You were a music major in college with an emphasis on voice. How does that background influence your work in radio?
Well, to begin with, I started in public radio as a classical music host, and my music background helped me to pronounce the names of classical conductors, composers and their works, like Yondani Butt andTill Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. Now, as a host, I’m so grateful to have learned how to work with my voice as an instrument and how music works as a score to an interview.
What TTBOOK shows are you most proud of producing?
The show that’s meant the most to me is an hour I put together on the late, great writer David Foster Wallace. It felt like the stars were aligning to help me produce it. I’m a huge admirer of David Wallace, and had the luck to see him read in Chicago one summer. When I was younger, I used to write letters to authors I loved just to let them know they’d made a difference. I never wrote to DFW, so this hour of TTBOOK is kind of my thank you to him for his brilliance and vulnerability as a writer and human being.
You also host a weekly call-in radio program for Wisconsin Public Radio. What’s that about?
It’s called The Veronica Rueckert Show. In many ways it shares the same sensibilities as TTBOOK but with callers - with an emphasis on big ideas, on culture, on the arts, on science and technology. The one thing I don’t cover is straight up politics and current events - I’m more interested in the “why” than the “what.”
What are some of your favorite TTBOOK interviews?
Some of my favorite moments have been the inspiring ones, where you kind of catch fire from someone else’s passion. I remember jazz singer Kurt Elling saying: We (human beings) are the most magnificent creature on the face of the earth. And look what we can do! Or NPR host Scott Simon saying: The trick in life is to take your God-given talents and wring them dry.
So, are there any perks to the life of a producer, besides being surrounded by books?
I once bought cellist Matt Haimovitz breakfast after muffing his interview time, leaving him to lug his giant cello around for an hour. And I gave a couple members of the band “Great Big Sea” a lift to their gig when they thought they could walk from the WPR studios all the way across town in time for a sound check. Unfortunately, I pretty much had an out of body experience on the ride over and discovered that being a fan of someone while driving results, for me, in extremely unfortunate small talk.