Walk for Music Spotlight: JT Potter

How did you get involved with ZUMIX and Walk for Music?

I came to ZUMIX 16 years ago, in the old building on Maverick Street. I knew Tom Curry, and Tom and I had talked about how I’d worked in radio in the past.

What radio stations did you work for?

I worked at the Christian Science Monitor – their international radio service. I worked at WILD-AM as a news reporter, doing the morning news drive, and then I went to KISS 108. I had also done board work at WBOK in Beverly.

So how did you get started on ZUMIX Radio?

Tom was going to China to visit his son. He asked me to sit in and do his jazz radio show while he was gone. At the time, I had just left the U.S. Department of Commerce, and was working in downtown Boston. So I came in, and Steve, the radio station manager, asked me to do a voice check and read a script. I did, and Steve says to me, “You can’t do Tom’s show. You can do your own show.” So he ended up running automation shows in Tom’s slot, and I started doing my own show at ZUMIX.

What was that initial show all about?

I called it Ocean of Voices: The Complete Spectrum of Jazz Voices. I played a lot of vocal jazz – everyone from Mel Torme to Ella Fitzgerald. Over the years, the show changed from jazz to smooth jazz to neo-soul, to what it is now – Expressions – where I pretty much play anything. I play rock, techno, Latin, Caribbean – I’ll play whatever. 

Tell me about getting involved with Walk for Music

Back when I could still walk, I think I’ve walked four or five Walks for Music, but I’ve attended every one since I’ve been at ZUMIX. Since the pandemic, I haven’t actually been able to walk it. But I’ve got all the T-shirts – I get ‘em every year. 

Back in the day, we would meet in front of the old studio. I think the last one I walked had to be the one where we went to Fenway Park. I always want to be here to support the youth as they start the Walk, and everybody who’s supported ZUMIX. Seeing all the kids dressed in different outfits, seeing their faces as everybody’s walking – it’s a beautiful thing. 

Now that we finish up at Piers Park, it’s so beautiful to see everybody gathered together. They’re cheering, and we always have instruments with the group. People used to wear costumes – everybody had something different. It’s still fun now – everybody comes into the park, and it’s beautiful and the music is playing. There was one year we had an ice cream truck, and they ran out of ice cream! 

Do you have a favorite Walk for Music memory? 

One year, we had the street closed off, and we had vendors outside. It was cool. Kids were playing cornhole and hacky sack, and drawing with sidewalk chalk. We had a lot of babies in carriages. We had some stuff going on inside, too. That was the best, because it was here at ZUMIX. It was similar to the ZUMIX Radio block party, but for Walk for Music. It was just as big. All the young people were having so much fun! They were indoors and outdoors, and running around – it was great. 

I love going to Piers Park – it’s beautiful, because we tie it into our concert series. And the Eastie Week people come and kick off the activities. You get more people from Eastie that show up. But the most memorable thing for me is seeing all the youth right here, at ZUMIX, having fun. 

What keeps you coming back to ZUMIX?

The faces of the youth. One of the things that really grabbed me about ZUMIX is that everybody that’s here wants to be here. If they’re at ZUMIX, it’s because they’re creative and they want to be here. They’re looking for an outlet for their talent, their culture, to express themselves. So you don’t really have the disruptive element. Sometimes they get a little rowdy – but that’s normal. You never get over seeing the glow in their eyes when they get it – This is fun

Why do you Walk for Music

I wish I could still walk! But I still show up to support the students, and cheer them on. 

JT Potter is a community radio host on ZUMIX Radio. Catch his show, Expressions with Potter, on Fridays at noon!