The Institute: The IEEE News Source

Jazz and Martial Arts are These Members’ Passions
One member hosts a weekly radio show while another performs Iaido

By PRACHI PATEl 22 June 2015

norm-instudioNorm Swanberg
Jazz Aficionado
Norm Swanberg was an ardent rock ’n’ roll fan when he went to the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island in 1970 to see a jazz-rock band perform. Swanberg [below], then a

junior studying physics at nearby Brown University, in Providence, was hooked.

Jazz quickly became his music of choice. He now channels his love for it as the host of a weekly radio show on KSDS-FM, San Diego’s award-winning jazz station. “The beauty of jazz is in its diversity and the variety among different artists and eras,” he says.

On his two-hour evening show, Swanberg, now an IEEE senior member, mixes music with historical tidbits and interviews with jazz personalities. By day, he designs radio-frequency systems for commercial and military clients through his consulting business, Dome Resonators, in Poway, Calif.

The radio gig began in 1990 when, as a recent transplant to San Diego, he found himself sitting next to a KSDS disc jockey at a jazz piano concert. “It was a happy accident,” he says. “I told him how much I loved his station and wanted to come there and volunteer, and eventually even work there.” The disc jockey advised Swanberg to take radio production classes at the city college, which he did before becoming a radio host.

The methodical nature that aids Swanberg’s engineering work also benefits his radio gig. For each show, he creates a spreadsheet on which he lists each song along with its length, the artist’s name, and the albums. He then calculates the timing of each segment so that he can break at the right moment for one of the station’s public service announcements.

He spends about two hours preparing for every show. If he is interviewing an artist, he reads about the person, listens to his or her albums, and prepares questions. In his 25 years as a radio host, Swanberg has met and interviewed many famous jazz musicians, including Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall, and Herbie Hancock.

Working from home for his own company also lets Swanberg sneak in his passion during work hours. “When I’m sitting at my desk doing circuit simulations, I always have jazz in the background,” he says. “If something catches my attention, I put it in my spreadsheet.”

He owns a saxophone but hasn’t had time to play it for more than 20 years. He hopes to change that as retirement inches closer. “These days I play the radio dial,” Swanberg says, chuckling, “but someday I’ll play an instrument again.”