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Byline: Matt Cooper The Register-Guard

The first time 11-year-old Illyia Lozowick heard herself on the radio, it freaked her out.

"I got down on my hands and knees and said, `Is that me?' ' said Lozowick, an excitable girl with dark hair and a cheeky grin. "It's like something got in and possessed me and made my voice all deep."

That was a couple of weeks ago. Lozowick got comfortable with her radio voice, and now she's one of the main characters - Sherlock Holmes, to be precise - in a long-running but uncommon class at Awbrey Park Elementary School, in the north Santa Clara area of the Eugene School District.

The class is radio drama, and it stars Lozowick and other 11-year-olds who can only imagine the days when the old radio shows were the sole source of entertainment in the house.

Of course, teacher Fred Ingman will tell you that, where kids and radio are concerned, imagination is all you need.

For almost a decade now, Ingman and his fifth-graders have created half-hour radio dramas that are aired to more than 30,000 listeners from Eugene to Florence to Oakridge.

The students take to the microphone to cover narration, sound effects and an ever-changing cast of characters. Ingman records and mixes it all together, and the shows have become a highly polished mainstay in the spring lineup at KRVM, which is owned and operated by the school district.

Carl Sundberg, KRVM general manager, was skeptical when Ingman first approached him. If the truth be told, "I was expecting the most awful thing that had ever been broadcast," he said.

Instead, Ingman and his students have delivered re-creations of the old radio dramas that, according to Sundberg, are more than near-perfect - they're nearly one-of-a-kind.

"I'm not familiar with others doing something similar in the district, or anywhere in the country," Sundberg said. "These aren't middle school or high school kids, these are elementary kids."

Fifth-graders doing radio for the masses? State- and national-level radio programmers were similarly impressed.

"If you think of all the radio stations out there, what the likelihood of them carrying this would be, it would be pretty small," said Don Hein, program director for KLCC, the primary affiliate for National Public Radio in Western and Central Oregon.

Hein said he'd consider airing the students' shows if they could whittle them down to four- or five-minute programs, but Ingman wasn't interested, citing his commitment to the 30-minute shows, which take two months - and considerable patience - to bring to life.

Last week, Ingman guided half a dozen kids through their parts for "The Hound of the Baskervilles" while simultaneously riding herd over the rest of the 27-student class.

The shows are produced in close quarters - that is, in a double-wide trailer next to the main building - and they require someone with Job's patience who can silence fidgety kids with one raised hand while coaxing students through their lines with the other.

Ingman, 58, is perfect for the job. Silver-haired and authoritative, a Jimmy Stewart in face and manner, Ingman can still see himself as the 9-year-old entranced by radio dramas "Gunsmoke" and "The Lone Ranger" while milking cows on a farm in Coos Bay.

Ingman culls the class from the school's top fifth-grade readers, and he said radio drama teaches them to read with emotion and to work together.

But the real payoff is imagination.

In a "Lord of the Rings" world where the outer reaches of fantasy are spoon-fed to children in movies, television and video games, Ingman's kids must use their own imaginations, he said, to make the characters and the story feel real - to each other and their listeners.

He knew it was working when, during a broadcast one day in school, he overheard an exasperated student chastise another for blocking his view of the stereo speaker while the radio drama was unfolding.

"He said, `Get your head down, I'm trying to see what's happening,' ' Ingman said, chuckling. "He had his TV set working in his mind."

Things weren't working so well one day last week, however.

Ingman, seated at the recording equipment, was directing four students standing at two microphones for a rehearsal of "The Hound of the Baskervilles."

Among them, 11-year-old Luke Ferrenburg, tall and blond and slightly shy, had been battling laryngitis, and it seemed to have crept into his head. He missed a line, then smiled sheepishly as the other three burst into laughter and someone else in the room offered, "Nice screw-up, Luke!"

"That's OK," Ingman cut in - "the nice thing about tape is we can always rewind and do it again."

Later, Luke shrugged it off and said the class is worth it. "Most kids don't get a chance to be on the radio," he added. "It's a great experience for a lot of kids."

Chelsea Horn, who shuffled through a box of wood chips to create the sound of walking in the woods, said the class has helped with pronunciation. Lozowick, brought to her knees by the sound of her own voice on radio, said she's learning to pace her delivery and speak with expression. And there's something cool about radio.

"That's always good around siblings," said Aimee Wright, a narrator. "I get to say, `I did this, and you weren't included.' '


Awbrey Park Elementary's radio shows - "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and "Wee, Wee, Wee All the Way Home" - will air this spring on KRVM. The shows haven't been scheduled yet but will appear in the radio highlights section of The Register-Guard's TV Week.


Aimee Wright (right) and Illyia Lozowick laugh with Luke Ferrenburg (center) during work on a radio play at Awbrey Park Elementary School. Radio: Re-creations called more than near-perfect Continued from Page B1 INSIDE Education Extra: Chalk Talk, Achievements, Book Picks, School News, Calendar / B4 Please turn to RADIO, Page B4 E d u c a t i o n E x t r a
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Title Annotation:Producing radio dramas ignites Awbrey Park fifth-graders' imaginations; General News
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 10, 2003
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