Rob Sivak

Senior Producer, Maryland Morning

Rob Sivak joins the WYPR Maryland Morning team as Senior Producer after a 36-year career at the congressionally funded global broadcaster, Voice of America, where he honed his skills as a news and feature reporter, producer, editor and program host.

After reporting stints at VOA's New York City, United Nations and Los Angeles bureaus, Rob spent two decades covering international food, farming and nutrition issues for VOA's 180-million worldwide listeners, and created and hosted several popular VOA science magazines, including the still-running Science World.  At Maryland Morning, he continues to pursue his passion for radio and his abiding interests in science, health, technology and politics.  Rob grew up as an ex-pat "oil brat" on the Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia, and studied and traveled widely in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  He attended Hofstra University in New York and Boston University's School of Public Communications.  Rob and his wife, Caroline Barnes, live in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they've raised three daughters.

The Chesapeake Bay Program

A report released in early December by the Abell Foundation -- The Chesapeake Bay and Agricultural Pollution -- concludes that efforts in Maryland to restore the pollution-damaged watershed are being threatened by misguided state clean-up priorities, and by inadequate monitoring of the biggest source of Bay pollution: agriculture.  Maryland Morning senior producer Rob Sivak invited two authors of the report -- Rona Kobella veteran environmental journalist who now writes for the Bay Journal, and Dr. Robert Summers, the former Maryland Secretary of the Environment who works today as senior research scientist with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences -- and Lynne Hoot, executive director of the 400-member Maryland Grain Producers Association, to discuss whether the state’s farmers are doing everything they can to help clean up the Bay.

The Accountability Index, our monthly series of conversations with reporters at Baltimore Brew continues with a look at Baltimore's sometimes halting efforts to audit major city departments. The Brew's senior investigative reporter, Mark Reutter, joins Tom for a discussion of what the city knows -- and what it doesn’t know -- about how it’s spending our money. 

Then, a conversation with acclaimed actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith. She returned this past weekend to her original hometown of Baltimore to perform her latest one-person play, which takes a penetrating look at the school to prison pipeline.  Tom talks with Anna Deavere Smith about Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, the Baltimore Chapter.

And The Everyman Theatre’s dialect coach, Gary Logan, is helping the show's actors master the unique regional accents used in the theater’s latest show, an Irish comedy called Outside Mullingar.   Logan stopped by Studio A to give Tom and Nathan a few tips on how to speak  like an authentic Irishman.  

Anna Deavere Smith Projects, New York, NY 10003

The acclaimed actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith continues to break new ground in political performance art.  In addition to her work in television on shows like The West Wing, Madame Secretary, and Nurse Jackie, she has produced 18 documentary dramas, in which she plays myriad characters through whom we are guided, with trenchant insight, through the complexities of different social issues.

She has taken on challenging subjects like the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, racial integration, and the American health care system. This past weekend, Tom went to Center Stage to see one of two performances of her latest play, called Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, The Baltimore Chapter.  It is a masterpiece of storytelling and a provocative call to action to end what is often called the school to prison pipeline. Tom spoke with Anna Deavere Smith on Monday. 

Everyman Theatre

The Everyman Theatre’s latest show is an Irish comedy called Outside Mullingar. The Everyman’s dialect coach, Gary Logan, is helping the actors master the particular regional accent called for in the play. Today, he stopped by Studio A to offer Tom a few tips on sounding authentically Irish.

Logan has worked as a voice and dialect coach for a variety of leading U.S. and Canadian theater groups, including The Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada, the Folger Theater, the Shakespeare Theater Company, Arena Stage, and the Kennedy Center. Logan's book, The Eloquent Shakespeare: A Pronouncing Dictionary for the Complete Dramatic Works, with Notes to Untie the Modern Tongue is considered essential reading by many of the North American theater companies producing Shakespeare's plays.

New Day Campaign

We turn now to the artist Peter Bruun. His latest work emerged after a terrible tragedy in his family, when their 24 year-old daughter, Elisif, died of a heroin overdose in February, 2014. Peter has developed a project called The New Day Campaign, which uses art to address the stigma surrounding addiction.

The campaign began in October; it includes 15 art exhibitions and 60 public events, several of which are happening over the next few days. One of the exhibitions is at Stevenson University. It’s a multi-pronged installation by Peter Bruun that includes visual art, sound, and light, entitled Elisif’s Story. Dr. Robert Brooner is the Director of Addiction Treatment Services at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Professor of Medical Psychology and Psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

We start today with a look at the continuing HIV/AIDS crisis in Baltimore.  The total number of new cases in the city is declining, but transmission rates among young gay black men and transgender individuals are on the rise.  Can the city bring those numbers down?  We’ll ask Dr. Patrick Chaulk of the Baltimore Health Department for an update on the city’s ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS.

Then, we’ll meet the talented local string band, Charm City Junction, who’ll be playing at a CD-release concert in North Baltimore Friday night. The quartet joins us to play some of the Irish and bluegrass tunes on their new CD, and talk about their distinctive musical style.

Plus:  a conversation with Judy Collins, one of the great ladies of American popular music, who performs at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall Sunday. She talks with Tom about her long career and her engaging new CD, Strangers Again, a collection of duets with some of the best male singers in the business.


Being diagnosed HIV-positive is no longer the death sentence it once was, but getting treatment to everyone who’s infected, and curbing the spread of the disease are still major challenges in cities like Baltimore. Despite declines in the total number of new AIDS cases in the city, HIV infection rates among certain groups are on the rise.  Looking ahead to next Tuesday's observance of World AIDS Day, Dr. Patrick Chaulk,  the Assistant Commissioner for HIV and STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) Services in the Baltimore Health Department, joins Tom in the studio to discuss the city's ongoing fight to curb the HIV-AIDS epidemic.

Charm City Junction

Charm City Junction is a local quartet that plays Old-Time, Bluegrass and Irish music.  The band -- made up of Brad Kolodner on banjo, Patrick McAvinue on fiddle, Sean McComiskey on button accordion and Alex Laquement on upright bass -- have just released their first CD, called simply, Charm City Junction. They'll  be performing live at a CD release concert Friday night (11/27/15) at the Friends School in North Baltimore.  This morning, they join Tom in the studio to talk about their music and play us a few tunes.

Judy Collins holds a unique and cherished place in the top echelons of American music. In September, she released a new CD called Strangers Again, a collection of duets with Michael McDonald, Willie Nelson, Don McLean and several others.

Judy Collins will be giving a concert at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon (11/29). This morning, she joins Tom on the phone from her home in New York to talk about her life in music, and the collaborations with some of the best male singers in the business that make her new CD such a distinctive musical outing.

 We start today with a conversation with a local Syrian Imam about how the Muslim community is reacting to the heated public debate over recent terror attacks and the surge of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Then, we’ll talk about the legal and political challenges those Syrian refugees face as they seek safe havens in Europe and the United States, with Ruben Chandrasekar of the International Rescue Committee and David Rocah of the ACLU.

Next, theater critic J Wynn Rousuck has a review of Middletown, a play about a small town and the friendship between a longtime resident and a new arrival.

And -- and just in time for Thanksgiving -- our regular foodie and restaurant owner Sascha Woldhandler joins us to share her scrumptious squash recipes, from butternut squash soup to squash lasagna.