WPR’s Dr. Jonathan Øverby was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Elkhart Lake on June 15, 2023. The host and executive producer of WPR’s popular global music program, “The Road to Higher Ground with Jonathan Øverby” joins distinguished Wisconsin broadcasters in the Hall of Fame who have shown “exemplary leadership in community and statewide service” throughout their career. View WAB’s Tribute Honoring Dr. Øverby.
“This is a well-deserved honor,” 2022-2023 Interim WPR Director Tom Luljak said. “In his nearly 30-year career at WPR, Jonathan has offered listeners both joy and lifelong learning through engaging music, insightful hosting, his scholarship and his commitment to bringing people together through music.” Dr. Øverby has spent his life performing, teaching, researching and promoting diverse genres of music.
“Being a student of various music genres worldwide is more than a personal vocation,” Dr. Øverby said. “It is a way of life that has been richly rewarding.”
“‘The Road to Higher Ground,’ exemplifies Jonathan’s belief that music can bridge cultural divides and bring people together,” NPR News & Music Director Peter Bryant said. “Although there are no awards or measures to quantify it, his contributions to the work of the music staff at WPR are notable. The entire staff – and our listeners – benefit every day from his knowledge, enthusiasm, and passionate advocacy for the ideals that inform his work.”
Dr. Øverby is also the host and executive producer of the annual State of Wisconsin Tribute and Ceremony Honoring the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the oldest state celebration of Dr. King in the nation. He has formed and conducted numerous music ensembles throughout his career and performed as a concert artist throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan. Before joining WPR, Dr. Øverby produced and hosted a weekly gospel music program on Madison’s WORT community radio for more than twenty years. He was appointed to the Wisconsin State Arts Board by Governor Tommy Thompson and served multiple terms as Vice Chair.
This is the second year in a row that Dr. Øverby has been honored with a hall of fame induction. In 2022, he was inducted into Folk Alliance International’s Folk DJ Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Kansas City. He was named a distinguished broadcaster at the University of Wisconsin in 2013 and honored with the U.W. Colleges and Extension “Wisconsin Idea Award” in 2016 for his “outstanding contributions to service and education to society, and the quality of life in Wisconsin, the nation, and the world.”
Dr. Øverby holds a doctorate in Administrative Leadership in Higher Education from Edgewood College in Madison and was the first post-doctoral fellow in the history of the college. As an ethnomusicologist and a Smithsonian Journeys expert, he continues to lead and lecture for international group trips for research and experiential education. He was born and raised in Milwaukee where he attended Rufus King High School.
He is the first African American in the history of Wisconsin Public Radio to create and produce a music program and one of only a few to produce and host his own radio program on both the Ideas Network and the Music Network Of WPR. Øverby composed the “Higher Ground” theme song in 1976 while serving as music director at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard chapel in San Francisco, CA, while he was yet a music student at San Francisco State University. The choral work, originally written for a children’s chorus opens each broadcast and features the Lighthouse Chamber Singers.
The Capital Times: Jonathan Øverby: The power of music in times of strife
Wisconsin State Journal: Jonathan Øverby takes you around the world with ‘The Road to Higher Ground’
Madison365.com: WPR’s Dr. Jonathan Øverby inducted into WBA Hall of Fame