Melissa Gerr | WYPR

Melissa Gerr


Melissa Gerr is a producer for On the Record.  She started in public media at Twin Cities Public Television in St. Paul, Minn., where she is from, and then worked as a field producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. She made the jump to audio-lover in Baltimore as a digital media editor at Mid-Atlantic Media and Laureate Education, Inc. and as a field producer for "Out of the Blocks."  Her beat is typically the off-beat with an emphasis on science, culture and things that make you say, 'Wait, what?'

Library of Congress, NAACP

Between 1850 and 1950, more than 4,000 black men, women and children were killed in ‘racial terror lynchings’ in the U.S. At least 40 of those lynchings took place on Maryland soil--no one was convicted of these crimes.

We ask Professor Nicholas Creary, of Bowie State University, who has researched the Maryland lynchings -- who was killed, how and why. We also meet filmmaker Will Schwarz, president of ‘The Maryland Lynching Memorial Project,’ a non-profit hosting a conference this weekend with hopes to honor lives lost, and reconcile Maryland’s dark history.

Register for the conference here.

Creative Commons Mike MacKenzie

Maybe tech devices aren't actually conspiring to control our lives … but they clearly are developing capabilities that will more and more shape our experience. 

Amy Webb, who has her finger on the pulse of what’s coming, says it won’t be long before we’ll all have to choose if we’re an Apple home, a Google home, or an Amazon home. She also talks with us about the impending death of the smartphone, and paints a picture of what’s next.

Webb founded the ‘Future Today Institute,’ which researches and analyzes emerging technologies. 

In years past, Baltimore’s Chinatown was a bustling area, home to restaurants, shops, and cultural parades. Today, only a handful of Asian-owned businesses remain. We talk with Katherine Chin, a longtime community leader and Stephanie Hsu, an organizer with the Chinatown Collective, two women who are leading a revival of the area, hoping to unite Asian American identity in the city.

View pictures of the recent Charm City Night Market event here, and see historic photos of Baltimore's Chinatown here.

Larry Canner/JHU

About two million people in the U.S. have lost an arm, a hand, a leg or other limb. Many opt to use a prosthesis -- a fabricated upper or lower limb. Luke Osborn, a graduate student in biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, tells us about an electronic skin that can create the sensation of touch for the user of an upper-limb prosthesis. And George Levay, a research participant who lost his arms to meningitis, describes what it was like using the electronic skin on his prosthetic hand. Original airdate: 8.11.18

Acme Corporation/Single Carrot Theatre

Is ‘truth’ always about the facts? Or is it constructed simply by where we choose to place our focus? “Putin On Ice (That Isn’t the Real Title of this Show),” delves into that question with a lot of fantasy, a load of humor and a bit of candor. It’s co-produced by the Acme Corporation and Single Carrot Theatre. We meet playwright Lola B. Pierson and director Yury Urnov to get some insight on the play.

For information on tickets, visit this link.

Sean Beier tells the story of meeting his intimidating Russian father in law for the first time ... and why every man should own a watch. You can hear his story and others at or on the Stoop Podcast.

The Concert Truck

Classical pianist Susan Zhang is one of the masterminds behind “The Concert Truck,” a mobile concert hall that brings music to the people, with free concerts at public places. Then whether it’s gathering dust in a drawer or worn every day, nearly everyone owns jewelry. We speak to Shane Prada, the director of the Baltimore Jewelry Center, which offers classes in metal work, enameling, and more. And artist Mary Fissel tells us how jewelry making is like problem solving.

Information for The Concert Truck performances can be found here and class schedules at Baltimore Jewelry Center and exhibit information can be found here.

Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Hostilities on the Korean peninsula were suspended 65 years ago, but the war never formally ended. Thousands of North and South Koreans cannot reunite or even communicate with family. Photographer and filmmaker Laura Elizabeth Pohl delves into the trauma in her traveling photo exhibit A Long Separation. Then, photographer Helen Glazer found inspiration in stark snow-covered tundra. She toured as part the ‘Antarctic Artists and Writers’ program of the National Science Foundation. 

This is a special Fall Pledge combination rebroadcast, links to full interviews can be found here, for Pohl and here, for Glazer.

Helen Glazer's instagram images can be found here.

For millions of Americans, higher education just doesn’t work. Of all those who start college each fall, barely more than half graduate with a degree or certificate in six years. And many leave campus saddled with huge debts.

