Curriculum Vitae

A Y A N A   C O N T R E R A S

sound and color….

SKILLS Proficient in Adobe Audition, Sony Vegas, Pro Tools, ACID Pro 7.0, SoundForge, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word, PhotoShop, ENCO, and Google Docs. Have scripted, voiced, and/or produced feature radio pieces, ads, liners, promos, podcasts, and PSAs; and my specializations are Hosting, Audio Production, Media Education, and Cultural Criticism. Also proficient in underwriting, copy editing, music editing, media curriculum creation, and basic HTML.


Producer “Sound Opinions”, WBEZ and nationally distributed through PRX (Chicago Public Media)

Host/Producer “Reclaimed Soul”, WBEZ, 91.5fm, Vocalo, 91.1fm (Chicago Public Media)


(Chicago arts/culture/music blog)

Author Energy Never Dies is forthcoming through Northwestern University Press



B.A. Western Illinois University, English Literature with a Minor Emphasis in Broadcast Communications


2017-Current, Producer “Sound Opinions” (WBEZ, Chicago Public Media)

I am a producer for a nationally-distributed radio show called Sound Opinions, which is hosted by Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis. Each week on the show, nationally respected rock critics Jim and Greg interview artists, talk about pop culture and music industry news, review new record releases and give trends a historical context.

2012-Current,  Host/Producer “Reclaimed Soul”, WBEZ 91.5fm and Vocalo 91.1fm (Chicago Public Media) 

“Reclaimed Soul” is a weekly radio program that featured music spun exclusively on vinyl, and it also features interviews and stories about the people and organizations that are using either old ideas or our cultural/physical inheritances as raw materials to help push us forward. Features my personal collection of over 8,000 vinyl records. I produce stand-alone original audio pieces, interviews and documentary work for the program to augment the music, and I write original content for the recently revamped website. Reclaimed Soul airs on both Vocalo and WBEZ.

2009-Present, Executive Producer, Practically Speaking

Since 2009, I’ve produced Practically Speaking, an hour-long Public Affairs program hosted by Audra Wilson. The program features long-form profiles of people who defy stereotypes, or offer the narratives behind familiar headlines. The production is rich in music and ambient sound. From 2012 through 2017, the program aired on Vocalo 91.1fm. Content from Practically Speaking has also aired on WBEZ, BBC Arts Hour & WCSU.

2012-2016, Lead Instructor, Vocalo Storytellers Workshop, Chicago Public Media

Co-taught a series of free, quarterly, 6 week immersive workshops on audio documentary production/citizen journalism through the Vocalo Storytellers Workshop. Students were under 35, not professional radio-makers, came from diverse backgrounds in terms of experiences and cultures, and were tasked with producing 1 airworthy original feature by the end of the course.

2012-January 2017, Executive Producer, “Barber Shop Show”, Vocalo, 91.1fm and WBEZ (Chicago Public Media)

From 2012 through 2017 I also produced  The Barber Shop Show. The Barber Shop Show was a Public Affairs/Culture program hosted by Richard Steele that aired live from a Barber Shop in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood (on the city’s West Side). The Barber Shop Show aired live on Vocalo, with a weekly rebroadcast on WBEZ.

2015 AIR New Voices Scholar, Association of Independents in Radio

AIR’s New Voices scholarships are awarded to a handful of applicants who contribute fresh craft, diversity or perspective to the network and media. The scholarship brings new talent to industry gatherings where they find a peer support network, opportunities to meet industry leaders, and chances to share their interests, concerns and work.

2014/15 Artist-in-Residence, University of Chicago, Arts + Public Life

Created one solo art exhibition “Windy City Breakdown” and contributed to a group exhibition “Three the Hard Way”. Work revolved around my research into the art of documentation, the things we choose to “save” (from an anthropological standpoint), and objects and artifacts that have not made the “digital leap” from paper to pixel or from groove to gigabyte. What bits of metadata live on these physical artifacts beyond their native media? What happens when these formats begin to degrade?

