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Dalyan Agca ’29: Finalist in NPR Podcast Challenge

Do you love classical music and your pets? If so, keep reading to find out how middle schooler Dalyan Agca ’29 translated his passions into a nationally recognized podcast featured on NPR’s Morning Edition on June 20, 2023.

It began with an ISW class on podcasting and ended with a story about famous composers and the pets who inspired them. It wasn’t a requirement that students submit their podcasts to the fifth annual NPR Student Podcast Challenge, but Dalyan decided to take a chance. This year, NPR received more than 3,300 entries from students in 48 states. They whittled down the list of entries to the top 13 middle school and top 13 high school finalists. Dalyan’s podcast—"Classical Music and their Furry Friends”—was on that list. Here’s what Dalyan has to say about his experience making the podcast.

Tell us the story of how you got the idea for your podcast.

I love classical music. I play piano, violin, and I sing. I also compose music. I like to read about classical music composers, particularly Chopin. I also have a dog named Chomi and a cat named Lollie. Whenever I am playing Chopin, Lollie comes and sits on the piano chair, and Chomi lies below my feet. I thought maybe classical music composers also had some fond memories with their pets. So, I decided to look into it, and I realized that there are many interesting stories.

What are some of the challenges of making a podcast?

The most fun but also one of the hardest parts was doing research to find good stories. Although it was time consuming, it was also very satisfying to learn about classical music composers and their pets. I really wanted to share these wonderful stories with everyone. The other hard part was editing after putting all the clips together. There was always something that you could do more. It felt like it may never be finished and perfect. For example, there are spaces between clips, and spacing between clips is hard to modify. So, how one clip ends and the other clip starts may not be perfect. At some point, I decided that it was good enough. It was a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun.

Was there anything that surprised you about the process of making a podcast?

Some of the stories I found about classical music composers and their pets surprised me. For example, it was so interesting to learn that Dominico Scarlatti’s cat walking on the piano created the “Cat Fugue.” Similarly, although I knew that Chopin’s famous Minute Waltz was based on a dog chasing its tail, it was interesting to learn the actual loop of notes that created this feeling.

What was most rewarding about making this podcast?

I am able to share my joy of classical music, and my joy of having pets with everyone. I hope that my podcast encourages others to be involved more in classical music and also research classical music pieces to learn about their backgrounds. They may find many interesting stories. In addition, I hope my podcast encourages listeners to think about how their pets contribute to their lives in so many meaningful ways.

Do you think you might try making another podcast? 

Yes, I am thinking of making another podcast. I have some ideas but nothing concrete at the moment. I would like to encourage everyone to think about making a podcast sometime in their lifetime on something that they are passionate about. They will have a blast!

Cover image created with the assistance of DALL·E 2.