Still Riding the Waves

Up on the eastern edge of the University of Utah campus, it is 5 a.m., and the Eccles Broadcast Center is subdued and dark. The soothing British voices of the BBC World News are quietly wrapping up, and NPR’s Morning Edition is about to launch into its jaunty theme song. In this interstitial moment, from his corner office, Doug Fabrizio BA’88 pauses to look up from the book he is reading to regard the twinkling lights in the valley below and jot down a question.

It is yet another morning in Salt Lake City, and once again the voice of RadioWest is preparing. Most of his research happens in these wee hours, cramming like a student during finals week, every week. Another topic, another hour, more guests, another book, another film, another set of notes and questions, another day, another morning, another show, and on and on and on. This year, Fabrizio is quietly celebrating his 30th year at KUER, and this summer, RadioWest will pass the 3,000-show mark. And, yes. He does read all those books. Every. One.


In 1987-88, Fabrizio was in his final year of study at the U. He had started college with designs to be an actor and, although he loved his theater courses and acting, his practical side steered him toward majoring in communication. One day, he walked into the campus radio station and never left.

“I was volunteering at KUER as a senior,” Fabrizio recalls. “I pitched this idea for a show. Sunday nights were kind of a hole in the programming back then. There wasn’t much going on, and I had this idea to make a news magazine show. We’ d slice together all these great pieces from around public radio into this program.”

It was called Sunday Journal, and its production became a survey course in great radio storytelling for the young Fabrizio. The early ’90s were a woolly time in public radio here and around the country. Commercial radio was still dominant, and a career in public radio was deemed more like a Peace Corps assignment than an actual job. Basically, if you think public radio is cool nowadays, then this was its awkward adolescence.

“There was a vacuum to be filled,” Fabrizio says, “And there were not a lot of barriers to entry. You could go to NPR in Washington and say, ‘Can I help you guys cut tape?’ That is how a lot of radio producers got started—just showing up and putting in the work. I found my spot here.”

Six years later, at age 24, he would become KUER’s youngest-ever news director and would start a show called Friday Edition, the progenitor of RadioWest.


RadioWest aired its first broadcast on May 21, 2001. The topic was polygamy, which remains a perennial favorite. It is the third most popular show on KUER, winning the Bronze respectfully behind NPR heavyweights Morning Edition and All Things Considered. (Take that, Prairie Home Companion.) Earlier this year, RadioWest moved from its longtime 11 a.m. slot to 9 a.m., where it takes the toss from Morning Edition. Every week, 60,000 people tune in to hear Fabrizio calmly walk through an hour of single-topic programming.

“The thing for me was creating these long stories,” Fabrizio says. “Listeners here [in Utah] wanted the same thing they wanted from NPR, and I believed we had the ability to deliver that depth locally. I’ve always bristled against those types of people who, when you have an idea, they say ‘Here’s the problem.’ I’m interested in saying, ‘Let’s try it.’ ”

RadioWest’s format is a rarity in today’s frenetic media landscape. The show’s dedicated listeners hear frank and detailed interviews with luminaries from around the country and the world. Fabrizio has interviewed the Dalai Lama, Spike Lee, Isabel Allende, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Desmond Tutu among his thousands of notable guests. It’s less of a Q&A session and more a conversation that Fabrizio steers. Although he’ll draft dozens of questions for a show, he won’t get to many of them. Rather, he uses them at touchpoints to guide the conversation, draw out his guests, and allow them to unpack complicated ideas.

“I have an order in mind when I start the show,” he says. “There is a sense of theater to it, and I try to get the conversation to move in that order, to move in a certain way and to keep it moving. The conversation should always keep moving, and it should go a certain direction in real time. I can’t spend an hour and a half; I have to find the best hour.”

It’s a high-wire act, performed, most days, live. But even when it’s taped for scheduling reasons, Fabrizio and his producers keep a “live-to-tape” ethic and don’t rely much on editing or trimming. This philosophy gives the show an urgent intimacy, while the longer format allows his guests to range much farther than typical soundbites and talking points. But, it only works if Fabrizio is on his game.

“I am constantly terrified,” Fabrizio confesses. “The people on the show are all doing important, interesting work. I have to honor that by being prepared.”

