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Minnesota Music Hall of Fame gets audio tour

May 8, 2011
By Michael Gassett , The Journal

NEW ULM - Charlie Braunreiter has been the chief administrator at the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and Museum for the past few years.

When it comes to old time music in Minnesota, Braunreiter is an expert in the field. He knows stories and he knows the history.

But he is the first to admit that the newer music is lost on him.

Article Photos

Photos by Steve Muscatello
Paul Picalell takes the new audio tour at the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in New Ulm.

"I know a lot about the old time stuff but I don't know much about the new time stuff.," he said. "I have to read up on it and still there are questions I can't answer."

Now patrons to the museum have another source to get their information.

Since late last year, the museum has had a hand held device filled with audio information on each inductee and they can take an audio tour of the museum

All they need to do is find the inductee they are interested, type in the three digit code associated with that person and they can hear, biographical information on the inductee.

The content on each inductee includes the induction ceremony and the acceptance speech of each inductee when available.

And if you think the voice on the audio tour sounds familiar, it should because it's KNUJ's Brian Filzen, who has emceed the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the past 15 years.

"I take the information that I have, and type up a little audio biography that I will record," Filzen said. "I will use their music or whatever their area of expertise was. Generally we use their music as a background and record their biography over it."

Each segment lasts approximately three minutes and there is more than six hours of content all together on each audio device.

"Most people don't listen to the entire thing," Braunreiter said. "They just jump around and listen to who they are interested be it old time music, blue grass or country. Everyone can go through the line and look up who they want and just punch in the number."

In the beginning, getting the information was a little more difficult than it is now in the "internet age". In the beginning they got the information from the inductee themselves or, if the person was deceased from their family. Sometimes the information was hard to come by but now, it is much easier with the information on the internet.

"The more information that we get the better because you can always cut it down," Filzen said. "Most of the inductees are cooperative in getting us information."

The museum has most of the inductions since 1988 but there are a few that are missing and aren't yet included on the audio tour.

When it started, the files were put on cassette tapes. Now they are on digital files that Filzen has converted to CD form.

"I have a list of some of them, [the inductees that have the audio information missing]," Filzen said. "I am still checking to see if I have the bio information. I also gave [the hall of fame] scripts in the early days. So if we can find those scripts, I can just rerecord them. Otherwise will have to start from scratch."

Minnesota Music Hall of Fame and Museum Executive Director Dodie Wendinger got the idea for the audio tour after seeing similar devices at other museums.

She then talked to Steve Moran, who has worked on other technical operations for the museum in the past, and Moran looked into different programs the museum could use.

"I checked into ipods because that is what the chamber is using," Moran said. "This particular company had a contest, you could use the device, get your project started, send them the project and the winner of the contest would win 15 audio devices."

They entered the contest, which included museums big and small from around the country. The hall of fame didn't win but they liked how the device worked and they decided to go with that company.

"Because they were out of state we couldn't use our local grants, which we applied for," Braunreiter said. "We decided to do it on our own and we have our own funding. They sold us 15 units, we have to renew the radio licences. We have 15 and I suppose we will buy another 15.

"When we have bus tours we can have more than 30 people come through here. Some people don't want them and they just want to wonder around too. It's a good program."

Since most of the audio was on cassette tapes, it was a difficult process transfering it to the audio device.

To convert the casette to mp3 format, he has to play the cassette and it records on to the computer with a program called Wavepad. Then he saves them as mp3s.

He takes the files that he has converted to mp3 format and loads them onto a website set up by the device maker, Audio Antenna.

Once they are there, I use their software to download them back again onto a computer at the hall of fame.

Then he plugs each device via USB cables into the computer and downloads the information on the audio device.

He can plug up to 14 devices in at one time but he has found it works best to just do about seven at a time.

"I do it on one first to make sure it works then I do it on the other 14," Moran said. "I initially was able to do it on all of them at once. But now the files are so big, it just seems like it works better to do seven of them."

Now that Filzen does the biographies digitally it makes it easier to download on to the audio device.

"Now I can take those files and load them quickly up," Moran said. "So the last few years I was able to do that. "

There are currently 228 files on each device. Each device will hold about four gigabytes of information and they are only at about one gigabyte now. So the museum has a long way to go.

"I think that they wanted to offer the people that come in something to see and hear rather than just look around," Moran said. "It is important, because you can stand in front of each exhibit and here the musician or band perform and hear them talk. You get closer to what is going on. "

So far it has been a big hit with the people that have used it.

"It's a really nice enhancement," Filzen said. "Before that, it kind of depended on who was working at the museum. Charlie is a great guy to have at the museum because he can tell you so many stories about those people. But now we have the option that we can have any volunteer working, at least we have the audio presentation to give them plenty of information on our inductees."



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