Jennifer Ramm is a bluegrass musician and fan based in Springfield, Illinois. Her love for the music began when she was growing up in Michigan and her family inadvertently attended a bluegrass festival. She plays fiddle and sings with the River Ramblers, a local bluegrass band. In her spare time, she is a chemistry professor at Lincoln Land Community College.
Jennifer has been a host for Bluegrass Breakdown since 2001.
UIS Student John McMillan interviewed Jennifer in 2016 for the Insider e-newsletter:
How long have you been doing Bluegrass Breakdown and what compelled you to host it in the first place? Give me a little back story on the program and your involvement.
When I moved to Springfield in 1993, I had already heard about the Bluegrass Breakdown program, so I started listening right away. I got involved in the bluegrass music community in Springfield and had the opportunity to meet Bill Rintz, the host at that time. Since I was a teenager, I had always been fascinated with radio, so Bill was gracious enough to let me co-host a few times. I also helped out with pledge drives. After Bill retired, Mark Mathewson and Joe Hinkebein (both friends of mine) co-hosted the show, and when Joe moved away, Mark invited me to be his co-host. I was honored to join the WUIS family in March of 2001, and I've been hosting the show ever since. I'm so grateful to Bill, Joe, and Mark for their encouragement and assistance through the years.
Share with me some of your favorite moments hosting and producing Bluegrass Breakdown.
I've had some wonderful opportunities to interview great musicians for the show, including Pete Wernick, Jere Cherryholmes, and Nora Jane Struthers, all of whom played concerts/festivals in Springfield. Mark Mathewson started a tradition of having live music in the studio for pledge drives, and I've had a great time playing with some of my favorite musician friends in the studio. I love the excitement of getting a new CD from one of my favorite bands or discovering a new band and sharing their music with our listeners.
Do you listen to public radio often? If so, how long have you been a listener? What are some of your favorite programs? What do you look to get out of public radio?
I've been listening to public radio since I was a kid--I was raised on Car Talk, A Prairie Home Companion, and classical music. I love the combination of entertainment and information available on public radio. I still love Car Talk and A Prairie Home Companion, and I'm hooked on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me. (And yes, I went to those live Wait Wait shows at Sangamon Auditorium!) As a science geek, I've fallen in love with RadioLab. And of course, I love my Sunday night buddies, Sean and Dave, and their great music shows.
Give me a little background about yourself. Where are you from? Did you go to school? Where at if you did? What was your degree in?
I grew up in East Lansing, MI. I took violin lessons as a kid, and when I was about 9 or 10, our family accidentally went to a bluegrass festival and became addicted to this music. Our family played music together every Sunday night when I was growing up and spent many summers at bluegrass festivals. My mom and dad still play in a bluegrass band in Michigan (mom plays bass, dad plays guitar), and every time the family gets together, a jam session invariably breaks out. I earned my bachelor's degree in chemistry from Carleton College in Minnesota (just south of Lake Wobegon), and my master's degree in organic chemistry from University of Wisconsin-Madison. In my day job, I'm a chemistry professor at Lincoln Land Community College.
What is it you like to do in your free time? I understand you are a bluegrass musician yourself. Tell me about that.
I play fiddle and sing with the River Ramblers, a local bluegrass band. I met these guys about 22 years ago, when I first moved to Springfield and attended a jam session. Unbeknownst to me, their fiddle player had just left, so what I thought was just a jam session was really an audition. I joined the group that night, and it's been an honor and a blast to pick and sing with them ever since. One of our most memorable gigs was opening for the Infamous Stringdusters when they played the very first Bedrock 66 Live concert! Besides music, I love spending time with my husband, traveling with him to national parks, meeting up with friends, and hanging out with our two cats, Batman and Robin.
Give me a quick one or two sentences about your involvement in the Bluegrass Breakdown program. Something I can put in as a direct quote.
I've always loved radio--I've wanted to work at a radio station since I was a teenager--and I've always loved music. To have the opportunity to host a bluegrass radio show has been the fulfillment of a dream. And I love being part of the NPR Illinois community.
The Insider is our chance to communicate directly to our listeners. Is there anything else you would like to say to them?
It's always an honor to meet up with listeners--whether it's at a bluegrass festival, concert, or just around town. Thank you so much for supporting Bluegrass Breakdown and NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS through the years, and thanks for listening!