But RadioWest producer Ben Bombard says, above all, Fabrizio is calm, or, at least, he seems calm, which makes the high-wire act possible.

“He sets a good example,” Bombard says. “There are moments in radio when things do not go as planned, and while we’re struggling to deal with it and cope with it, Doug is calm. He can’t bring tension into the mic.”


Fabrizio is a part of life here in Utah. He’s in our cars, in our kitchens. His voice comes in and out of our lives constantly—so much so that it’s easy to take for granted. You’re lost in your thoughts, driving home after the day, and his voice just floats out of the radio until something he says grabs your attention and you tune in to the conversation, perhaps staying in your driveway to hear its conclusion. It’s easy because Fabrizio makes it sound easy.

Longtime colleague and RadioWest producer Elaine Clark MA’98 says that Fabrizio’s ability to smoothly navigate an hour-long program and draw his subjects out is a one-two punch of talent and hard work.

“He’s not faking that sincerity,” Clark says. “It’s not clever editing or smoke and mirrors. He is just a hard worker, dedicated to making great radio. He doesn’t coast on talent. It’s taxing.”

“It is taxing, yes,” Fabrizio chuckles. “But what makes every show worth doing is this process of discovery. It starts with me; for the most part the producers are running down ideas that reflect my wildly diverse interests. I’m curious about a ton of stuff, and it never gets boring. I’m always asking, ‘What is that about?’ and that’s how a show begins. And to make that show turn into a conversation? Now that’s exciting.”

Utah author and frequent RadioWest guest Brooke Williams BS’74 explains it this way: “I’m always impressed at how creatively confident he is. You don’t get a sense that he’s just going through a list of questions. He is really creating the show on the fly, and it makes it seem like a conversation at a bar. It is miraculous to me.”

RadioWest airs weekdays at 9 a.m. on KUER 90.1 with rebroacasts each day at 7 p.m. It is also available for download and streamed live at

Jeremy Pugh is a former editor of Salt Lake magazine and a freelance writer living in Salt Lake City.

Turning the Tables: Questions for the Host

Have you ever been speechless?

“I had asked former Mayor Nancy Workman a difficult question about an issue with her campaign. We weren’t far into the show, like 10 to 15 minutes, and she said, ‘If you’re going to be like that,’ and stood up and walked out. I didn’t know what to do. We were live on air. I just said, ‘As you can tell, the mayor has left,’ and sat dumbfounded.”

What has been your favorite interview?

“Gene Jacobsen. He had written a book called We Refused to Die about his experiences on the Bataan Death March and in a Japanese labor camp under this really sadistic camp commander. At the end of the interview, he was talking about the moment when he realized he had made it, about feeling joy and the differences between joy and happiness. It was such a poignant story, so authentic and genuine. We replay it every year around Veterans Day.”

Do you have a most embarrassing on-air moment?

I used to be one of the on-air hosts of Morning Edition. I was young and hadn’t been in radio very long, and we would get regular phone calls, ‘Why are you letting a junior high student host Morning Edition?’ So, I was very selfconscious and nervous. And this was when Jesse Jackson was in his heyday in politics, and I was reading a story about him and referred to him as Michael Jackson. I absolutely felt like a moron.

What is your proudest on-air moment?

There isn’t one specifically, but generically, I feel proud when everything comes together like you hope. You always begin with this grand aspiration, and it almost never falls into place. So, my proudest moments are when the material and the person I am talking to flow together in the way I envisioned. Those moments take work, and I’m always proud of them.

Music in the Mountains

It was always a good idea. Throw an evening concert in the garden… what’s not to like? Back in 1987, Red Butte Garden was merely a quaint garden in the foothills of the Wasatch Front: a nice green place with a small—well, even calling it an “amphitheater” seems too grand—a small stage and place on the lawn to watch this or that local acoustic group strum through some folksy tunes as the sun set. That’s all it was back then. A blip on your weekly schedule. A pleasant place to wind down the weekend and prepare for the work week ahead.

Still, it was a good idea, right? Nothing to argue with there. But how did that modest idea—a cute little darling teacup of a notion—become the great idea, the huge idea, the idea that made the Red Butte Concert Series an honest to goodness cultural phenomenon, a key thread in the tapestry of living life well here in Salt Lake City? A juggernaut of a fundraising effort that supports a thriving horticultural paradise offering education and family fun, and preserving critical green space as the city grows? How’d that all come to be?

