MISSION & VALUES
SLB Radio Productions, Inc. (SLB) uses radio and audio to amplify voices of youth—and members of other communities whose stories are often marginalized—to educate, empower, and build community. Our work is based on the principle that all people have the capacity and right to develop their authentic voice and know that their voice matters—that *they* matter—and that their voice can be used for self-expression, inquiry, and change.
SLB incorporates these methods into real world learning opportunities that keep students deeply engaged as they sharpen academic skills (e.g. speaking, active listening, reading, writing); workforce readiness skills (interviewing, working in teams, meeting deadlines, following a process, sifting through data); technical skills (digital storytelling, editing); and life skills (creative expression, critical thinking, confidence, cooperation, respect for others, curiosity).
BACKGROUND & HISTORY
SLB began operations in 1978 with The Saturday Light Brigade, a weekly public radio program delivering a blend of music, puzzles, interviews, and live performances to a multigenerational audience. Programming grew dramatically between 1990 and 2000, as SLB built a strong, loyal audience and earned 10 local and national awards. During this period, SLB began providing off-air youth workshops in audio technology and self-expression.
While successful, using a traditional radio station as the location for these workshops limited the ability to deepen learning experiences. With this objective in mind, SLB formed a 501(c)(3) in 2000 and—with remarkable support from the broadcast industry, foundations, corporations and individual donors—opened a $250,000 studio suite in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP) in 2004. Our flagship radio program now airs on six radio stations and five streaming platforms. We also operate Youth Express, which includes a stand-alone internet radio station featuring original writing and conversation from teens.
Capture and Production:
 School workshops (after-school and classroom workshops either in studio or on location);  Oral histories (examples include Crossing Fences during which African American boys gather stories from men in their neighborhoods and From There to Here where students interview immigrants and refugees who now live in Pittsburgh);  Youth Media Advocacy Program (conducted in collaboration with Carlow University to strengthen skills in self-advocacy and creation of persuasive media); and  Youth Journalism (insightful and focused documentaries and commentaries using rigorous production methods).
 Live radio (on air since 1978, The Saturday Light Brigade is the weekly public radio show that led to the launch of SLB in 2000);  Youth Express (from poetry to talk shows, hip hop to string quartets, this 24/7 and on-demand service delivers authentic youth voices);  Neighborhood Voices (an archive of more than 10,000 SLB-produced assets for download and streaming); and  SLB Podcasts (published weekly).
SLB has long been recognized for its innovative approach to delivering world-class programming and its work has been recognized both locally and nationally. Awards received by SLB include the Allegheny Partners for Out of School Time (APOST) 2017 Partnership Award, Pittsburgh Service Summit 2017 Award for Child Advocacy, two 2015 Public Radio Exchange (PRX) Best Youth-Created Radio awards, Pittsburgh Technology Council 2013 People's Choice Award, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh 2013 Partner of the Year Award.
Youth Express was tapped in April 2019 as one of twelve youth-centered programs to represent Pittsburgh at the HundrED Innovation Summit in Helsinki, Finland, in November 2019. Selection criteria included impact, breadth, and replicability. Youth Express was subsequently chosen as part of the HundrED 2020 Global Innovation Collection highlighting 100 of the brightest innovations in K-12 education from 38 countries. Youth Express is now being promoted worldwide as a model for capturing, producing, and publishing youth voice.
Since its 2004 co-location in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP), SLB has operated from a 348 sq. ft. broadcast studio suite. When it opened, it was an all-volunteer operation with a budget of about $30,000 and hands-on service to about 100 youth annually. Fifteen years later, it employs a staff of 10, has a budget of nearly $800,000, and provides direct services to 5,000 youth each year. Because it has not expanded its studio since its launch, it often uses conference rooms, offsite classrooms, and other less-appropriate spaces to manage demand. The expansion is long overdue and will allow SLB to provide youth with a more engaging learning environment and better access to equipment and staff. In preparation for the current expansion, SLB has spent the past several years benchmarking peer facilities throughout the country, and prototyping programs.
The new space, in a non-ticketed part of CMP, will include two professionally equipped broadcast studio suites (including the suite it currently uses) and a flexible multimedia lab. All facilities will be accessible to on-campus organizations, including two Head Start classrooms and Manchester Academic Charter School. SLB will also serve other organizations within walking distance of the campus as well as the greater Pittsburgh community.
 By doubling the available studio space and creating an adjacent, fully-equipped media lab, SLB will be able to increase the number of youth it introduces to these real world systems (e.g. through field trips to CMP by elementary classes) as well as the depth of programs it can offer to older learners.  It will provide upgraded audio mixing and control systems for live and prerecorded performances, as well as interconnectivity to the existing studio suite and SLB’s satellite studio, installed in the adjacent MuseumLab in April 2019.  It will provide additional space for recording music and podcasts during more flexible hours. This will allow SLB to deliver arts and culture to communities and neighborhoods that have been underserved.
BUDGET AND FUNDS RAISED TO DATE
To date, SLB has raised $650,000 of the roughly $800,000 needed to complete the project, from the Hillman Foundation, McCune Foundation, Buhl Foundation, Jack Buncher Foundation, McKinney Charitable Foundation through the PNC Charitable Trusts Grant Review Committee, Charles M. Morris Charitable Trust, Allegheny Regional Asset District, the SLB Board of Directors, and individual donors.
SUSTAINABILITY AND IMPACT ON REVENUE
The equipment that will outfit the second broadcast studio in the Youth Media Center has an estimated lifespan of 15 years. In addition, there will be a greater opportunity to perform additional fee-based activities, which currently comprise approximately 40% of SLB’s annual revenue. These activities include paid workshops for well-resourced school districts, contracts for youth documentary projects, special recording work, and live sound services for CMP events.