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A Cultural "Reporter" Pulls Up Roots

State of the Arts


Published July 18, 2007 at 4:12 p.m.

Tom Ayres
  • Tom Ayres

Last week Tom Ayres, marketing director at the Flynn Center, sent out a “Dear John” email to friends and colleagues: After nearly a decade at the state’s premier performing-arts organization, he’s leaving his post for a job in Portland, Maine. What lured him away? The opportunity to fill a “newly created senior management position” at PCA Great Performances. A much smaller operation than the Flynn — it doesn’t own a restored Art Deco theater, for one thing — PCA is nonetheless Maine’s largest arts presenter with a diverse performance calendar. It also happens to be directed by Ayres’ once and future coworker Aimee Petrin, who left her position as the Flynn’s programming manager last year. In both cases, Burlington’s loss is Portland’s gain.

Though he has mixed feelings about leaving, Ayres says PCA seems to be “perched on the edge of a major expansion” — where the Flynn was perhaps 15 years ago. “It’s exciting to think about the kind of impact Aimee and I can have,” he says.

In the Queen City, Ayres’ departure leaves another dent — at the University of Vermont’s college radio station, WRUV: He has been the folk-acoustic-Americana music director there since April 1989, and his show, “Emotional Weather Report,” has been a much-loved staple for fans of American roots music.

“I feel incredibly conflicted about leaving it,” Ayres admits. “It’s been an important part of my life nearly as long as I’ve been in Burlington.” The only consolation for listeners: Ayres’ playlists from September 23, 2003, to November 21, 2005 are archived in mp3 format at http://www.uvm.edu/~wruv/?action=archives.

Happily for WRUV — and Americana aficionados — Ayre’s successor has already been found: Kimberly Caterino, who currently has a Sunday-morning show called “Chicken Fried Steak” that focuses primarily on Southwestern roots music. “She knows the Austin scene really well,” Ayres notes. For the remainder of the summer, Caterino will continue her show and “Emotional Weather Report.” Come fall, she’ll move into the director’s role as well.

Ayres isn’t ready to give up the DJ booth, though; he says he’ll pursue a gig at WMPG, the college station at the University of Southern Maine. As it happens, the fellow who does a similar Americana show there is soon leaving for grad school, Ayres has learned. Sounds promising.

Ayrers signs off the air in Burlington on July 30; his final day at the Flynn is August 10. When he comes back to Vermont to visit, he says, “I hope I can sit in on some shows.”