Robert Resnik: Modern Day Renaissance-Man

rraccord What do over 30 musical instruments, public radio, wild mushrooms and libraries have in common? Not much, unless you’re Robert Resnik.

Sitting at the reference desk at the Fletcher Free Library is a man whose ear-to-ear grin can only be an indication of how much he loves his job.

Resnik, originally a native of Illinois, knows how to play over 30 musical instruments, hosts a weekly radio show on Vermont Public Radio, is an avid wild mushroom collector and chef and is also one of the three co-directors of Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library.

Resnik is also featured on Big Heavy World’s latest release, ‘Thrufters and Throughstones: the Music of Vermont’s First 400 Years,’ on three different tracks, two of which include musical partner, Marty Morrissey.

One-man band

Resnik started playing music when he was a young 7-year-old living in Morton Grove, Ill., he said.

Resnik attended a musical instrument showcase where men came on stage and played their instruments in an attempt to generate interest in music. Resnik chose the clarinet, and played it all through high school.

“The clarinet is a great instrument to learn,” Resnik said. “The fingerings are related to [many] orchestral instruments.”

After the clarinet, Resnik was able to learn instruments such as the oboe, saxophone and recorders, he said.

When he was 13, Resnik learned how to play the guitar, then later, when entering the University of Vermont, he learned the banjo, which also lead to him learning the mandolin.

“At this point, I’m on the pace of learning one instrument per year,” he said. “I play some more than others… but there is always music in my head.”

All the traditions

For the past 13 years, Resnik has been the host of ‘All the Traditions,’ on Vermont Public Radio every Sunday from 1p.m.-4p.m.

On the show, Resnik plays what he calls, “world music and music by Vermont artists.”

“It’s important people get to hear music produced locally,” he said. “It’s so hard to find the ‘real stuff.’”

Resnik indirectly got his radio gig thanks to WRUV, the college radio station at the University of Vermont, he said.

“I had listened to college radio in high school,” Resnik said, “and I really wanted to be involved [with college radio].”

When Resnik first came to school at the University of Vermont, one of the first places he went was the radio station. For all four year of his enrollment at the university, Resnik was involved with WRUV, he said.

After moving out of Burlington, Resnik spent some time in Vergennes working in a guitar-building factory, he said. After about two years there, Resnik decided he wanted to move back into Burlington.

When he moved back, Resnik decided to get a radio show once again on his alma mater station, WRUV. It was here that a friend tipped him off to an opening in the VPR schedule. He applied for the spot, and has been hosting his show ever since.

“I was a good match for the show,” he added.

Please get off the cell phone in the building

Originally, working as a librarian wasn’t in this English major’s cards.

About 20 years ago, Resnik was working in a small distribution company that was selling compact discs to small mom and pop record stores, he said, but the company just couldn’t compete with the larger distribution companies.

It was during this time that Resnik first started to talk with the directors of the Fletcher library.

“I was trying to get them to dump the [vinyl] LP’s at Fletcher for compact discs,” Resnik said.

During these talks with library coordinators, Resnik told them that if there was ever a position opening at Fletcher, he would like to be considered for the spot. A little while later, Resnik became an outreach librarian at Fletcher.

“Three years later, I loved it,” he said.

Resnik realized that if he ever lost his job at Fletcher, he wouldn’t be able to get another librarian job because he lacked any sort of library science degree. So, in 1993, Resnik obtained his masters in Library Science from Syracuse University, and returned to Fletcher. Now, for the past 10 years, Resnik has been one of the three co-directors at the Fletcher Free Library.

Among his contributions to the library is his weekly kiddie sing-along. In all, Resnik has released three albums of children’s music, with a fourth currently in the works.

In all, the discs have generated about $30,000 for the library, Resnik said.

A real “fun-guy”

“I have a list of things in my head I don’t know anything about, and this was one of them,” Resnik said.

Resnik first became interested in wild mushroom collecting and cooking after attending a class taught by Roz Payne.

“I spent all winter reading about mushrooms,” he said.

When the weather warmed up a bit after that winter, Resnik, along with a friend, found a lot of morel mushrooms, he said.

Now, having worked with wild mushrooms for close to 25 years, many other people appreciate Resnik’s expertise.

“Sometimes people will bring me bags of mushrooms to identify,” he said. “Poison control will send me jpgs too.”

Whether it be his work with the radio, the library, mushrooms or local music, Resnik, a 39-year veteran of Burlington, doesn’t seem to be losing any steam.

‘Thrufters and Throughstones: The Music of Vermont’s First 400 Years’ is available online now at the Vermont Music Library and Shop.