It started, quietly and unremarkably, with what would turn out to be a remarkably prophetic statement from the garden’s founder, Zeke Dumke, Jr.



Photo by Dave White/UMC

It was in 1986, to be precise, that we discover the earliest whispers. Buried deep down in the mundane minutes of an otherwise routine meeting of the garden’s development committee, is one very special remark, one line of dutifully recorded text captured from the mouth of Dumke, who said he thought an amphitheater for concerts would be important for the garden’s future financial stability.

Prophecy, it turns out, isn’t always a big showy thing, with burning bushes and whatnot.

And lo, the concert series in the garden began the following year, with four Sunday shows called the “Second Sunday Concerts,” featuring local acts—Jerry Floor and Bill Crismon’s Big Band, the Jarman/Kingston Quartet, the Jensen-Woodbury duo, and the Rick Martinez Band. Tickets were $3, or you could buy the season for $10.

The shows just kind of hummed along quietly awhile under the guidance of Red Butte’s Development Director Susan Kropf, who came on in 1989. But in 1997 she hired Chris Mautz as a helper—well, technically a “Development Specialist at a dynamic cultural organization,” which is how the want ad read.

“I was just this young guy coming up,” says Mautz, now Red Butte Garden’s booking manager. “Susan shared Zeke’s vision and recognized that the concerts could be a good way to introduce the garden to people who weren’t necessarily into botanical gardens or gardening and maybe drive up membership sales. And me, I didn’t know any better, so we went that way.”

flower1It was at this point that Mautz and Kropf began what can be called the “proto-Red Butte Concert Series.” In this form, the characteristics remained the same from the earliest, “ur” shows. They were still relatively small, and only on Sunday nights, but the formula was altered to include bigger, nationally known names “of a certain folksy, culturally valid heritage style,” Mautz says.

They continued to fill the bills with a lot of folk, bluegrass, some jazz and blues, but nothing that seemed jarring to the original low-key vision—a nice night, in a garden, with pleasant music. Lineups included the likes of John Prine (1997), B.B. King (1998), and Mary Chapin Carpenter (1999), and in 2000, the show count jumped to nine.

“We were selling out, and we proved that we could do it, that people would come out for nationally known acts,” says Mautz, who still books Red Butte’s season and is also co-owner of two other venues, Salt Lake’s State Room and Park City’s O.P. Rockwell. (Kropf recently retired as director of development at KUER.)

flower2In 2001, Derrek Hanson BS’99 MPA’07—who would eventually become the Butch Cassidy to Mautz’s Sundance Kid—started working at Red Butte as a temporary employee helping out with customer service. “I had a job I didn’t like at a company that was moving to San Diego, and I didn’t want to go,” Hanson says. “I started looking around. I’m a music fan, so I figured this was a good direction.”

In 2003, the garden featured 11 artists and, famously, an appearance by the then-relatively unknown singer Norah Jones, whose eponymous album that year became one of the all-time best-selling records ever. Mautz, who had departed in 2001 to work out of state, was rehired to book and produce the garden’s concerts in 2007, by which time Hanson had become the garden’s events director. Today, the two work closely deciding the annual lineup and booking the acts. They have helped steer the shows during a period of massive growth over the last decade. And they far surpassed the hope that the concerts would provide the financial backbone for the garden that Zeke Dumke presciently voiced in 1986.

“Every single year since 2008, when we opened the new amphitheater, we have sold more tickets per show, on average, than the previous year,” says Red Butte Garden Executive Director Greg Lee, who came onboard in 2003. “It’s how we pay the bills. It has enabled us to expand our children’s and family programming, and the hours we are open to the public, and to build and maintain new gardens and facilities.”


A lot has changed in the 10 years since Hanson started doing shows. “It was so different back then,” he says. “We were still working on a temporary stage that we’d set up and take down every year. We didn’t have a real backstage area for the bands. We just had a nook in the bushes that we’d run a curtain in front of where the bands would wait to go on.”