Health Care for the Homeless

For many families, September means back-to-school activities: shopping for notebooks and pens, new clothes, and reuniting with friends after summer break. But for thousands of students--and their parents--experiencing homelessness ... ‘back to school’ means stress and the frustration of navigating enrollment and attendance without the security of a place to call home. We talk with Baltimore City Public Schools homeless-student liaison Allen Blackwell and with Danielle DeShields, a formerly homeless mother of three, and with Healthcare for the Homeless social worker Debbie Wilcox. Visit this link for more information on Health Care for the Homeless.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

One hundred years ago, the Spanish flu marched across the globe, leaving between 50 and 100 million people dead in its wake. An exhibit The 1918 Flu Epidemic and Baltimore: 100 Years Later, at the Frieda O. Weise Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore campus, chronicles what was going on in the city. Professor Wilbur Chen, a vaccine development specialist, tells us how the flu spreads, and how to prevent it. And Tara Wink, UMB librarian and archivist, offers takeaways from what she learned in compiling the exhibit. The opening for the exhibit is Thursday, Sept. 13 at 10:30am, RSVP here. The exhibit is in conjunction with "Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World," at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

For fourteen years the nonprofit Thread has identified Baltimore students facing academic and personal challenges and created a tapestry of support around each -- powered by hundreds of volunteers who stay by their side for years. Many Thread students have spent their lives being told they’re underperformers or not worthwhile. The commitment of consistent and unconditional acceptance can turn lives around. We meet longtime volunteer Toni Pollin and Thread co-founder and CEO, Sarah Hemminger.

For more information about Thread, visit this link.


About two dozen sixth-graders from West Baltimore will be diving into an intense agenda, joining 80 current UMB CURE Scholars who are in seventh through ninth grades. Two afternoons a week plus Saturday mornings they’ll focus on building the strong math and science skills they’ll need for careers in medicine or science. Each young scholar is backed by five mentors--students in UMB’s professional schools. Robin Saunders, who leads the CURE Scholars program, says Saturday afternoons are for field trips, lab visits and getting to know specialists in medicine.

Each day in the U.S. more than 86,000 older adults fall. That’s about one per second, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for the elderly. We talk with Dr. Kelly Westlake and Dr. Mark Rogers, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who are working to help seniors react faster and stay safer if they take a tumble through innovative balance training. To participate in the study visit this link or call 410-605-7179. Original air date: 1/30/18

A quiet but mighty revolution is growing in Baltimore. For a group of African American teenage girls, it’s been fueled by the power of the page ... filling their minds with positive images of black women in literature. The co-founder of the non-profit, ‘A Revolutionary Summer,’ Andria Nacina Cole, tells why she chose ‘books’ as the medium of choice. We also meet Constance Ui Seng Francois , who wrote and directed a play based on a book the teens read, "I Dream A World, Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America." Performances happen Aug. 25-26. More information here.

A Stoop Story by Lilly Gibbons, about the power of finding one’s voice, and what good can happen if you don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. You can hear her story and others at or on the Stoop podcast.

Wikimedia Commons

Medical cannabis has been available in Maryland about nine months. Who is using it, and where is this budding new industry headed? We check in with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, for an update on regulations for dispensaries and staff. Plus , Brian Sanderoff, general manager at Curio Wellness shares his experience and his client, Rebecca Kliman, talks about her switch from narcotics to medical marijuana to address severe pain.

Flickr Creative Commons

An estimated 20,000 surgeons in the U.S. are over 70--no more immune than the rest of us from weaker vision, slower hand-eye coordination or forgetfulness. Yet there’s not a clear system for telling a doctor it’s time to retire from surgery. Dr. Mark Katlic, chair of surgery at LifeBridge Health Sinai Hospital, has devised a two-day evaluation to test the physical and mental fitness of surgeons. He says a mandatory retirement age is not the answer. We also talk to Dr. Herbert Dardik, who resisted the testing but now thinks it’s needed.

Walters Art Museum

“Taxidermy” conjures images of mounted safari trophies frozen in time, glaring from the fireplace mantels of victors’ dens. But the ‘Baltimore Taxidermy Open’ competition turns that stuffy concept on its head. We talk to judge Greg Hatem, co owner of  curio shop Bazaarand to Hannah Burstein, adult programming coodinator at the Walters Art Museum, which is hosting the event. 

For information on how to submit for the competition go here.

For information on the Baltimore Taxidermy Open event, go here.

Here's a Stoop Story from Robert Marbury, author of ‘Taxidermy Art: A Rogue's Guide to the Work, the Culture, and How to Do It Yourself’.’ Marbury will be a judge for the Baltimore Taxidermy Open competition at the Walters Art Museum on Sept. 6. You can hear his story and others at or on the stoop podcast.

