'On the Shoulders of Giants' Podcast Features Inspiring Vermonters | Live Culture

'On the Shoulders of Giants' Podcast Features Inspiring Vermonters

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Tinotenda Charles Rutanhira - KYMELYA SARI
  • Kymelya Sari
  • Tinotenda Charles Rutanhira
When Tinotenda Charles Rutanhira arrived in Vermont in 2000, he had $100 in his pocket. His first apartment in Burlington, he recalled, was so rickety, if you rolled a ball on the floor, you wouldn't know which way it would go. Rutanhira held multiple jobs, including as a waiter, dishwasher, cashier at a deli and daycare giver, to make ends meet.

Fast forward 17 years. Rutanhira is now a solutions strategist at Dealer.com and he's performing in the play The Call, at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in mid-April. The acting gig was borne out of his determination to do something that scares him each year. And it comes on the heels of an idea the Zimbabwean native finally put into action last October: making his own podcast.

Rutanhira describes "On the Shoulders of Giants" as an "inspirational podcast" about Vermonters "who started 'incredible' out of nothing, or how they broke the status quo, or faced down adversity, or took the road less traveled." Seven Days met up with him to learn more about his podcast. The conversation was edited for clarity and brevity.

SEVEN DAYS: What inspired you to start your own podcast?

TINOTENDA CHARLES RUTANHIRA: I'm a podcast junkie. I always had dreams of being a radio DJ. I love hearing people's story. People would always ask me about my story. And I would tell abridged versions of my story.

We've got about 80 years or so on this rock that's in the middle of our solar system. After that 80 plus years is done, who the hell knows what's in the afterlife. I want to leave something behind that will last beyond my existence on this Earth. I want to tell my story, but I also want to hear other people's stories. What makes people tick? What makes them choose certain paths? I like to think I'm not the only person who made something out of nothing.

It took me two years to get over the fear factor, because I was like, What if I go through this and create this whole thing and nobody listens, or my two brothers and sister, and mum and dad are the only people who listen? I was scared I would put myself out there and fall on my face. But I was listening to a podcast one day, and the guest speaker said he was doing one thing a year that scared him. I was like, Dang, I'm going to do it.

SD: How did you convince your guests to be on your show?

TCR: I first started off by identifying people that I knew personally because I needed to talk to them and reach out to them. Initially, it was because they were people that were prominent in my eyes. But then, you start telling people about the podcast and they go, Oh, have you ever heard about so and so?

I need to prove that I have a big listenership. It's a chicken-and-egg situation. How do I get them to commit to an idea that hasn't borne fruit yet and invest their time and their story and intimate details about themselves into something that might crash and burn?

SD: What goes into producing each episode?

TCR: It probably takes me a good 12 hours of efforts to get one episode out. I've had phone interviews at 10 o'clock at night. I've had interviews with people at six in the morning because they are early risers.

I use GoToMeeting software. I do it on my computer. The other person is on their phone. And when you hit record, it will be recording. And then I use Audacity as my editing software. I convert the phone interview into Audacity and then I can edit, copy, paste, delete things and put in bleeps where people curse.

People tend to ramble, especially when they're talking about something they're passionate about, because they just want to throw up all over, in a good way. But the challenge with that is, how do you edit it so that the person still gets their point across without taking away all the flowers that surrounds it?

A lot of time, I will relisten to the podcast or as I'm editing, I think, You idiot, you should have asked him this. They set you up purposely for this follow-up question and yet you weren't thinking about it at that time.

I do a lot of research on the individual before the podcast, so I know roughly where I want the conversation to go. But I've had conversations that have gone down a path that you never intended to go. That's the nature of the beast. You just have to accept it and be cool with the fact that you might have an idea how you want to do it, but it's their life they're talking about, so they might take you down a different path.

SD: What are your download hits and where are your listeners from?

TCR: On the average, each episode has about 150 downloads. I have people from Utah [and] Mountain View, Calif. It's very humbling. I definitely have subscribers from Japan. Others are from England, Australia and Zimbabwe. A lot of subscribers from Vermont.

SD: Who would you like to be on your show?

TCR: I would love to have [Sen.] Bernie Sanders. Not to talk about the politics, but to talk about Bernie Sanders the individual. I would love to ask him what was it like to run in the campaign? What happens to the secret service guy? When you walk into the door of your house, where do they go, what do they do? Do they stand down? Do they stand outside? Do you talk about football, basketball? What do you do during your spare time? What are your passions and hobbies outside the political world?

I have a list on my phone. I've sent Jane Lindholm [host of "Vermont Edition" on Vermont Public Radio] a number of emails, trying to get her on my podcast. Others include the Burton guys, Grace Potter, Kevin and Adam Pearce (founders of LoveYourBrain).

SD: What do you hope listeners get from your podcast?

TCR: To get inspired and to know that you're not on your own. There are giants that are living out there that we can learn from and we can aspire to be, and who have figured out the challenge that we struggle with. And they have lessons and insight they can share with us. I am just looking to tell their story and to inspire others in the process. We are all trying to make it through this journey called life.

SD: You'll be taking a break during the summer. What can we expect from you in Season 2 of "On the Shoulders of Giants"?

TCR: Season second, I think I'm bigger, better and badder. I am working on a  Facebook page so that I can even have a picture of the guest, a little bio. I am hoping that at this point, some of the guests on the list that I have will now take me more seriously when I approach them. I'm also hoping that people will tell me how to improve the show. I am excited about taking this to another level. I want to get from 150 downloads to 300, 500.

The theme will still be the same. People from Vermont or people who have impacted Vermont in positive and inspirational ways. I'm not necessarily looking for celebrities. There are people who might be impacting their community in a way that isn't obvious to the common person.

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