Ear To The Common Ground launches on PBS in 2023

Todd Mayo, producer of the popular PBS television series, Bluegrass Underground, has announced a new show set to debut in January 2023.

Ear To The Common Ground has a simple and laudable goal, to use music as a way to bridge the political and social divides that separate Americans of every type across so many issues. In each episode, a prominent alternative artist will host a small dinner party for eight of their fans, chosen to represent differing positions on a major issue in contention in this country. The fans will be chosen so that viewpoints can be expressed from left, right, and center, with music and food as the common ground for each discussion.

While not a specifically bluegrass program, two artists from our world will host episodes in this first season, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen and Sister Sadie.

Mayo says that his goal is quite straightforward.

Ear To The Common Ground was one of the most simply profound undertakings I’ve ever been involved with. We had twelve diverse artists and a complete American tapestry of racial, religious, geographic, sexual orientation, and gender diversity. They all broke bread together and talked about very divisive issues—and everyone volunteered to do it!”

The show is set to debut January 2 on Nashville Public Television, the PBS presenting station, with additional affiliates coming aboard later in the year.

Becky Magura, president and CEO of Nashville Public Television, also speaks highly of what the show offers.

“In a time of great division, Ear To The Common Ground offers a downhome approach to bringing us together through civil conversation and music. Without a doubt, our country is a haven for diverse voices, opinions, and music, which this series captures beautifully, and I’m so proud that producer Todd Mayo and Nashville Public Television are working together to present it to our system!”

Episodes ready to air in 2023 include:

  • Wu Fei – Immigration
  • Kyshona Armstrong – Voting Rights
  • The Sweet Lizzy Project – Abortion
  • Gustavo Moradel – Race in America
  • She Returns from War – LGBTQ Issues
  • Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen – Gun Rights & Gun Control
  • Susto – Environment
  • Sam Lewis – Polarization
  • Bill Miller – Separation of Church & State
  • Sister Sadie – Urban/Rural Divide
  • Louis York – Education
  • Minton Sparks – Sexual Politics

If the producers truly offer equal time to all the divergent opinions on these contentious issues, and no side is pushed aside, this could be a very useful series, if only to show people with strongly opposing views speaking calmly and respectfully to one another.

For example, we know Frank Solivan to be a man of the left, but also a strong supporter of the individual right to own a weapon, for both sporting and self defense purposes. His discussion with those pro, con, and in the middle on this question should be quite illuminating for all.

The show was filmed at the Smith-Carter House in Madison, TN just north of Nashville, a property that has been home to a number of country icons, like Carl Smith, June Carter, Patsy Cline, Marty Stuart, and others over its life. Now the home of Todd Mayo, it is regarded as an important property in the history of country music.

Of the series, Mayo says that he hopes the show starts similar discussions all over the country.

“We hope the series inspires viewers to host and attend their own common ground dinner parties where folks consciously and compassionately listen to those that you have differences of opinions with on issues, and that you can disagree with respect and, in the end, remember the flavor of the casserole they made more than the taste of an opinion you didn’t agree with.”

Check with your local PBS affiliate to see if Ear To The Common Ground will be airing in your region in 2023. You can also find out more about the program online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.