Catching up with KPTZ’s Ellen Bonjorno, host of Sing it, Sister!

Ellen & Georga’s wedding in July 2020

When did you move to New York City?

I moved here in the autumn of 2017, after meeting Georga at a wedding here 6 months before. Happy to report that all worked out, and we were married this past July in a small outdoor ceremony, with 100 additional guests on Zoom.

How has your pandemic experience there been?

I contracted COVID-19 in mid-March last year, and stayed home from work with a mild case. That early on, no one could access testing, even healthcare workers like me. I confirmed that I had COVID-19 through antibody testing a month later. For an in-depth dive into my experiences last April, listeners can find my 20-minute interview with Phil Andrus on Tossed Salad “Special Guests” archive at the KPTZ website.

As a hospital pharmacy technician, I’ve been working throughout the pandemic, riding the subway downtown every day, Monday through Friday. Everyone in the subway is wearing a mask, with very few exceptions. New Yorkers have been very compliant in that way.

For several weeks last spring, I was “deployed” to a neighboring hospital where many COVID-19 patients were being cared for. It was very intense, and patients were dying every day. Nevertheless, it did feel good to be helping in some small way, to take care of these very sick people.

Do you listen to radio in New York?

I don’t listen to radio, per se. I do listen to podcasts on my walking and subway (and sometimes bus) commute. My daily trip to work takes about 30 minutes, since I live in Hell’s Kitchen, which is in midtown Manhattan, and I work in the East Village. I listen regularly to NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and to Rachel Maddow, which is the podcast of her TV broadcast on MSNBC. I often tune in to another NPR program, All Songs Considered, where I learn about lots of artists I’m not familiar with, many of whom eventually appear on Sing it, Sister!

Are you producing Sing it Sister! at home? Did you have to invest in special equipment to create the show at home?

Yes. I record Sing it, Sister! at my desk in our apartment on the 42nd floor. We’ve got a terrific view of the Empire State Building! And yes, I did purchase a good microphone, headphones, and an audio interface, which improves sound quality. Larry Stein advised me on exactly what items to look for, since the options are really overwhelming. Thanks, Larry! So, I use my MacBook with the interface, and record the show with Audacity, which is free software available on the internet. It’s the same program I used at the KPTZ studios when I used to record Sing it, Sister! there.

Do you have a recent musical discovery that you’d like to share?

Yes! I recently discovered The Johnson Girls, “an energetic all-woman mostly a cappella group performing folk music with an emphasis on songs of the sea and shore” (from the Johnson Girls website). I played their song “Goodbye, Fare You Well” a few weeks ago, and my listeners loved it. I was delighted to discover that the Girls are based in New York, so I reached out to them and asked for more music. They responded, and Bonnie actually dropped off CDs at work for me! I think they’d be a big hit in PT, and am visualizing bringing them out to PT to perform at a future Wooden Boat Festival. We’re going to have a conversation about that once things normalize a bit more.

Do you have a vision for the future? For the show? For yourself? For the world?

Well, I’m looking forward to retiring from my “day job” in 2 1/2 years! In the meantime, I’d like to find a way to syndicate Sing it, Sister! I truly enjoy nothing more than putting together playlists of music by female artists, in all their infinite variety.

After I retire, I’m envisioning becoming a booking agent or producer of music shows. I also love the idea of having more time and freedom to travel with Georga. We had to postpone our European honeymoon, and we are both looking forward to that. We do plan to spend some time in Port Townsend this summer, and I’d like to have a big party to see everyone and celebrate our marriage.

My vision for the world? That peace and joy, love and respect spread across the world like warm honey in the sun.

This interview appeared in the most recent edition of the KPTZ Spotlight, KPTZ”s bi-monthly newsletter. Check out the entire Spotlight here.

Sing it, Sister! airs every Saturday from 11am ’til noon on KPTZ.