Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Introducing Miriam Hanson, Voice of Highway 61 Revisited, KUMD's "Dylan Hour"

When the community lost John Bushey, KUMD host of Highway 61 Revisited for 26+ years, the loss was felt by listeners around the world. Locally, there were practical questions being raised regarding the show he'd created and carried the banner for. How long will listeners accept re-runs? Who will step in to fill John's shoes?

John himself was the selection committee and after much consideration the nod went to Miriam Hanson. From her first weeks on the air it became clear she had the touch. Besides having that perfect pitch radio voice, she's assumed responsibility for all that precedes each week's production.

Now that she's settled in, here's an inside look at the new pilot behind the instrument panel.

EN: What is your background as far as where you’ve lived, gone to school, career?

Gazing up at Skye's  installation, "Shakespeare's in the Alley."
The Great Hall, 2018 Duluth Dylan Fest
Miriam Hanson: I grew up in Duluth, and went to University of MN, Twin Cities securing a double major in Spanish and Portuguese with a minor in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature (cum Laude). I lived in La Ceiba, Honduras for 6 months volunteering for a micro-finance NGO in order to do research to write my graduation thesis. This led to an interest in living abroad, so I returned to La Ceiba after completing my degree to teach 4th grade at a Bilingual School. This led to being recruited to teach a small private group of expat children on the island of Roatan in the Caribbean (a Honduran island off the North Coast of the mainland). I ended up growing this school to 112 students with 21 teachers and eventually selling it and returning to Duluth after doing some extensive traveling and adventuring (including sailing across the Pacific Ocean and becoming a full cave diver in Mexico). For the last four years I have been working as the Health & Wellness Advocate at Jeff Foster Trucking, developing a culture of wellness in the company.

EN: Impressive resume. How did you first come to take an interest in the music of Bob Dylan?

MH: As a 15-year-old, I had a lot of friends who were just beginning to pick up the guitar and pick out tunes. Dylan is in the learner's wheelhouse as far as simple chord progressions and melodies. I then stumbled across Highway 61 Revisited on KUMD. Every Saturday, I tuned in to the Grateful Dead Hour and then Highway 61 Revisited with John Bushey. I picked up The Freewheelin Bob Dylan and the rest is history!

EN: Was there a specific song or album that really spoke to you and drew you in? What was it and how did it affect you?

MH: Freewheelin' was my initial way in to Dylan. I remember listening to "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," and being sort of confused at how it sounded so kind, and nice, but I knew there was more to it. I liked the informal language; the way it was punchy and fun to sing; and the sweet sweet fingerpicking.

EN: Were you surprised when John asked you to consider being host of the show after his passing?

(L to R) Teague Alexy, Miriam, Marc Gartman
MH: As I started to get to know John and spend time with him, we seemed to develop a confidence rather quickly. John seemed to be a person of few barriers who clearly wore his heart on his sleeve and was very comfortable with me straight away. He invited me to be a guest on the show a few times and he indicated that he was impressed by my song choices. I think I surprised him with my selections and he was excited by my unique (to him) perspective. I think he also liked my voice. More than anything, when he was undergoing a rather arduous treatment session at the Mayo, I mailed him a card to express to him what influence his show had had on my development as a person and what a powerful and meaningful experience it was to leave Duluth, literally travel around the around the world for 18 years, only to come back and find him still here crafting this program. This card really moved him, so much so that he invited me to come in to the studio and actually read it on one of the shows. That was quite an honor. So, no, I wasn't entirely surprised because he had talked to me about taking over the show for him as he became more ill.


EN: What do you like most and what do you find most challenging?

MH: I am astounded at the vast collection that John carefully gathered. It is incredibly exciting to start exploring this collection and to have each show start putting itself together as one song leads naturally into the other and calls the next song forth. It was and is challenging to try to make a professional-sounding show without ums and ahs and spaces and all that. It can take some time as I am totally new to the software. The most challenging part is the technical side and creating time to do it.
* * * * 
Thank you, Miriam, for your time. And for your dedication.

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Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

1 comment:

Phil said...

How incredibly fortunate we Duluthians are that Miriam and John met in this way. Tragic to lose John, miraculously lucky that Miriam's here to step in almost without skipping a beat. And as for Freewheelin', there is no Dylan album more significant in my life than that one, either. A splendid collection, timeless and evocative. (Read Suze Rotolo's book to fill out the picture!)

Thank you, Ed and thank you, Miriam!