Indeed, in the early 2000s, Red Butte’s setup was pretty much ad hoc—tents and portable facilities— but in 2006, the popularity of the concerts enabled the garden to convince the University and the Bureau of Land Management to move a portion of Red Butte Canyon Road to create space for a larger and better concert venue. That prompted a capital fundraising campaign, led by a Dumke family gift, for the expansion and upgrading of the amphitheater, including a standardized stage, dressing rooms, state-of-the-art sound and lighting gear, and permanent restrooms. The amphitheater was completely regraded and the stage relocated to improve sightlines and make sure that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house. The new and improved venue debuted in 2008 with 12 concerts.

But while the production and the facilities were evolving and changing, the ticket systems were back in the Stone Age. Longtime Red Butte concert fans will remember the byzantine mailing and faxing of forms.

“We had this old Grateful Dead mail-order model that we used for our members to buy tickets,” Hanson chuckles. “They would request their tickets by mail or fax, and we would sit there manually typing in credit card numbers and processing tickets. It was painful.”

These days, the much-improved system is automated, and the box office and will-call areas are permanent buildings instead of tables and tents. “You know little things like that make a big difference for the audiences, and our staff and volunteers,” Hanson says.


Chris Mautz and Derrek Hanson backstage prepping for Willie Nelson's performance in July.

Chris Mautz and Derrek Hanson backstage prepping for Willie Nelson’s performance in July.

For the 2016 summer season, there were 31 shows on the Red Butte lineup, half of which sold out within days of tickets going on sale. The series is a bona fide part of life in Salt Lake City, the show announcements are events in themselves, and, because garden members get first crack at tickets as a benefit, membership sales are through the roof. Summer in Salt Lake simply must include one or two evenings at Red Butte.

However, making this many shows happen over the summer means, as Lee puts it, “Our summers are frenetic, and staff can get run ragged. But it has enabled the garden to grow our programs and facilities. We couldn’t, for example, afford to maintain our new Rose and Water Conservation gardens without the additional concerts. And we get to spend the summer throwing 31 parties for 3,000 of our friends.”

A show day starts when the band’s advance crew shows up—which could be any time the morning of the show, sometimes perhaps even the night before—and ends when they load up the last of their gear and drive on to the next show, usually well after midnight. “We start by handing them [advance crews] a cup of coffee and showing them around,” Hanson says. “We end by waving at the back of their bus. It’s a long day, sure, but there are worse things to be doing.”

graph-attendanceMeanwhile, the Red Butte crew—a suite of professional technicians and volunteers—are scurrying around, working with the band’s team, setting lights, sound and, well, everything. The concert crew and volunteers are getting the venue ready, sorting tickets, preparing for the onslaught. About the only time anyone relaxes, Mautz and Hanson add, is during the show. “There’s a point when it’s finally on the band and we can relax for a second or two,” Hanson says.

And even after a full season of 14-hour days, the show keeps chugging. The new season’s planning begins as the last band’s bus pulls out of the garden. “When the season ends, we look at our hit list,” Hanson says. “We have a list of bands Chris and I have dreamed of having play here, fan favorites, and just bands we think would be a good fit. There’s no science to it. We will start to put out feelers, talk to agents, and start getting a few dates tossed around.” This process, Mautz says, runs all the way up until the season announcements in April.

“We are constantly refining the lineup, but so often it just comes together: something will fall through, or something we are missing will show up,” he says. “We try to be cool and just let things unfold.” As the series has expanded, Mautz says they’ve been able to take more risks and just ask, “Would that be a cool show at the garden?”

And gone are the days when they felt like they had to go begging for the lineup. Hanson says bands often call them, and this, in a way, is how the series has grown and added concerts over the years.

“Well, it was a little bit of an accident,” Hanson says. “Before the amphitheater remodel, we’d put out 17 offers and think we’d get back maybe 12, but after word got out about our new venue they started to all come back and say ‘Yes.’ Suddenly we had 17 concerts confirmed and we said, ‘Uh-oh. Can we do 17 shows? Can we sell enough tickets?’ ”

At 31 shows and counting, the answer is clearly “yes,” and 30 years after Zeke Dumke first brought it up, there is no sign that concerts in the garden are any less of a good idea.

