Remembering Idaho Singer-Songwriter Rosalie Sorrels

Many of us at Idaho Public Television are sharing our fond memories and celebrating the life and music of Rosalie Sorrels. The Idaho singer, songwriter, author, and folk musician died Sunday at age 83. Sorrels was the subject of the 2006 IdahoPTV documentary Rosalie Sorrels: Way Out in Idaho, which is available to view for free through July 30. After that, the film will be available exclusively to IdahoPTV Passport members.

Rosalie Title

Dialogue host Marcia Franklin, who grew up in Washington, D.C., might not have settled in Idaho except for an inspirational encounter with Sorrels.

“Rosalie Sorrels was one of the reasons that I made the trek out to Idaho in 1989 on a wing and a prayer to find a job,” Franklin says. “I had heard Rosalie sing at a folk festival I was covering during graduate school and had been mesmerized. I saw it as a sign that I should follow my rather nutty whim. Only a year after arriving, I was pinching myself, as I was just a few feet away from Rosalie chatting with her. And 15 years after that original inspiration, I was privileged to work on the Idaho Public Television documentary about her.”

For Rosalie Sorrels: Way Out in Idaho, Franklin interviewed Pete Seeger, Nanci Griffith, Jean Ritchie, Bruce “Utah” Phillips, Terry Garthwaite, and others. “Traveling with Rosalie to New York to interview Pete Seeger at his house on the Hudson River will always be a highlight of my career,” Franklin says.

Sorrels and Seeger - courtesy Marcia Franklin
Sorrels and Pete Seeger sing together at Seeger’s house on the Hudson River, 2005

Those fellow musicians all speak of Rosalie’s unique talent. “It was fascinating to see how they all independently wanted to stress the same point — that Rosalie’s storytelling was as much about who she was as her singing,” Franklin says. “And they all talked about how Rosalie didn’t fit into any commercial ‘box.’ She was her own person, with her own inimitable style.”

Rosalie Sorrels: Way Out in Idaho showcases Sorrels in concert with friends — musicians from Idaho and across the nation — at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey in September 2005. The Divas of Boise add their voices to the songs; Rosalie adds depth with her stories. “Sometimes I sing in places where they don’t want me to tell stories, and I almost can’t do that,” Sorrels says in the film. “I can sing a bunch of songs but they don’t make any sense to me if you don’t have the stories.”

The portrait drawn by concert footage, interviews, and vintage photographs of Sorrels and her family is vibrant and uniquely Idaho.

RS Concert All 7
The “Rosalie Sorrels and Friends” concert, 2005

“She was incredibly generous with other musicians,” says Bruce Reichert, the documentary’s executive producer. “She would never do a song without mentioning the songwriter’s name. It was important to her to give credit where credit was due. I met Rosalie in the 1970s, when she would come and play for her Idaho City fans in the library we had built. Back then, my favorite song of hers was ‘Apple of My Eye’; I would always request it, and she would always generously perform it. I made sure that song was in the documentary. To this day, when I hear that song, I think of Rosalie, the songwriter who loved her children dearly and spoke to them in song.”

Reichert adds that Sorrels also epitomized something that reflected her Idaho pioneer heritage — perseverance. “Her life was not easy, but she persevered. And she was gutsy. As a friend commented to me, she played those low notes. She went where others feared to tread.”

Paying tribute to the musician upon her passing, Franklin writes, “Rosalie was as strong and deep as the current of Grimes Creek, which rushed near her cabin. She was a feisty survivor who could find her way around innumerable dams. And like a river, her story-songs let us drift in and out of many lives. Those stories will live on in her amazing body of work, as will she.”

A Musical Tribute to Rosalie

IdahoPTV corporate sponsorship manager Kathe Alters says, “I first met Rosalie in 2003 when I was working for public radio in Boise. She had come to our studios to be interviewed for a national NPR story. I was familiar with her music and proud that she represented Idaho, so when she walked in, I introduced myself to her, gushing as one does when you meet a hero. She was gracious and took time to talk with me about her music and how she wasn’t planning on performing much anymore. Of course, that didn’t work out — she went on to record a Grammy-nominated album in 2004, perform for the IdahoPTV documentary in 2006, and record an album benefiting Utah Phillips in 2007, all the while continuing to perform and record as long as she could.”

Their paths didn’t cross again for more than 10 years. “At that time, my then-husband and I heard through a Facebook post that Rosalie wasn’t doing so well and might have to move from her beloved home in Grimes Creek,” Alters says. “Through a mutual friend, and then one of Rosalie’s daughters, we were introduced to the singer Rocci Johnson, who had a tribute album in the works to honor Rosalie’s music and her legacy. We stepped aboard Team Rosalie as volunteers more than two years ago. What started as a modest project is now a four-CD set of songs, most of which are written by Rosalie, performed by local and nationally known musicians in a loving Tribute to the Travelin’ Lady that we’ll be rolling out in early August.”