2009-2013 Radio/Podcast Instructor

Fall 2010-Spring 2013, Radio Mentor/Instructor, (Digital Youth Network); 2009-2010 Teen Talk Radio, Uplift H.S (After School Matters)

I taught Radio/Podcasting Production and Media Literacy courses to 6th through 12th grade students. They learned to identify Media Authorship, Media’s Messages, and Media’s Audiences.  They ultimately become more informed Media Creators (creating radio podcasts).  During the 2009-2010 school year, I taught an after school course on radio where I taught inner city students at Uplift High School how to create compelling audio pieces (interviews, vox pops, roundtables, etc.)  Students submitted work for broadcast on   They also learned about the power of media: how it shapes perceptions for the good and bad.  Samples of our work are available at:

2009-2012, Programming Committee Chair, Portoluz/Hothouse

My job at Porto Luz is planning and executing public programming and events, and coordinating Strategic Marketing Initiatives. A recent event I pitched and coordinated  is a year-long, multi-arts celebration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of nearly a dozen African Nations from Colonization, entitled “African Jubilee”.  Partisan Arts International is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide international arts and culture programming, as well as jobs for Chicago’s Bronzeville community.

2009,  Director of Communications,
A big part of my job was inclusive of reaching out to and building
relationships within the community serves, facilitating audio
training sessions, community roundtables, and remote broadcasts.
I was also charged with planning events that translated our mission
to the general public.

2007-2009,  Host/Producer,
Additionally, I hosted live airshifts in which I ran the board,
selected the content playlist. Also updated various social networking platforms
(among them in real time.

2006-7 Host, Global Overnight, Chicago Public Radio

During this time I hosted/anchored a four hour programming block
consisting of rebroadcasts of Internationally-sourced News and
Information programming.  I was responsible for creating a news
and weathercasts (and reading underwriting copy) for the chunks
of time between scheduled programs (which often varied from day to
day, as the programming was of inconsistent lengths [not unlike a
sports event]).

2006 Intern, Chicago Public Radio

Created Sonic Soundmarks, or 30 second station IDs fashioned from
locally-source, place-specific, ambient sound.

2005-2006 Urban Music Director/Program Director, WIUS-FM Macomb, IL

Oversaw 25 workers (mainly hosts).  Created overall sound philosophy
for an Urban Formatted Station (by Identifying Audience and
facilitating focus groups).  Programmed hosts into appropriate
slots, fully programmed our first year of overnight automated
broadcasts, selected all New Music Adds, performed quality control
tasks, I additionally performed frequent market research
(reviewing charts, reporting to CMJ, keeping up with Arbitron
studies and various online programming communities, as well as
conferences) to help spawn innovation.  Please see my
WIUS Sound Philosophy.

2004-2006 Host, WIUS-FM Macomb, IL

Hosted an Old-School Soul show that billed itself as “the music
that hip-hop was built upon”.  I came up with the program based
on the interest in rare groove/music-that-has-been-sampled-for-
hip-hop evident among our core audiences (listeners of hip hop
and R&B aged 18-24 and aged 12-18).  Additionally, the show was
an answer to the audience segment of young African-Americans
(many of whom were away at school) that identified Old School
soul music with home.  WIUS-FM  was the only Urban Formatted
station in the market.


2018, Essayist, ”The Revolutionary Archive”,  A Johnson Publishing Story Catalogue (Black Madonna Press)

Essay details relevance of Chicago’s Ebony/Jet building to Black American Culture. Catalogue published by Theaster Gates’ Black Madonna Press for the exhibition “A Johnson Publishing Story”.

2018, Original Score for short film, Neither One Or Somewhere In Between by Tia Simone Gardner

Explores a tertiary space between life and death through a non-linear conversation, an interview, between Gardner, Mayotte Capécia, and Diouana (Gomis), two fictional subjects that form the work of two post colonial intellectuals Frantz Fanon and Ousmane Sembéne.

2016, Producer, “Vs.”[pilot podcast, hosted by Danez Smith], The Poetry Foundation Produced 5 episode podcast pilot series created to tackle current issues through the lens of a poet. Featuring sound-rich interviews, essays, and conversations from poets and musicians such as Jamila Woods, Erika L. Sanchez, Ed Robeson, & Kevin Coval.

