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Spotlight on Staff Member Amberly Warnke

photo of Amberly Warnke
Amberly Warnke poses with her son, Oliver, in the music library at WRFL FM. (Photo © mickjeffries.com.)

Q: What is your position with the UK College of Education? How long have you been here?

A: I am a staff support associate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation (EPE). I take care of most of the department’s student services issues and have been with EPE for just over a year.

Q: What is Pied Piper Radio?

A: Pied Piper Radio is a children’s radio series that features music from a variety of genres and eras. At this point in time, it is the only music series made specifically for children and families available for distribution to non-commercial FM stations in the United States. The program is made available free of charge to any non-commercial broadcaster that would like to air it, though Public Radio Exchange.

Q: How did Pied Piper Radio get started?

A: Pied Piper Radio grew out of a similar program called Ages 3 and Up! I’ve been doing Ages 3 and Up! for the past five years, every Saturday from 8-9 a.m., at WRFL FM, the University of Kentucky’s student run radio station. A couple of years into Ages 3 and Up! friends from WRFL who had worked in commercial media began to encourage me to seek syndication. At that time, there were many obstacles in the way – most significantly, finding a distributor and a production site – so I decided to not pursue the idea. I revisited the notion early last year and found that the significant obstacles had been removed. So, I invested in a few key pieces of equipment and began production. The first episode of Pied Piper Radio was released on April 20, 2010. Twenty one-hour episodes of PPR were produced this year. All in all, I consider the show’s first year a success. We (I have a small staff of interns) learned much, received valuable input from a number of folks in the industry, made some fantastic connections and enjoyed a reasonable amount of media coverage. Right now, we are taking a break from production, to brainstorm and develop new ideas for our Spring season. If all goes as planned, that should be ready to go in April or May of 2011.

Q: What has the reception been to the show? Does it play beyond the Lexington market?

A: The program has been extremely well received. To date, our premiere episode has received over a thousand hits on our distributor’s website, and Pied Piper Radio was just named one of Zooglobble’s “Big Ideas” for 2010. (Zooglobble’s Stefan Shepard is widely considered the authority on children’s music, and is often featured on NPR’s All Things Considered.) Additionally, PPR has garnered a tremendous amount of listener support, and support from the kids’ music community and our local community. I’m overjoyed by the amount of support we’ve received – particularly that which has come from our local community, because Pied Piper Radio has never actually aired in our local market. The program has been picked up a few times by KMXT, a station in Kodiak, Alaska.

Q: Do you have a background in radio?

A: Yes, you could say that. Though I never received any formal instruction, I have been working with WRFL for a number of years. I began working with the station when I was in high school and continued my work there while I was a student at UK. During that time, I received quite a lot of on the job training in audio production and broadcast. I left the station shortly after I married, late in 1995, and returned 10 years later with the intention of starting a children’s music program. At the time, there was no program made specifically for children on the radio in Central Kentucky, or in the tri-state area, for that matter. There had never been a program of that type on WRFL, and the directors at the station were (and still are) always looking to add diversity to the program schedule, so they welcomed my return.

Q: Do you have children? What do they think of the show?

A: I have a son. He is nearly nine years old now, and if you asked him what he thinks of the show, he’d probably tell you that he finds it incredibly boring. He has been doing Ages 3 and Up! with me since he was three, so this is all really old hat to him. There have been times when he was very interested in what was happening in the studio; he has enjoyed talking on the air, pushing buttons on the mixing board and helping me make musical selections. But these days, he’d rather play computer games in the station’s newsroom. Though, every now and then, when I think he isn’t listening and doesn’t care what’s happening with our programs, he’ll surprise me. Most recently, he sang the chorus from a punk rock song called “Eat Your Vegetables” over and over and over for an entire day. No matter how annoyed I was by that, at least I knew he was listening, had found a song he liked, and might consider eating more vegetables – so, it wasn’t all bad. He did help me design the website for Pied Piper Radio, and we do have some tentative plans for him to take a more active role in the production of that program.

Q: What are your other interests, when you aren’t broadcasting?

A: I stay pretty busy and dabble in a number of things. I help organize kids’ concerts for WRFL and for Rock N Romp Lexington. I enjoy spending time doing fun things with my friends and family, and hope to do a little traveling and visiting this year. I have a few new projects I’m excited about: I will be growing a nice-sized heirloom vegetable garden and doing quite a lot of cooking with a friend of mine and her family. I’ve recently started a new blog, where I write about socially responsible spending for those who live on a budget. And I anticipate opening my own Etsy store, where I plan to sell downloadable, printable artwork. I was an art major for most of my time in college and have been wanting to do something related to that for a long while.