Melissa Gerr

It’s been thirteen years since the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ventured overseas to perform. That changes next week, when more than one hundred musicians will head to Scotland, England and Ireland for a series of concerts. They’ll play many works by Leonard Bernstein, who mentored Marin Alsop, the BSO’s music director, and whose birth centennial is being celebrated this summer.  We talk with Alsop and also with principal horn player Phil Munds, just before they head out on tour.

If you’d like to wish the BSO ‘bon voyage,’ show up at 5 pm at City Hall Plaza Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018.  The BSO is offering a free concert by its brass and percussion section, conducted by Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh, who will lead fanfares and classical favorites.


What do very old people know about being happy that most of us don’t? Can we put their approach into use in our own lives? New York Times journalist John Leland spent a year with six elders and put what he learned in his new book, Happiness Is a Choice You Make -- Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. Original air date: 1/31/18

Ida B's Table

Sharing a meal creates community, and signature dishes give a sense of culture and culinary history. Ida B’s Table in Baltimore shares that philosophy -- it’s behind a series of special dinners that start Sunday. We talk with Chef David K. Thomas of Ida B’s, and Chef BJ Dennis of Charleston South Carolina, who are cooking up the Ancestor’s Dinner. It will feature flavors of the Gullah Geechee cuisine and stories of its people.  For information on the Ancestor's Dinner at Ida B's Table, visit this link.

Other culinary events this weekend:

Off the Chainsaw Cookout at A Workshop of Our Own and The 6th Annual Muslim Food Fest at The Islamic Society of Baltimore. Enjoy!

Here’s a Stoop Story from Gregory Hartzler Miller about going off the grid and finding his truth. You can hear his story and others at or on the Stoop podcast

Melissa Gerr

Eating nutritious food is an important step toward a healthy lifestyle. For some, making nutritious food is a main ingredient to improving self-confidence and finding a path to gainful employment. We talk with Deborah Haust, director of School of Food, and we visit the social enterprise City Seeds in East Baltimore, to meet chef Aharon Denrich and some of his staff.

For information about cooking classes visit School of Food.

For information about catering, visit City Seeds.

Charles Townley Chapman

One hundred years ago an idea took off--literally--from the grassy airfield in College Park: could these new flying machines move mail between cities faster than trains? Congress okayed a test. Andrea Cochrane Tracey, director of the College Park Aviation Museum, reflects on how basic things were in 1918.

The first flights during sunny August went well. Cydney Shank Wentsel, the granddaughter of Robert Shank, an early pilot, tells us how wintry snow and fog raised the dangers, and pilots pushed for more control over when they’d fly.

For information about events surrounding the airmail anniversary at the College Park Aviation Museum, visit this link.

To view a documentary about Robert Shank, visit this link.

For a look at commemorative stamps for the airmail anniversary, visit this link.

Here’s a Stoop Story from Shaun Adamec. It’s about the extravagant lifestyle that he and his dot-com-boom multimillionaire friend, Chris, briefly enjoyed … which included zipping around in a little Piper Cherokee single prop plane. You can hear his and other stories at or the Stoop Podcast. This story was edited for length.

Ivy Bookshop

We think of species taking a long time to adapt to changes in their surroundings. Not necessarily, says evolutionary biologist and ecologist Menno Schilthuizen. In his latest book, "Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution," he asserts we don’t have to look far for evidence: Schilthuizen says plants and animals can adapt quickly to survive. Things like mating preferences and diets are in flux when it comes to city living.

National Federation of the Blind

Thousands of blind people travel and commute every day. But they can face challenges, barriers--even discrimination--along the way. Stacey Cervenka, who is blind, tells us about her plans for a Blind Traveler’s Network, a website to provide tips and recommendations for accessible vacation travel. She's a winner of the 2018 Holman Prize for Blind Ambition.

And we meet Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. He discusses advocacy for equal treatment and access for blind and visually impaired people, and notes that people's perceptions of what it's like to be blind is often the toughest thing to overcome.

Melissa Gerr

It was 289 years ago that the Maryland General Assembly issued Baltimore a town charter -- actually, voted out on July 30, 1729 … but Charm City is celebrating tonight with a party put on by Live Baltimore.

The little settlement on the Patapsco was named for Cecil Calvert, second Baron Baltimore, first proprietor of the Maryland colony. Calvert never visited his colony. But even if he had, it’s safe to say neither he nor any of the succeeding Barons Baltimore would recognize what the city has become. What hopes do those who live here now hold for Baltimore? We asked nearly two dozen denizens -- From Mayor Catherine Pugh ... to film director and author John Waters -- to make a wish and tell us what they most desire for Charm City, on the threshold of its 289th year.