2016, Guest Performer with Radio Trio, live performance at Constellation (club in Chicago) I utilized an antique microphone, guitar wah pedal, and portable turntable. Radio Trio plays with transmission, reception, and interference across the AM/FM/SW dials, scraping speech, advertisement, and song: deconstructed pop hits, pitch- shifted banda, looped opera, and the noise between stations are all on the dial and tuned into synths, cornet, voice, and guitar. Will Faber- guitar, electronics; Ben Lamar Gay- cornet, electronics; Alex Inglizian- synthesizer, electronics.

2016, Participating DJ, Free/Phase: Dialogues (with Mendi + Keith Obadike) Second iteration of the Free/Phase project. Portion of a three part project about freedom songs in presented by  Rebuild Foundation. Listening areas were set up at the Stony Island Arts Bank. Passersby had a guided conversation about Mendi + Keith’s archive of freedom songs with participating DJs.

2015, WAACM at the Freedom Principle exhibit, presented in conjunction with Family Day at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago)

WAACM was a music-based performance embedded into the Freedom Principle Exhibit, which celebrated the 50 year legacy of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. I played original vinyl by artists that were primarily from Chicago during the post-civil rights era, (a number of the recordings were by artists affiliated with the AACM). I engaged with the patrons in a live-radio style (announcing records and repeating a catch phrase “You’re Listening to WAACM, the Sound of Freedom. The sweet sound of Liberation”. I drew renderings of vintage AACM album cover art from local Chicago record label Delmark to create coloring activity sheets for visiting children.

2015, Park: Landon Brown + 96 Acres Editor and Executive Producer of Broadcast element

Landon Brown and the Chicago-based arts project 96 Acres in collaboration with Vocalo presented a large-scale data visualization, public art, and radio broadcast event that occupied 1/2 mile of public street parking adjacent to Chicago’s Cook County Jail, the largest county jail in the United States. The event featured a Vocalo (Chicago Public Media, 91.1) broadcast of B.B. King’s 1970 performance, Live in Cook County Jail, as well as personal memories and stories connected to the history of the Cook County Jail in relation to Little Village and Chicago’s West side communities. The broadcast was heard through the AM/FM stereos of crowd-sourced automobiles, color-coded to visualize the racial statistics of today’s inmate population there. Maria Gaspar is an alumnus of the Vocalo Storytelling Workshop.

2015, Three the Hard Way as a part of my University of Chicago Arts + Public Life Residency, for this group exhibition, my work particularly asked about the dialogue that can exist between older materials (photographs and records, particularly), and the hot-button issues that still haunt us today (police brutality, poverty, racism, et al). It also asked if we are in some sort of feedback loop, where the socio-political progress folks hoped to see come out of the Black Power era has yet to fully manifest itself.

2015, Participating DJ, Free/Phase: Dialogues (with Mendi + Keith Obadike)  First Iteration of the Free/Phase project. Portion of a three part project about freedom songs in collaboration with Columbia College’s Center for Black Music Research. Listening areas were set up at the Chicago Cultural Center. Passersby had a guided conversation about Mendi + Keith’s archive of freedom songs with participating DJs.

2015, Windy City Breakdown as a part of my University of Chicago Arts + Public Life Residency, this solo exhibition illustrated my process and research. The work explored locally-sourced vintage vinyl records and paper ephemera from my personal collection to reveal aspects of Black Chicago during times of collision among the arts, entrepreneurship, and Black Power.

2013-Present, Resident DJ, Night out in the Parks (a weekly summer series of concerts in Chicago Parks sponsored by the Elastic Arts and the Chicago Park District)

2013-2014, Resident DJ, Off the Record, South (a series of album release/listening parties for local artists sponsored by the Department of Culture and Special Events in Chicago)

2011 Artist-in-Residence, Dorchester Projects  Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects are a former candy store, a single-family house and a nearby duplex that have been transformed into a site of artistic and community change for a neighborhood that has suffered years of blight and cultural neglect. The installation is an entry in a growing art movement to create “hybridized” arts spaces. During my residency, which ran through May and June of 2011, I produced podcasts featuring stories of the neighbors and the stories behind key LPs within the Dorchester Projects’ Dr. Wax Collection (8,000 vinyl recordings purchased from a shuttered record store). I also DJ’ed “Dance Dorchester” happenings.