—Jeremy Pugh is a local freelance writer and the author of 100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die, which includes the advice to catch a Red Butte Garden concert.

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Next Gen Healers


In the town where Steven Just is from, college wasn’t something that he and his classmates thought much about. A Native American from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Sioux Tribe, Steven grew up on the edge of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation in Sisseton, South Dakota. And although he doesn’t like to talk about it much, he’ll tersely explain that he hated his high school experience and was discouraged with his education at a young age.

“For me, the K-12 system I knew felt like it was getting people ready to work in a factory or go to prison,” he says bluntly.

“I saw the health care that my family and I received at the Indian Health Services growing up,

“I saw the health care that my family and I received at the Indian Health Services growing up,” says Steven Just. “Being involved in NARI really impressed upon me that I could become a health professional and very likely return to the IHS and try to improve it.”

Steven, 27, looks back on that time in his life with a sober understanding that if it hadn’t been for counselors, family, and tribal members who pushed him to go to college, that vision of high school—as a pipeline to drudgery or worse—might have caught him.

“Back then, I was the night manager of the local grocery store, and where I grew up, that was a big achievement,” he says. “I never could have imagined the person I am now—a mentor to fellow Native American students, a college graduate. I’m about to start pharmacy school.”

Steven credits a unique University of Utah program for helping solidify his passion for science and medicine. The Native American Research Internship (NARI) is a 10-week program that specializes in guiding Native American students toward careers in those fields. It is designed specifically for Native American undergraduate students with aptitude and interest in science. The paid summer internship (open to any college undergrad) gives students like Steven both lab and clinical experience that is guided by a strong focus on cultural understanding.

“[Native Americans] are the least represented group in the study of science and medicine in the nation,” says NARI program founder Carrie Byington. “They have had historical hardships that have created barriers for them to enter into the scientific disciplines and other professions.”

Steven’s experience in his early education is an unfortunately familiar narrative for many Native American students. High dropout rates, incarceration rates, substance abuse, and poverty create a stacked deck for standouts like Steven. Among underrepresented populations in higher education, Native Americans are at the bottom of the list, with total college enrollment across the country annually hovering at or below one percent. And, in the sciences and medicine, those numbers essentially fall off the chart. Native Americans comprise only 0.6 percent of scientists (according to a 2010 National Science Foundation report) and 0.5 percent of physicians (per an Association of American Medical Colleges report that same year, the most recent for which numbers are available).

Stats 1.1“NARI helped focus my career choices,” says Steven, who spent two summers in the NARI program and is currently the program’s student coordinator until he leaves for pharmacy school in Minnesota this fall. “I was struggling a bit in college at first, but my first summer with NARI reinvigorated me. When I returned [to the University of Minnesota, Morris] in the fall, I felt like I had a lot more support and people who believed in me.”

But it is interesting to note that creating a successful and groundbreaking, culturally specific mentoring program to improve those numbers grew out of Byington’s attempt to understand what appeared to be an entirely different problem: low participation among Native Americans in research studies.


Byington is an M.D. and a pediatrics researcher, but she also studies concepts of community and how building community-based experiences into education can improve student and faculty success. In 2009, she and her colleagues were looking for inroads into the various tribal communities in the intermountain region and trying to understand the cultural barriers that made studying medical maladies within the Native American population difficult. So, they gathered tribal leaders from the area together that year to ask them what they thought were the reasons behind the low participation in potentially beneficial studies.

“They were interested in the research and the benefits,” Byington said. “They were interested in what we were doing at the university, but.…”

“Having cultural mentors with the same background as me really helped my career path.,

“Having cultural mentors with the same background as me really helped my career path.,” says Cynthia Wilson. “And staying close to my research mentor helped me get to where I am today.”

The “but” was a complicated question of trust. The long history of conflict and strife between the United States government and the Native American peoples has left a lot of scars and a distinct lack of trust among American Indians for white institutions, especially in the realm of health care, which is often administered by the underfunded federal Indian Health Service. The solution, the elders suggested, was to train the young Native Americans and encourage them to return to their tribes and hometowns as researchers and health care professionals.

“Basically, they wanted us to reach out to their young people and teach them,” Byington says. “The elders wanted a mentoring program that reflected the native culture, a place where native students could feel proud of their culture and feel that the things they were bringing from their native culture would be welcome.”

