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Meet The Staff - Linda Yohn

What you hear on the air on WEMU is the result of a lot of hard work behind the scenes. Your donations to WEMU keep things moving on both fronts. Our next "meet the staff" interview is with a hard working woman that never stops trying to make the best WEMU possible.  She's our Music Director and host of 89.1 Jazz, Linda Yohn.


When Program Director Patrick Campion asked me to share some "insider stuff" with you, he asked us to elaborate.  No "one-word" answers.  I relish this opportunity to share more about my life and affection for WEMU listeners with long-form answers to Patrick's queries.  If you know me well, you know I can go on and on about the arts, good food, family and music!  I don't get the opportunity to do that while I'm on the air because I want to get as much music as I can on the air in my three and half hour slot.

What is your current position at WEMU - WEMU's Music Director and morning music host.  I've held the job since April of 1987.  I'm here at 29 and counting!

Where is your hometown - I was born in Columbus, Ohio but we moved when I was four years old  Two other communities shaped my early life.  I had the privilege of going to elementary school in Pittsburgh, PA, home of the original Carnegie library.  I received an outstanding public school education.  My junior high and high school years were spent in a suburb outside of Buffalo, New York. Again, I received an incredible public school education through the new York State "regents" program.  You don't know how important that is until you're older and realize that you can converse on many subjects because you received a well-rounded early education.  I ended back up in Columbus, Ohio in the 1970s which is where I became the jazz enthusiast that I am today.  I call Columbus my jazz home town. 


  What college(s) did you attend -  I received my bachelor's degree from Otterbein College, an acclaimed liberal arts college in Westerville, Ohio.  I followed the family tradition of going to Otterbein.  My great-grandfather, grandparents and parents all attended Otterbein.  I tried to get a master's degree from The Ohio State University in the 1970s but my love of jazz and desire to try new avenues in life got in the way. In the early '80s I worked at WKSU in Kent, Ohio where I took some courses in television production.  While it was interesting and I learned a lot, radio is my first love and where I belong.  (I hope we never put a dj-cam in the WEMU studios...) I majored in French, Speech-Theatre and Education.  I'd hoped to teach school upon graduation from Otterbein, but I was one of many baby-boomers seeking a position in recessionary times when millages for extras in schools such as foreign languages or drama were not passing.   I drifted for a while, working in restaurants, retail and in my father's cancer research lab at Ohio State.  When a chance to do real radio at WBBY-FM came up in 1977, I went for it and have never regretted the decision.

What are your favorite WEMU shows - You're going to ask me  my favorite WEMU show?  That's not fair!  Everyone works hard and cares deeply at WEMU.  I love our radio Mardi Gras every year.  I love putting the Thanksgiving Day Food Song Festival together.  I appreciate David Fair's intelligent and comfortable approach to "Issues Of The Environment".   I'm a big fan of Lisa Barry's talks with Omari Rush about the visual arts in the Ann Arbor area.  There's so much to like about WEMU.  I wouldn't have been here for 29 years if I didn't care deeply about the station and listeners. The way local listeners can get involved in WEMU shows with requests and comments sets us apart from pre-programmed syndicated shows.

How did you end up at WEMU - In 1986 I relocated to New York, to live what I though would be my dream come true - to work in the jazz business as a publicist in New York.  It was exciting, creative, demanding, exhausting and cut-throat.  I discovered that I'm a mid-western type at heart.  It was a hard, but worthwhile lesson to learn about New York.  Throughout the New York sojourn I stayed in touch with friends in the public radio system and found out about the WEMU opening 1987.  Then General Manager Art Timko saw something in me and took a chance on new blood.

What are your daily duties at WEMU - First and foremost I host 89-1 Jazz from 9 AM to 12:30 PM.  Although the show airs for three and half hours, it really takes over five hours to prepare, produce and clean up afterwards.  The day isn't over when the show ends.  I might return e-mails and phone calls to record company representatives as I handle all of WEMU's record company relations and reports.  I might answer a listener e-mail about hiring a local musician as I work with local musicians.  I might write promo copy for UMS shows or our own 5:01 Jazz shows which I schedule.  I'll review new music and determine whether WEMU should play it.  If it passes muster then we have to process it and get it in to the library.  I supervise our student librarians who do their best to keep over 50,000 CDs in perfect alphabetical order.  I love working with community organizations and events such as the Detroit Jazz Festival, The Michigan Theatre, Jazzistry. SEMJA,  The Detroit Blues Society and many others.  I also love working with fellow WEMU hosts to help shape their shows and serve you better.  Add in the occasional website feature, interview or review and you can tell why I love my job.  There's always something rewarding to do!


