by Erin Dougherty-Petrie
Do you ever think about your life.having a soundtrack? I know I do, and I think it makes for a pretty good box set.
My Dad was a huge pop music fan, and probably was the first person to get me into radio and records. He always had his ears open for a catchy song with a great hook. At any time, we might have heard Sinatra, Aretha, The Clancy Brothers, The Carpenters, The Beach Boys, The Stylistics, or “Dusty in Memphis” playing in the house. There was lot’s of R&B, but folk music too. I’ve got great memories of listening to Philly AM and FM radio in the car on those long road trips and vacations we only ever drove to.
I have three sisters, and our parents insisted that among other rules, we all needed to learn to play a musical instrument, play a team sport, and learn a second language. None of us ever got a recording contract, an athletic scholarship, or a translator gig at the UN, but I’m so grateful for that guidance and the life lessons we picked up.
We had a small spinet piano in the house, and our teacher Mrs. Hemmingway came to the house each week for our lessons. She taught me how to read music. As the oldest sibling and typical teenager though, I needed to do my own thing and I convinced my parents to get me a “rent to own” acoustic guitar and lessons. It wasn’t very good, and neither was I, but it did begin my own rhythmic journey..One of the best things about growing up in a large metro area was getting to go to so many concerts and seeing new bands. There were definitely some life changing experiences. I saw Bruce Springsteen at the Spectrum in Philly the night we learned John Lennon had been murdered, and he made 18,000 cry together and sing “Twist and Shout” at the top of our lungs.
A friend who DJ’d at our small college “radio station” invited me to join in on their hours. It was actually only hardwired to the dining hall and a couple of other places, but it was fantastic fun with a lot of nonsense. I still played guitar a little, but soon got serious about starting a career as a Chemist and then having a family of my own. That hiatus from musical pursuits led to a rediscovery in late adulthood though, and I embarked on a journey to relearn and reconnect with the instruments that once fueled my creativity. It was great to discover how much I loved playing bass guitar and performing on a stage. I think I was an introvert for a lot of my life until then, and I found out it wasn’t the end of the world if you made a mistake or played a bad note – yet another life lesson I learned from music. I practiced hard, got a teacher and better gear, recorded with a few bands, and we released a couple of albums I’m really proud of. Some of it is really loud stuff that was a ton of fun to play live in front of people. I can’t believe I’m not deaf, but I do have tinnitus that’s likely from those years.
In the pursuit of sharing all my musical passions, I discovered the realm of community radio at a sleepy little station in the New Jersey countryside, WDVR. Stepping into that station, my desire to introduce people to some underrated gems of the music world found an outlet. This journey led to hosting two shows on their air. When we relocated to Vermont a while back, I naturally sought out what was happening on the left end of the dial, and found WOOL, a community radio station that felt like home in some ways. I see this place as a collective of like-minded individuals bound by a shared love for music, education, and community. Here, my passion for music met its perfect counterpart – a platform to share a soundtrack of life even if it’s a little different in some ways. Hopefully, it resonates with others, and we’ll all keep moving along The Road Less Traveled. I feel so lucky to be part of WOOL!