“Podcast boom” explodes at UMBC

Kevin Kauffman (left) and Harry Fletcher (right) record their new podcast, Universi-Tea. Photo by Brent Bemiller.

“Podcast boom” explodes at UMBC

Podcasts have been around for well over a decade, but in case you have somehow managed to go these past ten-plus years without ever having heard the term, they’re basically radio shows that you can stream. The word “podcast” is just a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast. 

In recent years, with technology making high-quality recording increasingly accessible and apps like Spotify and Stitcher making it possible for anyone to put their podcasts on highly-trafficked streaming services, the phrase “we should start a podcast” gets tossed around arguably more than it should. That’s why there’s recently been what news outlets have called a “podcast boom” —  an influx of both podcasts and podcast listeners. Celebrities are jumping on the fad, too; Conan O’Brien, for example, has a one-year-old podcast on the Earwolf Network, entitled Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend. But that same network also includes a number of shows starring talent that is relatively, if not fully unknown outside of the podcasting world.

Essentially, it’s a medium that levels the playing field, and that’s one of the things that makes it so beloved. You can be Conan O’Brien conducting interviews with an endless list of A-listers or you can be an improv comedian pretending to be a badger (Hello From the Magic Tavern — check it out!); if your show is good, it has the potential to end up listed amongst iTunes’s top podcasts.

Naturally, considering the ever-increasing popularity of the medium, there are a number of podcasts being released by University of Maryland, Baltimore County students, faculty, alumni and staff. Here are three to check out next time you need your podcast fix:

Ben Garmoe — adjunct professor and UMBC Mock Trial coach
The Mock Review with Ben and Drew
Listen on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and more

Ben Garmoe, an adjunct professor and the coach of UMBC’s Mock Trial team, started his first podcast ten years ago, long before the medium had hit the mainstream. At the time, it was just something he and his friend started on a whim because Garmoe, who worked as an audio engineer at the time, had the equipment on hand.

But with The Mock Review, which debuted in June of 2018, Garmoe and his co-host, Drew Evans, knew they wanted to discuss mock trial before they knew exactly what format would be best for their discussions. After all, the friends had met as collegiate mock trial competitors. They eventually settled on a podcast; an audio medium seemed like the natural way to discuss this type of intellectual sport.

“I think what it was is this type of discussion exists in many different places on the internet,” Garmoe explains. “There are four or five websites dedicated to this kind of discussion. But Mock Trial is a speaking type of competition. And with that comes components that are best discussed in an audio medium.” 

The actual content of the episodes varies throughout the season, but Garmoe says that one of their most popular episodes was about a controversy that occurred during the national championship competition last year. And because they are the only podcast that covers mock trial, Garmoe says they’ve gained a respectable following in general.

Carly Faye and Hannah Mae — alumni
Count Me In: A Dance and Education Podcast
Listen on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple Podcasts and more

Sisters Carly Faye and Hannah Mae — who use their rhyming middle names to introduce the podcast — are both UMBC graduates; Faye graduated in 2008 with a degree in dance, and Mae in 2014 with a degree in psychology. Both grew up dancing, and now, Faye works as a dance teacher and Mae works at a Montessori school. Because of their shared passion for both dance and teaching, they began thinking more “about children and the way that they’re treated and the way they’re treated in school and dance class and how we can do better,” according to Faye.

Dance education is the podcast’s main focus, with the two hosts interviewing professional dancers and dance teachers to gain further insight into the topic. Notable guests have included the editor of Dance Magazine, a prominent trade publication, and a dancer currently touring with Hamilton.

Though what they discuss varies based on who their guest is, they always ask the same final question, Faye says. “[We ask] them to describe their favorite experience in the world of dance or the world of teaching, if they could pick one,” she says. According to Faye, the answer is usually something funny or weird, rather than the biggest or most extravagant performance the artist has done.

“The answer isn’t always Hamilton. The answer is something else,” she says.

Kevin Kauffman and Harry Fletcher — current students
Universi-Tea
Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud

Sophomores Kevin Kauffman and Harry Fletcher knew they wanted to start a podcast before they knew what it was going to be about. The idea came to them during a brainstorming session, according to Kauffman. “Harry and I were kind of talking about podcast ideas, and Harry made a joke about spilling the tea,” Kauffman says. 

From there, they realized that one thing people love to gossip and complain about is where they go to school. They decided to record a podcast where they interviewed students at different universities around the country. Of course, the potential for a punny title was also an asset. “I heard that for a podcast, you need a name that’s going to bring in the demographic that you’re looking for,” Kauffman explains, citing the pervasiveness of ‘tea’ as a slang term.

So far, the pair have only published one episode, in which they interviewed students from UMBC, but more are in the works. The most interesting guests to talk to, they say, are students that have very different experiences from their own, such as one student who came to Maryland from Georgia and doesn’t use a meal plan.

Kauffman and Fletcher agree that one of the greatest parts of making the podcast is meeting people and learning about their experiences. “You need an excuse to talk to people,” Kauffman says.