For immediate release
Dec. 28, 2004
Sue Kennedy: 202.513.2324; 301.346-2038 cell
Ben Roe: 202.513.2392

NPR's Toast of the Nation Surrounds the New Year

WASHINGTON, DC — This year, as the world welcomes in 2005, Toast of the Nation, NPR's signature New Year's Eve jazz and blues party, will usher in the new year with the highest-fidelity live radio broadcast in history. From dusk until dawn, from clubs on the Champs Elysées to the San Francisco Bay, NPR will transmit the broadcast in 5.1 discrete digital surround sound, bringing the home theatre experience to the radio dial for the very first time.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of NPR's traditional, live, nationwide New Year's Eve broadcast of jazz and roots music. The tradition began in 1979 as a showcase for NPR's first-in-the-nation interconnected satellite system.

"From its inception, NPR's signature has been its sound," said Benjamin Roe, director of music for NPR. "We were the first national radio organization to go all-satellite in the '70s and now we will be the first to broadcast a live international radio event in surround sound in the 21st century."

This year Toast of the Nation will kick off at 5 p.m. EST. Hosts Bonnie Grice from member station WLIU/Southampton, N.Y., and Gary Walker from producing partner WBGO/Newark, N.J., will anchor the 13-hour broadcast from NPR's state-of-the-art Studio 4A, specially outfitted for surround-sound broadcast.

The show's first stop will be Paris, France, where NPR host Lisa Simeone and Radio France jazz legend Claude Carrière will be on location at the Club Sunside, ringing in the Parisian new year with champagne and cool jazz from the Olivier Tèmine Lombard All Stars. From Paris, Toast of the Nation will make stops at the David Friend Recital Hall at Berklee College in Boston (The Donald Harrison Quintet), the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (The Music Never Ends: A Tribute to Shirley Horn); and the Apollo Theatre in New York (A Great Night in Harlem: A Tribute to Ray Charles with Quincy Jones) before ringing in the new year on the East Coast at the brand new Jazz at Lincoln Center headquarters in Manhattan (The Cyrus Chestnut Trio).

After midnight in the East, the surround sound New Year's celebration continues with the James Mathus Knockdown South Band at the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Miss.; the Latin Giants of Jazz in Denver, Colo.; and Yoshi's Jazz Club in Oakland, Calif., with a performance by the Joshua Redman Elastic Band. The New Year's party will continue all the way to 6 a.m. EST with encore broadcasts from Paris and the Apollo Theater.

In making this announcement, Michael Starling, NPR's vice president of engineering, paid tribute to Harris Corporation and Neural Audio, who are providing NPR and its member stations key equipment for this historic broadcast. "Our partners, Harris Corporation and Neural Audio, introduced the technology of 5.1 discrete surround sound that today allows NPR performances to be captured, recorded and broadcast in such quality and depth of sound our listeners will always enjoy a front row seat."

The Harris Broadcast Communications Division, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is one of the world's leading suppliers of broadcast technology, offering a full range of solutions supporting digital delivery, automation, and management of studio, video, and data operations. Neural Audio Corporation is a privately owned company headquartered in Kirkland, Wash., developing digital signal processing technology.

Toast of the Nation is a co-production between WBGO/Newark, N.J., and NPR. Other partner stations in the broadcast include WGBH/Boston; WLIU/Southampton, N.Y.; WBEZ/Chicago; KUVO/Denver; KCSM/San Mateo.

Toast of the Nation is made possible by a grant from Starbucks and AT&T.

About NPR
NPR is renowned for journalistic excellence and standard-setting news and entertainment programming. A privately supported, non-profit, membership organization, NPR serves a growing audience of 22 million Americans each week via nearly 760 public radio stations. International partners in cable, satellite and short-wave services make NPR programming accessible anywhere in the world. With original online content and audio streaming, offers hourly newscasts, special features and eight years of archived audio and information.