Valerie Smaldone’s “Art of the Interview”
This past week, I had the opportunity to interview a rock and roll legend, a celebrated author and a movie star. Tommy James (the rock star) and I were in conversation in front of a live audience at the brand new and beautiful Sheen Center for Thought and Culture on Bleecker Street, Mark Kurlansky, New York Times best-selling author, was my interview subject at the 92nd Street Y as he talked about his fascinating tome on the history of paper and how it revolutionized the world, and actress Kate Hudson spoke to me in a radio interview about her new beauty and wellness book, Pretty Happy.
I have to say, I have been lucky enough to be on the other side of the microphone, camera or on stage with literally hundreds (probably by now, thousands) of truly interesting people, interviewing them about their careers, passions, entrepreneurial efforts, albums, theatrical pieces, tours, books, recipes etc.
I was a born interviewer. As a child, I was mesmerized by Johnny Carson, entertained by Merv Griffin, and envious of Mike Douglas. I wanted to do what they did. They were my idols, Mr. Carson especially.
I remember receiving a book on interviewing when I was studying journalism and media at Fordham University, and felt that that was something I really wanted to do.
One of my first celebrity interviews was with Charles Strouse, composer of Broadway classics like Bye-Bye Birdie, Annie and Applause. I was hosting a radio show called “Showstoppers” on Fordham’s then student run radio station, and I was bold enough to reach out to Mr. Strouse and invite him to my radio program. He came, we talked about his shows, played the albums on the radio and he left me with doodles of his musical compositions that I still cherish to this day.
I was hooked. This was fun.
As I continued on my media journey, I came across all kinds of people and my curiosity about what compels them to make certain choices, who inspired them, and what their deepest desires were made me delve deeper and deeper into which elements create a great interview and who is a great interview subject. And refining that concept even more, who communicates their message well.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that a lot of people need help with that very issue.
I heard an interview with a New York Times reporter the other day on a television show. She had written a very interesting article, and the hosts were attempting to extract the information from her. As intelligent as she obviously was, this woman simply could not get to the essence of the story successfully. She used those dreaded crutches, “umm”, “so”, “you know”. As I produce my weekly syndicated radio show, “America Weekend with Valerie Smaldone….and Friends” I often hear the same problem. It seems to me that people are having difficulty communicating their message about an event, a book, their work, a charity, whatever IT is.
With that in mind, I created a one-day workshop, “The Art of the Interview” and teach it at School of Visual Arts. It meets this summer on July 30 from 10 AM to 4 PM.
During this fun and nurturing workshop, I provide information for my small group of participants, and create useful scenarios for practice. We actually have a “set” and shoot video for each combination of interviews.
I love teaching this workshop because I so enjoy seeing my students blossom and understand how to better communicate their message.
Years and years of interviewing has given me the experience and the skills to help others. Perhaps this workshop would be helpful for you or someone you know. Get the details.
By the way, my next few live on-stage interviews will take place:
Monday May 23 at 92Y when I interview media mogul, successful entrepreneur and author Jeffrey Hayzlett about his latest book, Think Big, Act Bigger. Get the details.
Tuesday, June 28, at the Sheen Center, I interview Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge.
Here’s to successful communication!