Travelin Lady

Though Rosalie didn’t live to see the final CD set, she listened to the tapes and saw the artwork for the CD box, inserts, and singers’ bios booklet, which is a design based on her famous traveling scrapbook Miscellaneous Abstract Record No. 1. She told Rocci that she approved. “I saw her on a brief visit last summer,” Alters says, “and while her dementia had progressed, she was still so cordial and kind to this fangirl. I’ll never forget her sitting on the couch next to her much-loved Dudley the Do-Right Dog, smiling, as the rest of us buzzed around her.”

Alters asked IdahoPTV graphic design specialist Jim Hadley if he would lend his talents to design the Tribute to the Travelin’ Lady CD packaging — and she introduced him to Rocci Johnson. “Seeing Rosalie’s beloved scrapbook, I instantly knew it would provide the design look for the project,” Hadley says. “It is a treasure trove of old photos, news clippings, concert announcements, handwritten song scraps, notes and drawings — everything I would need to help illustrate her amazing musical career. One of my favorite statements of hers was ‘I may leave one of my kids behind somewhere, but NEVER my scrapbook!’ Meeting Rosalie and her daughter Shelly, I knew that was probably not totally true!”

Renowned artist Ward Hooper also agreed to apply his talent creating the train illustration and picture of Rosalie that Hadley used on the CD case and booklet. “Ward has a way of taking images and giving them a new life, just as we have done with all of Rosalie’s songs on these four CDs,” says Hadley.

General Manager Ron Pisaneschi Honored With Career Achievement Award

Idaho Public Television is proud to announce that General Manager Ron Pisaneschi will be inducted into the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Northwest Chapter (NATASNW).

The Silver Circle honors media professionals who began their careers in television at least 25 years ago, either in a performing, creative, technical or administrative role within the industry or in an area related to television, such as TV journalism education, advertising, promotion, or public relations. Honorees — who are reviewed by a committee of recent Silver Circle inductees and then approved by the Northwest Chapter board of governors — must also have made a significant contribution to the Northwest Chapter region for at least part of their 25-year career. The Northwest Chapter of NATAS has been honoring Silver Circle members since 1991.

Pisaneschi came to Idaho Public Television in 1985, and has served as the agency’s general manager since August 2013. During his 32 years at Idaho Public Television, Pisaneschi has also served as director of public information, director of marketing, director of ron silver circle emblemprogramming, and director of content. Under his leadership, Idaho Public Television has regularly attracted the largest viewership, per capita, in the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) system. Pisaneschi served on the board of directors of the Public Television Programmers Association, the PBS Children’s Advisory Committee, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Research Advisory Panel, and numerous other national funding and programming advisory panels. He was named the 2005 Programmer of the Year by his colleagues in the PBS system.

Pisaneschi holds a fine arts degree in film and photography from Lone Mountain College (now a part of the University of San Francisco) and has also worked in educational filmmaking, radio programming, public relations and marketing. In addition to his work for Idaho Public Television, he served for two terms as chairman of the board of directors of the Idaho Humanities Council.

Joan Cartan-Hansen, NATASNW president, says Pisaneschi “exemplifies the best in our profession. He cares about the quality of the work produced at Idaho Public Television and about serving the public. He is a leader in the PBS community and committed to his employees, the station volunteers and the viewers. Ron has made a tremendous difference in Idaho, our region and our nation.”

“With the roles that Ron has played nationwide in the PBS system and in IdahoPTV, he is certainly deserving of this honor,” says Jeff Tucker, IdahoPTV’s director of content services. “And without a doubt the entire staff respects his work and applauds his efforts throughout the years.”

Pisaneschi and eight fellow inductees will be honored at the Silver Circle Reception on Friday, June 2, and formally inducted at the 54th Annual Northwest Regional Emmy Awards Ceremony on Saturday, June 3. Both events take place at Fremont Studios in Seattle, Washington.

More information about the Northwest Regional Emmy Awards and the Northwest Chapter of NATAS can be found here.

IdahoPTV Announces Regional Winners for PBS KIDS Writers Contest

For the 23rd year, Idaho Public Television participated in the annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest. IdahoPTV’s three regional stations — KUID/Moscow, KISU/Pocatello and KAID/Boise — encouraged children in kindergarten through third grade to write and illustrate their own imaginative storiePBS Kids Writerss.

Volunteer panels judged the entries on creativity, originality, language skills and illustrations. Three winners per grade level were chosen for each region of Idaho (with one exception), for a total of 35 winners.

By June 1, the winners’ names will be listed and the winning books will be uploaded in full color onto the IdahoPTV website.

“We had an impressive number of entries this year: 578 submissions from around Idaho,” says Cindy Lunte, IdahoPTV education specialist. “The PBS KIDS Writers Contest is an essentially cost-free way for teachers, librarians and families to engage children in an activity that is both creative and an excellent learning experience.”

Principal support for this year’s contest in Idaho was provided by the Walmart Foundation and IDeal Idaho College Savings Program.

‘Science Trek’ Asks Why We Sleep, and What Happens When We Don’t

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. All animals need sleep for good health. Sleep rejuvenates our bodies and helps clean out our brains. But what is sleep? Scientists are studying why we sleep, why we don’t, and what sleep really means.

