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Audio snapshots of life in our region: Sonic IDs on Vermont Public

Laura Nakasaka
Vermont Public
Sonic IDs air on the Vermont Public airwaves sporadically throughout the day. You may find them on other platforms too.

Short, unexpected vignettes of Vermont life are beginning to appear on our airwaves and other platforms. Here's what's up.

White lightning
Tom Banjo and his son, Ethan Azarian, singin’ about corn mash in Montpelier. 

What are Sonic IDs?

"They are sudden narratives or images — like photographs for radio.” That's how Jay Allison, founder of, once described Sonic IDs.

We think it's an apt description. Running just 30 seconds long, Sonic IDs are shorter than most short stories. They're more like snapshots, gone just as suddenly as they appear.

These audio snapshots are portraits, poems, overheard conversations, anecdotes and other slices of life from communities around Vermont and other corners of our listening area.

Speaking of "corners" ... Vermont Public recently adopted this tagline: "Stories from every corner." But what does that mean? What does that look and sound and feel like?

Sonic IDs are one answer to these questions. They help us better reflect the identity of our region, and we also hope they help you, our audience, feel more connected to, and inspired by, this place.

On a summer night near Milton, biologist Alyssa Bennett uses a device to hear echo-location from little brown bats.

Where can I find them?

We will be sprinkling Sonic IDs into our radio programming throughout the day. (Click here for info about how to listen to Vermont Public.) There isn't a published schedule. This is intentional. Part of the joy of Sonic IDs is the experience of stumbling across them "in the wild."

You will also encounter Sonic IDs on other platforms, like Instagram.

(The voice you hear narrating each of our Sonic IDs is Betty Smith, one of the founders of Vermont Public Radio more than 45 years ago. Betty is the best.)

How can I participate?

We encourage you to share feedback and ideas about Sonic IDs by emailing

We also invite you to collect Sonic IDs yourself! All you have to do is record yourself or someone you know doing something or saying something that you think would make a good Sonic ID… and then send it to us. Simple, right?

Here’s how to record:

  • Use a smartphone.
    • On an iPhone, open the “Voice Memos” app (it’s free, comes standard on all iPhones).
    • On an Android, open the “Voice Recorder” app (it’s free, you may have to download it).
  • Hit the big red button on the screen to begin recording. Press it again when you’re done to stop.
  • Email the recording to Please include your full name, as well as the names of anyone in the recording, and a brief description of what is happening.
  • Feel free to reach out with any questions ahead of time!

Note: Remember that Sonic IDs are very short. We reserve the right to edit what you submit for brevity and clarity. Please keep in mind that any audio you submit may appear in full or in part on Vermont Public platforms.

Here are some tips for making a good Sonic ID:

  • It involves action. Someone’s changing a tire, hanging laundry, bowling, training a dog, making dinner, or doing something else that involves movement.
  • It’s memorable. It’s surprising, funny, moving or something that you won’t quickly forget.
  • It stands alone. The moment doesn’t require a lot of additional context to understand what is happening.
  • It’s local. It’s happening in Vermont or the other corners of our listening area, and it reveals something about life in this region.

Remember to send any recordings to!

Intense winds
Tim Stout on his family's farm in Shrewsbury.

Further background:

The Sonic ID project was first developed in the early 2000s. Jay Allison, Viki Merrick and others at WCAI, local NPR for the Cape and Islands in Massachusetts, were experimenting with "interstitial time" on the radio. They asked:

How could a radio station use this time more creatively? Could they actually use the "in-between" time to develop a sonic identity, to sound more like the communities they serve?

Now, more than 20 years later, there are thousands of Sonic IDs that drop into WCAI programming on a regular basis. Other stations around the country have experimented with this approach as well.

A big thanks to Viki for her consultation while developing this effort at Vermont Public.

Thifeen Deen at her naturalization ceremony in Burlingon

Feel free to contact to share questions, comments or suggestions.

Josh Crane is part of Vermont Public's Engagement Journalism team. He's the senior producer and managing editor for Brave Little State, a podcast based on questions about Vermont that have been asked and voted on by the audience, and runs Vermont Public's Sonic ID project.
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