SLB’s Larry and Rikki Berger receive City Counicl proclamation that was sponsored by Councilman William Peduto, and co-sponsored by Council President Darlene Harris. (Courtesy SLB)

SLB’s Larry and Rikki Berger receive City Counicl proclamation that was sponsored by Councilman William Peduto, and co-sponsored by Council President Darlene Harris. (Courtesy SLB)

by Kelsey Shea

The Northside-based radio program Saturday Light Brigade celebrated 35 years on the air Tuesday with a proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council and plans to continue its milestone celebration this Saturday on air and at The Children’s Museum.

SLB is a nonprofit organization housed in the Children’s Museum that works with local youth using audio storytelling as a learning tool and narrative platform. Their weekly radio program is broadcast from the museum every Saturday morning from 6 a.m. to noon and is one of the longest running public radio programs in the country.

Pittsburgh City Council declared Saturday March 16to be “Saturday Light Brigade Day” in the City of Pittsburgh.

City Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto will phone into Saturday’s radio program at 9:30 a.m. from the St. Patrick’s Day parade to celebrate.

Folk musician Tracy Drach will perform live at 11:05 from the museum.

You can tune in on 88.3 WRCT-FM and see Saturday’s schedule here.

SLB moved to the Northside nine years ago when the Children’s Museum’s renovations allowed space for the radio program.

SLB founder and Executive Director Larry Berger reflected on the programs dramatic growth since relocating to the Northside.

“The Northside was a great place for us,” said Berger noting the accessible location, great space in the museum and the number of schools within walking distances, all factors he said enabled SLB’s growth.

When the program moved into the Children’s Museum in 2004 it was run by volunteers and had an annual budget of $7,500. SLB now has 11 employees and has an annual budget of $450,000.

In those nine years, SLB has worked with students from Pittsburgh King, Allegheny Traditional Academy, Manchester, Propel Northside and Manchester Academic Charter Schools, teaching them audio skills and helping their voices and their stories be heard.

Berger estimates that SLB serves 8,000 young Pittsburghers each year through its various programs.

Looking forward, Berger hopes that SLB will continue the work it does and find new ways to reach people.

“We still really believe that audio and radio are great forms for people to express themselves and find out about other people, and we don’t expect that to change,” he said. “Radio still works, but we’ve come up with new ways to allow people’s voices to be heard.”

An example of an SLB story box. (Courtesy SLB)
An example of an SLB story box. (Courtesy SLB)

One way SLB is reaching a new audience is through storyboxes installed throughout the city.

A story box is a digital platform for sharing the authentic voices of children within the community that was specially developed by SLB.

Storyboxes are 21” x 12” x 4” boxes that can be mounted on a wall or placed on a table. The face of the device contains pictures with buttons that are pressed to hear corresponding audio.

More than 70 storyboxes have been placed throughout the area in the Allegheny library, Children’s Museum, August Wilson Center, in schools and various public places.

“We’re really proud of them,” said Berger, who noted that new innovations and changes like these are what he looks forward to in the coming years for the Saturday Light Brigade.