  Where are your favorite eating spots - This question isn't fair either -I love eating!  I'm tied for breakfast.  In Ypsilanti its Beezy's or the Bomber.  In Ann Arbor its The Northside, hands down.  A recent brunch discovery is Bona Sera in Ypsilanti.  Check it out!  For a filling, classic American dinner and a nice drive I like the 1940s roadhouse, Karl's Cabin on Gottfredson Road.    For a sushi splurge, I retreat to Yotsuba.  My husband and I have never been disappointed by Vinology for a creative, romantic dinner.  Another favorite - The Earle for not only the scrumptious food but the live jazz.  A public radio budget recommendation is the delicious and inexpensive tacos from La Torre in Ypsilanti.  

Do you have a song stuck in your head - The hymn "Amazing Grace".  It is important to me.

What is an album that everyone should hear - This is very hard because there is so much music and so little time.  If you've never taken the time to meditate to the entirety of John Coltrane's masterpiece, "A Love Supreme", that would be my first thought.

Where are your favorite shopping spots - My favorite place to shop for food is the Ypsilanti Farmer's Market when it's open from April through October.  In the winter I head to Busch's because they do a good job with local produce and purveyors.  Zingerman's is great for special occasion treats.  For clothes, fun stuff and gift-buying I like Mix in Ypsilanti and Heavenly Metal in Ann Arbor.

What are your favorite vacation destinations - I love to return to my family roots of Lake Erie for a quiet week every August.  I stay in a small "housekeeping cabin" right on the lake where I rest, relax, read, swim and enjoy delicious local produce.  The corn and tomatoes are at the peak of perfection in August.  It's no-frills but it's my re-charge refuge.

Whom do you follow on social media - For food I love following Ruth Reichl.  For honest takes on society and a little humor I follow George Takei.  Mark Maynard's blog is a great local read at markmaynard.com.  Another hip person to follow is Jessica Webster Sendra.  She packs so much in to her daily life!

  What was the last movie you saw -"Burnt" starring Bradley Cooper.  Fairly true about the restaurant industry and egotistic chefs, but more than a little over-the top.  Recently I also saw "Jaco" the documentary about legendary jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius.  His life was "over the top" with a tragic end.  I recommend that you see it, perhaps twice so that you can catch all the nuanced stories told by Jaco's friends and bandmates who loved him very much but were unable to stop his descent and eventual early death.  
Please share a memorable WEMU moment -  Again - this is an incredibly unfair question especially since I've been here for 29 years.  However - one moment really stands out.  Bassist Ray Brown was in Ann Arbor to play his annual engagement at The Bird Of Paradise Jazz Club.  He liked coming to Ann Arbor because we have good golf courses.  He joined me one day for an interview.  WEMU had just started streaming at this time.  We started up a song and the phone rang.  It was one of Ray's golf buddies - the legendary New York jazz disc jockey - Mort Fega then retired in Florida, but streaming WEMU.  While the long song featuring Ray with Oscar Peterson played out, Ray and Mort made plans to play their next game of golf in Delray Beach, Florida.  I was happy to help out two friends and super-flattered to know that Mort Fega found WEMU to be worthy listening.

Why do you love public radio - I like public radio because it really is about communicating.  Hosts do their homework and are prepared on all aspects of their topic whether its news or music.  Public radio is truly about connecting and serving.  If public radio hosts and programmers  didn't care so much, listeners wouldn't care and give so generously.  And - if it weren't for public radio there would be virtually no jazz on the radio today.

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— Linda Yohn is the WEMU Music Director, and host of 89.1 Jazz. Contact WEMU Music at 734.487.3363 or email her at lyohn@emich.edu

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