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Award-Winning Documentary Maker Ken Burns Talks About Why Supporting Public Radio Is So Important

Ken Burns
Wikipedia Media Commons

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns went to high school in Ann Arbor and worked at a local record store to earn money to pay for college.  Music has always been a big part of his life and many of his documentaries, including one about jazz.

He talks with WEMU's Lisa Barry about the impact of music in art and on our lives and the importance of supporting your local NPR station on  "Public Radio Music Day."

Ken Burns attended high school in Ann Arbor and worked at "Discount Records" while living in the area.  He said he sold a lot of jazz records and would sometimes be paid in records because he loved music and music discovery so much. 

He shares that he grew up in a family where music was also present, and his father was a lover of jazz.  He said the production of his documentary on jazz came from the urging of his friend Wynton Marsalis and a line from his film about baseballthat said, "When they study our American civilization two thousand years from now, Americans will be known for only 3 things: the Constitution, baseball, and jazz music.  They are the three most beautiful things we ever invented."

Ken Burns said he grew up a kid who bought records and got music discovery "every which way" and comes from every possible source.  He said he is aware of the "centrality of radio and it's how people from wherever they came from abolish loneliness."  

Burns says he has spent his entire professional life--more than 45 years--working for public media because he believes in its mission and he believes in the absence of commercials and it permits us to nurture a relationship to our communities and to our listeners that is second-to-none.  He says it is particularly true of public radio and stations like WEMU that are sometimes the "last place you are getting jazz or authentic roots music of any kind."  

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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