“The Next Frontier” for Radio Deejaying

Anne Barbano and her engineer, Nick Malutama. Words by Emily Katherine Lozeau

Photos by Nikk McCarron

Anne Barbano, host of 'The Next Frontier' on 105.9 WOMM-LP FM Burlington, has always had an interest in diversity and a knack for the media world.  She is currently the host of the first autism and disabilities radio program in Vermont. Each Wednesday from 10am-11am (later archived on her website www.livingtheautismmaze.com) she has new guests on air speaking about their lives - from hardships to triumphs and everything in between. Her show covers broad and often unspoken topics that affect many people every day. “The best feeling is when people say "I didn’t know that I learned so much," says Anne. “Sometimes I don’t know what we’re going to learn; it may be just a different perspective, I find it all fascinating.”

This outspoken and inquisitive host has taken her career from television, to film, to radio, where she’s always found compelling ways to interact with her audience. “I’ve done voiceovers, theater, radio, film” she explains. “I’m oriented toward radio, toward interviewing, it’s really my love.”

Anne got her start in TV conducting interviews for the Burlington Oral History Project, documenting people from every walk of life. She interviewed everyone from a former Amish woman, to a hearing impaired man. The audiotapes from these interviews are archived in special collections at the University of Vermont. The Burlington Oral History Project was a little step into the lives of everyday people, showing everyone can be fascinating in their own ways. From there Anne began working on an oral history show called 'LifeStories' which aired on channel 15. 'LifeStories' continued the quest to document the oral histories of Vermonters. The personal accounts from 'LifeStories' can be found at the Vermont Folklife Center.

It was after her second child was diagnosed with autism that the idea for a film about the subject, called 'Living the Autism Maze,' came about. “It took years to figure out why he had speech delays,” Anne laments. “We were not looking at autism; we hardly even knew that word.” Anne wrote, directed, and produced the film to help parents and those dealing with autism get more information, in a time when little was easily available. She reminisces that “trying to teach my son, I got the feeling this is more prevalent then we know, but we had to read books, go to specialists, we found everyone was learning along with us.”

From this point she saw the opportunity to expand on the subject, to get out information, comfort, and build a community via a radio show. “I’ve got a lot of people waiting in the wings,” Anne said about how she gets in contact with interviewees. With her show streaming on her website, people from all over the country are emailing and Tweeting to be involved with her show.  “I love the freedom the Radiator gives to develop your program,” she says. Anne laughs that she has had to bring in an outside engineer to keep up with all the activity and interest her show has generated. “I will pursue people when I read something, but the roster is all very different.” Her first guests were musicians; one dealing with brain injuries and the other schizophrenia. One recent guest was even involuntarily drugged and locked up in a psychiatric hospital.

For two years now Anne’s show has been buzzing on the radio, helping people connect to this relatively new frontier. The Next Frontier has evolved from not only discussing autism and disabilities, but the whole range of mental and physical diagnoses affecting people. “I always thought of Star Trek,” Anne explains about the name of her show, “There’s been race, sexuality, women’s rights. I kept thinking that the next frontier is disabilities; we’re going to change our thinking.”