Joan_SleepOn May’s Science Trek broadcast show, host Joan Cartan-Hansen is joined by two medical sleep experts to answer viewers’ questions about sleep. Her guests are Dr. Janat O’Donnell, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, and Nancy Nadolski, a family nurse practitioner specializing in sleep issues.

“Sleep” on Science Trek airs Tuesday, May 16, at 2:00/1:00 PM and repeats Sunday, May 21, at 10:00/9:00 AM MT/PT.

Science Trek, produced by Idaho Public Television, airs the third Tuesday of the month throughout the school year and focuses on a variety of science-related topics. Host Joan Cartan-Hansen and guest scientists answer questions that students have submitted either as a video or as an email.

In addition to the television broadcast, Science Trek includes a substantial website with teacher-vetted, standards-based educational content and video streams of the broadcast program, plus Web-only shows and video shorts on each topic.

Award-Winning Filmmaker, Writer Miranda July on Next ‘Dialogue’

In “Being Miranda July” — a new Dialogue airing May 19 and 21 — director, writer and Dialogueperformance artist Miranda July talks with host Marcia Franklin about her life and work. The conversation was filmed at the Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum, as part of an event sponsored by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

“Being Miranda July” on Dialogue airs Friday, May 19, at 7:30 PM and repeats Sunday, May 21, at 5:00/4:00 PM MT/PT.

July discusses the inspirations for her work, her creative process, and how becoming a mother has changed her.

Miranda July
Miranda July at the Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum

Miranda July wrote, directed and starred in the film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Caméra d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Her most recent film is The Future. July’s novel, The First Bad Man, was a New York Times bestseller, and her collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. July is also known for her performance pieces.

‘Outdoor Idaho’ Explores the Wild and Remote Border With Canada

The lush landscapes of north Idaho set it apart from the rest of the state. This is a region of remarkable rivers, huge lakes, and old-growth forests. For our program “Almost Canada,” the Outdoor Idaho crew travels to the northernmost part of this area, the remote and wild country that borders Canada.

“Almost Canada” airs Thursday, May 18, at 8:00 PM and Sunday, May 21, at 7:00 PM. Following its initial airing, this Outdoor Idaho episode will be viewable online.

A number of the scenic rivers that course through Outdoor Idahothis expanse flow into Idaho from southern Canada. The Upper Priest River winds through thick forests along the border before spilling into gorgeous Priest Lake. We’ll hike along the Upper Priest on Idaho’s Centennial trail to the Canadian border. We’ll also spend some time on the waters of Upper Priest Lake, a pristine body of water that was set aside from development.

Another northern waterway, the Moyie River, swirls down from British Columbia to provide a great whitewater challenge. It eventually joins the largest waterway in the region, the Kootenai River. The Kootenai’s connection to Canada is strong. It not only flows from our northern neighbor into Montana and Idaho, the river then returns to Canada before connecting with the Columbia River.

The Kootenai River is home to the immense white sturgeon. It’s an ancient and endangered fish that the Kootenai tribe is trying to help. The tribe and other partners are working on a wide-ranging river restoration project. In addition to looking at the tribe’s restoration work we’ll also go drift boat fishing with Three Heart Outfitters on the Kootenai.

Another regional connection with Canada is the Selkirk mountain range. The range runs over 200 miles from British Columbia into Idaho. We’ll go horse packing in this rugged range and also stay at a Forest Service rental lookout called Shorty Peak. The lookout high in the Selkirks has impressive views in all directions.

The other major mountain ranges in the area are the Cabinets and the Purcells. The Purcells host stunning waterfalls including Moyie Falls and Copper Falls. In between the Purcells and the Selkirk range is the Boundary Wildlife Management Area. These stunning wetlands hosts thousands of birds and other creatures.

“The stark contrast between southern and northern Idaho is fascinating to me,” says writer/producer John Crancer. “It’s like traveling to a whole different world. We wanted to highlight some of the area’s magic in this program.”

We’ll explore these beautiful northern locations and meet some of the hardy people who call this place home. It’s a part of Idaho few other residents of the state ever see. Join us as Outdoor Idaho heads north to “Almost Canada.”

IdahoPTV Offers ‘Scratch Jr.’ Coding Camps to Summer School Teachers

Calling all summer school teachers:

Idaho Public Television is offering to host free PBS Kids Scratch Jr. coding camps at selected schools this summer.

Scratch Jr

Scratch Jr. is a free coding app specifically designed for children in grades K-3 (but could possibly be adapted for grades 4 and 5). During the camp, students will WATCH, PLAY, EXPLORE, CREATE & SHARE! They will take on the roles of programmer, background designer, character designer, sound designer and editor — creating stories and games using their favorite PBS Kids characters.

The camps could run anywhere from 1-5 days, depending on interest and availability. We can even provide devices if your school doesn’t have them! If you are interested in this opportunity from IdahoPTV, please click on the link below and fill out the form to request a camp be held at your school.

Request a Scratch Jr. Summer Coding Camp at Your School