CMU celebrates three decades of 'Our Front Porch' series

Clarke Historical Library features exhibit of the public broadcasting show
Our Front Porch

Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library’s newest exhibit captures more than 30 years of culture and music brought to central and northern Michigan through CMU Public Broadcasting’s “Our Front Porch” series. The display of photos, video and memorabilia is free and open to the public through January 2014.

“The exhibit takes the viewer from the humble beginnings of concerts broadcast from Moore Hall’s Kiva to what developed into a nationally syndicated series offered to National Public Radio member stations across the country,” said John Sheffler, director of CMU Public Radio, who has produced the show since the beginning.

At first, concerts were aired on CMU Public Radio once a month.  With increasing popularity and support from Remus’ Wheatland Music Organization, performances grew in number and audience size. Musicians from a variety of music genres were invited to perform from bluegrass, folk, blues, Celtic, Cajun, and zydeco.

The series has hosted nearly 400 concerts in its three-decade history, says Sheffler. The show is currently broadcast on CMU Public Radio Station’s network, reaching communities from Sault Ste. Marie to Saginaw and Traverse City to Cheboygan. In addition, it has been aired on more than 200 stations nationwide through National Public Radio.

“We’ve traveled around the state with these concerts, taking performers to places they never would have seen and exposed audiences to music they never would have heard,” Sheffler said.

The exhibit features the photography of retired CMU photographers Robert Barclay and Peggy Brisbane.  The pair attended nearly every show and praised the close-knit community built between artists and audience.  

“It was a great family experience,” said Brisbane, who recalls her son as a little boy oftentimes falling asleep to the sounds of “Our Front Porch” performances. 

Barclay noted the uniqueness of the traditional music offered through the program. Artists from all over the world, including Ireland, Scotland and the Appalachian Mountains, have performed different genres throughout the years.

“Having the opportunity to see artists of all genres, listen to them play and photograph them was an honor and a pleasure,” Barclay said.

Sheffler decided to donate past “Our Front Porch” recordings to the Clarke Historical Library in order to legally reintroduce them to the public.  

“We had limited rights to the recordings for broadcast, but now people have the opportunity to listen to the music and either enjoy it again or for the first time.”

The Clarke Historical Library exhibit, located inside CMU’s Park Library, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Related Videos