In Rhythm

Jonathan Overby is dedicated to connecting cultures through music

Each Saturday night, listeners from around the state tune in to Higher Ground to hear host and executive producer Jonathan Overby showcase a blend of music from around the globe.

It’s no accident that Overby helms the show, which boasts both the youngest and fastest-growing audience on Wisconsin Public Radio. It’s one of many ways he’s dedicated to connecting cultures.

“Music can be that entree into understanding other groups and celebrating them,” he says.

Also a lyric baritone and conductor, Overby shares sounds, stories and histories that aren’t always familiar or accessible to his listeners. “I’m not just throwing music out there,” he says. “The idea is to get them learning.”

His conviction that an ethnomusicologist must spend time in the places where music is made has taken Overby to Cuba, Tanzania, Columbia and Peru. In the spring he will lead a group of students to Morocco for a world sacred music festival.

Overby is also finishing a doctorate at Edgewood College, with a dissertation on how world music can connect diverse cultures, and this month he’s producing and hosting the state’s thirty-first annual tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. Like all his pursuits, these undertakings are rooted in sustaining a sense of community.

“The result is my attempt to make this a better world,” he says.

The State of Wisconsin Tribute and Ceremony Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. takes place January 17, 12 p.m., in the Capitol Rotunda.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor at Madison Magazine.

Read more arts profiles here.

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