he is downright approachable and always in the mood for fun. The evidence of this was all over campus during IPR’s celebratory weekend in July. Random chants of “BJ! BJ! BJ!” would spring up periodically across the mall and one would soon spot Leiderman amongst a group of students taking the ever popular “selfie” video as the campers gathered around him and chanted his name. Old friends (like Jung Ho Pak) and new friends (like Senator Carl Levin) soon found themselves the object of Leiderman’s photographic prowess as the affable composer roamed campus, and later, the lawn at Building 50 in the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where IPR’s 50th Anniversary party was held.
There was no doubt about it, Leiderman was a hit. If there was any doubt, it was laid to rest during the weekly Sunday night WYSO performance when Leiderman made a last minute appearance with composer Jung Ho Pak and the students of WYSO for a pre-performance chat and sampling of his more well known compositions.
The back and forth between Pak and Leiderman was light and fun. Pak asked Leiderman to describe his first foray into music. Leiderman told a tale of a small company that sold dairy products. This company wanted a commercial wherein the cow would sing.
“They asked me if I could make the cow sing,” explained Leiderman. “I looked at the check that they had offered me for this and said ‘Yeahhh! I can make that cow sing!’”
Needless to say, a healthy bit of laughter rippled through the audience during this answer and most of Leiderman’s other statements.
While he was certainly one of many breaths of fresh air to saunter through campus this summer, he was also quite popular at IPR’s celebration, held on a sunny and pleasant Saturday afternoon on the lawn of Building 50 at the Village at Grand Traverse Commons.
Hundreds of guests enjoyed music from local artists Saldaje and Joshua Davis, as well as a plethora of talented students and faculty from Interlochen, a lovely speech or two, including an address from Interlochen Center for the Arts President Jeffrey Kimpton and Senior Michigan Senator Carl Levin, and, of course, a sampling of Leiderman’s selected works. These guests did all this while partaking in some excellent local food and drink courtesy of Amical, Bistro Fou Fou, Black Star Farms, Chateau Chantal, Higher Grounds Trading Company, Left Foot Charley, Little Bohemia, Opa! Uptown, Oryana, Pure Water Works and Right Brain Brewery. All of this and more was offered free of charge to any community member who listened to Interlochen Public Radio as a “thank you” for the many years of support.