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Radio host Joni Deutsch working to raise profile of state’s music scene


The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — If you’re tuned into the West Virginia music scene for even a minute, say the name Joni and everyone knows who you’re talking about.

Joni Deutsch of West Virginia Public Broadcasting will make her second hosting appearance on Mountain Stage this Sunday.
(Photo by Perry Bennett Photography)

It’s Joni Deutsch, one of the next generation of West Virginia Public Broadcasting radio personalities, creator and host of the weekly indie/alternative music program “A Change of Tune,” and assistant producer of “Mountain Stage” as well as the host of the “Mountain Stage” podcast #MS2Go. A podcast is like a radio show you can listen to on demand over the internet or on a “podcatcher” like a smartphone or mp3 player with internet capabilities.

It is for “Mountain Stage” that Deutsch will make some radio magic come Sunday, June 25, as she gets the rare opportunity to guest host the FestivALL Charleston-ending program in place of Larry Groce, who has hosted the show exclusively since 1983.

“Larry is a pro with this, and it all comes off the top of his head, and he is a walking encyclopedia of music and people and everything else,” Deutsch said. “When I guest-hosted the first time, I had to make a 40-page script with cues and everything just in case I forgot the English language. … I will still have a script in place, but I have been working on the show for four years now in various capacities, so I now understand the beat of the show.”

A Charleston native and a WVU grad who has been assistant producer at “Mountain Stage” since June 2015, Deutsch said that, like her first time hosting, this show is extra special with one of the bands on the bill hailing from West Virginia.

On the bill for Sunday’s sold-out live taping is Eastern Kentucky’s up-and-coming songsmith Tyler Childers and his Huntington-based band The Food Stamps, who are making their second appearance; Southern Rock phenom The Marcus King Band, led by teenage blues gunslinger Marcus King – who Deutsch said could be the youngest person to ever headline “Mountain Stage”; as well as Tristen; Athens, Georgia-based Kishi Bashi with a West Virginia string quartet (including Marshall graduate Molly Page); and songwriter Caroline Spence.

While the show is sold out, “Mountain Stage” may release any limited tickets at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 25.

“It is not always possible to have a local when you do the show, but it does make it more special,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch, who has helped guest emcee the past couple years at the Labor Day weekend Huntington Music and Art Festival, said she and other folks at “Mountain Stage” are excited for Childers, who just announced his record deal – an Aug. 4 release via Thirty Tigers and produced by Grammy Award-winning fellow Eastern Kentucky native Sturgill Simpson.

“I was sitting on that Sturgill news for the last month or so,” Deutsch said. “I was so excited that now the world is going to see why we have been hyping this guy up for a couple years. It is for good reason. Tyler really is someone who is out expanding to other cities and states, and he is even going on a European tour this summer. Rozwell Kid (a West Virginia-native rock band) is going to Australia, so there’s this hometown pride even if it is not Shepherdstown or Huntington. We see these bands at South by Southwest and out there making it, and it is really heartwarming, especially with Tyler.”

When it comes to grabbing the microphone and megaphone and giving shoutouts and air time to West Virginia musicians, few outlets have ever attempted what Deutsch has done with “A Change of Tune.”

Last year, she started a new series – 30 Days of #WVMusic – with 30 straight days of interviews with West Virginia musicians spliced with music from indie acts of all stripes from around the Mountain State.

On June 1, she kicked off the second year of 30 Days of #WVmusic and has already aired interviews with such Huntington bands as Scroungehound, Ducain, The MFB, The Dividends, Huntington hip-hop artist MarcFromMars, as well as Nitro, West Virginia, blues man Tony Harrah.

That kind of deep and wide dive into the West Virginia music scene has earned Deutsch national acclaim as Poynter contributor Melody Kramer placed the 30 Days of #WVmusic series next to Mr. Rogers and Terry Gross on the list of “50 Ways to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act” and called the series “Local programming that transcends location.”

“I started it last year on a whim I knew there were some great music acts out there and I wanted to interview them,” Deutsch said. “I thought people would come out of the woodwork for it, and they did. This year I had more time to plan it out and I’ve gotten to know more scenes. I got over 100 submissions for this year. It is so nice to see people from around the state hearing about it. It was tough to figure out which ones I wanted to do. I had sticky notes all over the wall. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t all Huntington, Charleston and Morgantown, which it could be.”

Deutsch said the series casts a wide-angled lens on the West Virginia music scene, highlighting everything and everybody from Adam Meisterhans, a guitar shredder who is a Nashville, Tennessee, studio musician and who plays with everyone from Childers to Rozwell Kid, to a personal history of West Virginia punk, to MarcFromMars, a Wayne County native making hip-hop in Huntington.

“There’s more festivals and more bands trending up, and we keep talking about it, and it is a good conversation,” Deutsch said. “I am definitely seeing a lot of good quality in a lot of different music, although some parts of the state are more friendly or accepting to some genres. There is definitely an eclectic nature to it. In Huntington, you see a spawning of some really good Americana and Southern rock. In Charleston it’s really eclectic with Company Stores and Qiet, while Morgantown is more rock heavy and punk, with Parkersburg being more singer-songwriters and everywhere else is a mix. Wheeling has some like Nirvana/1990s sludge rock, and Shepherdstown has everything from Americana to Rozwell Kid.”

“For 10 days in Charleston … there is a lot to do here. Sometimes you have got to find it for yourself, but there are pockets of creative space in West Virginia that can be occupied by people who live here or who can live here,” she said. “I moved back here over four years ago and came back with the opportunity to be an intern and that opened me up to a new experience, so even when times are tough, with the budget crisis, you just keep going and keep finding your path.”

Watch “Mountain Stage” online
Watch Guest “Mountain Stage” host Joni Deutsch in her second guest host performance at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 25, with musical guests Tyler Childers and The Foodstamps; as well as The Marcus King Band; Tristen; Athens, Georgia-based Kishi Bashi with a West Virginia string quartet (including Marshall graduate Molly Page); and Caroline Spence.

Go online at where VuHaus will be streaming the show live.

While the show is sold out, “Mountain Stage” may release any limited tickets at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 25.

On the radio

Listen to Joni Deutsch’s music show A Change of Tune each Saturday from 10 to 11 p.m. on WVWV, 89.9-FM. You can also listen at

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