Dr. Jonathan Øverby, host of Wisconsin Public Radio’s global music program “The Road to Higher Ground,” was inducted into Folk Alliance International’s Folk DJ Hall of Fame Wednesday night at a ceremony in Kansas City.
Øverby, a Milwaukee native, joins a shortlist of distinguished broadcasters from around the world who are past recipients of this honor, including the BBC’s Bob Harris, the CBC’s Holger Peterson, NPR’s Fiona Ritche and Radio Nacional de España’s Manolo Fernández. During his acceptance speech, he spoke of his Milwaukee roots and his belief in the power of music to overcome differences and hatred.
“I grew up in the inner city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and there I learned the power of hatred, distrust and fear,” Øverby said in his acceptance speech. “But the power of music that I would learn later in life, taught me about music and its power to create love, unity, inclusion and the celebration of people who were different than me. Not just because they were different, but in spite of their difference. I use my radio program to celebrate those people with the hope of creating a better understanding between diverse groups en route to reducing human hatred.”
The Folk DJ Hall of Fame “recognizes radio hosts who have made an outstanding contribution to the preservation, promotion, and presentation of folk music, and who have demonstrated and inspired leadership in the broadcast field.”
Øverby, who has served as host and executive producer of “The Road to Higher Ground” at WPR since 1994, has spent his life performing, teaching, researching and promoting diverse genres of music.
“‘The Road to Higher Ground’ isn’t just a celebration of music from people and cultures near and far, it is a celebration of life,” said Interim WPR Director Tom Luljak in a statement. “Whether he’s on air or working in communities throughout Wisconsin, Jonathan brings a passion and joy for his work that people respond to – this is such a well-deserved honor.”
Dr. Øverby is also the founding director of Africasong Communications, a not-for-profit statewide agency dedicated to education, music productions, and community service. In addition, he is the executive producer and director of Wisconsin’s Official Annual State “Tribute & Ceremony” honoring The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.