2009 Cafeteria Sessions  A series of lunchtime recordings and
radio workshops with teens on socially engaged artistic practice,
and the future of Chicago. With Jim Duignan of the Stockyard
Institute and Lavie Raven from the University of Hip Hop.

2009-Present  “music. culture. chicago. life. jive on.”
Blog integrating high and pop culture, cutting edge art and
groundbreaking history (all rooted by a strong sense of localism)
Begun February 2009.

2008 Music Selection and Audio Production, The Museum of
Contemporary Art ExhibitTheaster Gates: Temple Exercises”
(an Exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago) January
6 – February 1, 2009
“Exploring the relationships among art, politics, and race,
Theaster Gates constructs a temple-like structure that merges
aspects of African American and Japanese traditions.” –MCA website

2007 Sound Designer, “Aunt Nancy’s Safari Stories”
Corn Productions, Spring 2007 at The Conservatory, Chicago.
Playwright: Michelle Thompson-Hay, Director: Sarah Ballema

“Corn Production’s favorite storyteller returns with her favorite
niece and nephew as they travel to Africa, the origin of Aunt
Nancy’s (or Anansi’s) tales.”


2018 panelist, ”JPC and the Black Imagination”,  Dialogue at “A Johnson Publishing Story”, Stony Island Arts Bank, Chicago

Huey Gene Copeland II, Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern, and Ayana Contreras of WBEZ in dialogue about the legacy of Johnson Publishing and its ongoing effect on our black imagination.

2018 A New Day: How Chicago Helped Craft a New National Black Identity with Ayana Contreras

Talk at the Woodson Regional branch of the Chicago Public Library. Through archival materials, music and audio clips, a presentation of how a pivotal moment in the history of Black Chicago — the post-Civil Rights Act era — was transmitted around the world from Chicago, via our unique music, advertising agencies, magazines and other media. Talk built upon research I’ve conducted for my upcoming book, tentatively titled Energy Never Dies.

2017 Clementine Skinner Award, Vivian Harsh Society

For work in documenting and illuminating the narratives, history, and cultural significance of the music scene in 20th Century Black Chicago.

2017 Moderator, Lyric Opera Chicago Voices Talks

Celebrated Chicago’s storied vocal history and the pioneers who have contributed to Gospel, Classical and Hip-Hop musical genres. I moderated panel series that featured music experts and live performances at the Chicago History Museum. Each event included a panel discussion, performance interludes by Chicago artists, and a Q&A session.

2015 Panelist, stop. reset. Symposium Series

Symposium organized to discuss issues present in Regina Taylor’s play, “stop. reset.”. Play was presented at the Goodman Theatre in 2015. In stop.reset, Alex Ames, an African-American publisher of books, is concerned with how he will be remembered. Historically, books have been the vessels of memory, what will hold memory in the future? How can we move forward if we have no real appreciation of ancestry and legacy?

2015 Panelist, Preserving the Beats: Collecting: Chicago Hip Hop , Chicago State University

Collecting is one part of preservation of hip hop. For the history and culture to survive we need wordsmiths who to write and publish about Hip Hop in order to document the past and future of the genre. Panel discussed the importance of publishing for a variety of outlets—scholarly/ academia, blogs, journalism, niche and new media.

2013 Workshop Presenter for Third Coast Filmless Festival, “Editing”. Third Coast International Audio Festival

Offered tips and tricks for creatively editing sound.

2013 “Monkey Hustle”, film presentation and discussion moderation, Black Cinema House, Chicago

Presented the 1970s cult film, which was shot on the South Side of Chicago. Discussed cultural relevance of seemingly trivial film.

2007 Presenter for AREA Chicago’s Pedagogical Factory, Hyde
Park Art Center, Chicago, IL. “How We Listen”

“How We Listen was a discussion with producers from the [then] new
Vocalo radio project, Vocalo is unique in the world of radio
because it offers greater potential for users to guide and produce
content that will be aired on the radio”

2007 Panelist, Intercollegiate Broadcast System’s Regional
Conference at Columbia College, November 2007

The topic was “Successful Radio Formats”.

2006 Panelist, Intercollegiate Broadcasting System’s National
Conference, March 2006. Spoke on two panels as a Program Director:

“Hip Hop and Urban Programming” and “New Media Technologies,
Formats, and Issues”.

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