And although this request from the elders wasn’t the answer they had thought they were seeking, she and her colleagues were undeterred.

“Certainly, it was the long way to achieve our goal, but we in the academic community are often surprised by the answers we find. It just demonstrates that we have to be out in the community, actively engaging and talking with people to learn what they want and how we can work together.”


The world of white lab coats and competitive and rigorous course work alongside culturally advantaged students is a long way from the life that many NARI students grew up in. Many Native Americans come from a tribal way of life that emphasizes the good of the tribe over individual success. Native American students can struggle with the individualism and competitiveness that permeates the biomedical disciplines.

“These students often haven’t been in a population where the other students are go-getters,” says NARI Program Director Maija Holsti. “We help them by giving them lots of ‘Yes, you can do this.’ There are so many things like public speaking or making a poster for a presentation that are petrifying for them. They just haven’t been exposed to these things, but we walk them through these little hurdles.”

Stats 2.1Each NARI student is assigned a research mentor and a cultural mentor. The research mentor guides them through the essentials of lab work and research protocols, while their cultural mentor is a Native American professional working in a science or medical field. The program has a suite of research projects, funded by National Institutes of Health grants, that students are placed into. Holsti says they try to get students onto projects that match their interests. Some are clinical and involve interacting with patients, while others are pure lab work, basic science, and data collection.

On the cultural side, students attend weekly “talking circles” that are the hallmark of the program’s high-touch approach. At the meetings, students practice presentations, share their experiences and challenges, and generally compare notes and talk through issues with peers who come from similar backgrounds. The program takes on a close-knit family feel, and the students usually keep in close touch even after the program ends.

“They become a family,” Holsti says. “Two of our students even got married, and we see lasting friendships develop.”

“Coming from a small town and a small school, I didn’t know that research was a career option for me. NARI opened that door,” says Kali Dale.

Students also participate in community outreach with the Native American population here in Salt Lake City, making health presentations to different groups, often at the Urban Indian Center.

“We planned activities for elementary students that focused on the importance of physical activity and healthy eating,” says NARI alum and former NARI program coordinator Sam Hawkins. “So we got these kids and had them do jumping jacks, and then had them repeat it breathing through a small straw to demonstrate how smoking affects their bodies,” explains Sam, who received his bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and is now a first-year medical school student at the U. “This one little boy, 8 or 9 years old, was like ‘Wow, that was hard, I’ll never smoke.’ It really struck me how much of a difference we can make even on a small scale.”

This concept of giving back and sharing runs through the program. Many of the students are planning for careers where they can return to their tribes and hometowns and work in the Native American community. For example, NARI alum Kali Dale (who graduated with her bachelor’s degree from UM Morris) is now in a doctoral biochemistry program at the U and wants to focus her work on diabetes, which disproportionately affects Native Americans. “I want to help my people by researching the diseases that we are more likely to have,” she says. And Cynthia Wilson, another past NARI student who received her bachelor’s degree from Southern Utah University, is now in grad school at the U studying nutrition. Her master’s project is creating nutrition education curriculum that comes from her own perspective as a Navajo.

“There’s a special bond among us NARI students,

“There’s a special bond among us NARI students,” says Sam Hawkins. “Not many Indians go into this type of career, and so I know I’m going to know them for the rest of my life. It’s like a family.”

“I grew up on the Navajo reservation,” Cynthia says. “I came from a big family, and there is a lot of diabetes. We were never exposed to any kind of nutritional education. I didn’t even know what supplements were. We need better health care back home, and NARI really helped me figure out how to build a career in health.”

Sam is planning to be a primary care physician so he can work with underserved Native American communities. “We’re all shooting for the same thing,” he says, “a career in the biomedical sciences so we can go back into our communities and help.”

In many ways, the program is especially suited for the University of Utah.

“I feel like we as a university have an obligation to these students,” Byington says. “We live in a western state with a large Native American population, and we use the name of the Utes as part of our identity. We really need to be serving Native American students, and the NARI program lets us do that.”

Jeremy Pugh is a former editor of Salt Lake magazine and a freelance writer living in Salt Lake City.