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Rad Jad Abumrad ‘Genius’ composer, innovator at WMPAC March 7

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By Barbara Rowley
Explore Big Sky Contributor

BIG SKY – Jad Abumrad is a celebrity who might best be described as “fame-ish,” or “kind of famous.”

There are likely to be many people in southwest Montana who have never heard of this National Public Radio superstar producer and host. And then there are the millions who know him through his Peabody award-winning show “Radiolab.”

On March 7, Abumrad will speak about his creative process and the pursuit of artistic innovation at Big Sky’s Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

“I’ve listened to almost every ‘Radiolab’ episode,” said Mark Levy, a Bozeman-based musician planning to attend the WMPAC performance. “It is a phenomenal podcast. I thought I would miss events like this when I left New York City for Montana.”

Lone Peak High School senior Trevor House agreed. He listens to “Radiolab” every chance he gets.

“It’s really special to have a world-renowned guy like Jad come to a small town like Big Sky,” House said. “I’m so excited to hear what thoughts he has to share with our community.”

An Oberlin College-educated composer, Abumrad teamed up with Robert Krulwich, a seasoned broadcast journalist, to create a show that has arguably redefined audio in the last decade. Its sound-design and storytelling approach was distinctive enough to catch the attention of the MacArthur Foundation, which awarded Abumrad a “Genius” award in 2011.

On its website, “Radiolab” is described as: “A show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”

Topics on the show range from explorations of music and space, to ruminations on football and professional wrestling. For his WMPAC appearance, Abumrad will give a multimedia presentation called “Gut Churn” about his three-year investigation into the essence of the creative process – especially the difficult, often gut-wrenching beginning stages of any truly novel idea.

Abumrad will explore the challenges of creative, innovative work that face anyone trying to do something new and big. Expect him to discuss dealing with negative feedback, keeping your creativity fresh, and overcoming crippling fear of failure.

“At this point, our audiences have now seen all types of artists on the WMPAC stage,” said WMPAC Artistic Director John Zirkle. “Jad’s talk will really help us all gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and routes to creative triumphs that have made the performers we’ve seen thus far so accomplished in their crafts.”

Zirkle added that “Gut Churn” should help audience members understand how to better navigate their own creative process, and to pursue their own big ideas.

Visit to sample Abumrad’s work before the show. All of the podcasts can be downloaded for free. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance were still available at when EBS went to press on March 4.

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