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Baltimore's Masterminds

Nestor Aparicio Owner, WNST.com - Arianne Teeple
Nestor Aparicio Owner, WNST.com - Arianne Teeple

Baltimore is a city that prides itself on entrepreneurship and an independent spirit. The names of those working at the forefront to make Baltimore the best it can be easily roll off the tongue and are regularly featured in the local and national media. There're also dozens of Baltimoreans who're quietly tolling away bringing an innovative spirit to their work and helping create the future Baltimore.

From AM Radio to Web Media Company

After having knee surgery during the summer of 2006, WNST radio owner and longtime Baltimore sports analyst Nestor Aparicio was spending a lot of time sitting around feeling down about the misfortunes of his beloved Orioles, who were lurching through another lackluster season. He organized a scheduled fan walkout during a late season game at Camden Yards. The effort drew national attention to his station; Aparicio received over 40,000 emails and 58,000 visitors to his website, which promptly crashed.

"As a guy who considers himself a capable entrepreneur, I felt like a complete idiot," says Aparicio.

Lesson learned. Aparicio began an aggressive overhaul of the website, focusing on listener involvement through blogging, social media, and multimedia coverage of local sports. In making WNST an early adopter of the web, Aparicio has been able to offer a drastic improvement to his product during a time when competing outlets are shrinking. He's also used it to circumvent the limitations of traditional radio promotions.

For example, instead of blindly awarding the tickets to the 10th caller, Aparicio holds contests online, which allows him to know who wants the prizes, who is listening, and how to market to them more effectively.

By providing an archive of content for website visitors, and breaking news via Twitter, WNST has emerged as a prime web destination for Baltimore sports. In fact, according to Alexa web analytics, WNST.com has more traffic than Baltimore AM titan WBAL.com, and is the fourth most visited news site in the Greater Baltimore area.

But for all of the technology, Aparicio is loyal to his Dundalk roots. WNST is staffed by native Baltimoreans, and he is adamant about maintaining a strong sense of authenticity.

"If I tried to bring in out of town experts, people would sniff that out instantly," says Aparicio. "I should know, I'm one of the sniffers."

The Glue of the Baltimore Tech Community

Mike Subelsky was a Naval officer at Fort Meade, and was trying to decide between Baltimore and DC. He landed in Charm City, its culture and affordability had won him over. He was a new kid in town, so he put together the Baltimore Improv Group as a way to meet friends. The small hobby group grew to include over 40 people who have put on hundreds of shows around the country. Subelsky had a knack for bringing people together, and he wanted to do more.

If you've attended a networking event in the Baltimore tech community recently, chances are Subelsky had a hand in making it happen, or connecting those who did. Events like Ignite, Refresh, and others have enjoyed success, but Subelsky is looking ahead.

"We've had some great events, and now what we need is some people willing to take risks," says Subelsky. "Baltimore is always going to be a 'bootstrapping' kind of town, and it isn't necessarily the kind of place where tech companies are going to be started by raising millions of dollars."

He'd also like to take the tech community's model of collaboration and apply it to Baltimore's art scene.

"I'm really interested in starting an arts incubator in Baltimore," said Subelsky. "I'd like to reproduce the ETC for artists. One thing I've learned with the improv group is that the internet has made the activation energy for starting a group very low, however finding space is very difficult. There is a lot of vacant space here in Baltimore, and our arts scene is already vibrant. We could provide rehearsal, classroom or storage space, and a mailing address."

Genre Blending Musician Building Baltimore's Rep

Having completed his master's and doctorate in performance, saxaphonist Brian Sacawa returned to Baltimore in 2006. He noticed that music by composers he was interested in was missing from the scene. Fueled by a desire to expand the audience for modern composed music outside of the usual group of enthusiasts, he partnered with composer and turntablist Erik Spangler to create the Contemporary Museum's Mobtown Modern music series.

"The idea was that by infusing the rigors of modern composition with elements of music from more popular genres, we could begin to develop a broader understanding and following for new music, without compromising the integrity of the art," says Sacawa.

He's been encouraged by the steadily increasing crowds at the shows, and most impressed with the diversity in age groups and different types of people in the seats.

Mobtown Modern is attracting attention from outside of the region too. The video announcement for the third season was picked up by the New Yorker's music critic, and Sacawa and Spangler are starting to receive funding for their project from out-of-town institutions as well.

Sacawa is a forceful advocate for the potential of Baltimore's music scene.

"In a city celebrated for its do-it-yourself ethos, there's really no reason that something truly special can't happen here," says Sacawa. "And as we go forward, I hope the Contemporary Museum and Mobtown Modern become a beacon for this kind of change."

Hopkins for Life

Twenty-one years ago, Dr. Redonda Miller arrived on Hopkins Medical campus. She hasn't left since.

Dr. Miller, who is also an associate professor of medicine, was recently appointed to vice president for medical affairs at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the latest acheivement in a career that has sent her all over the institution's halls. She has also served as vice chair for clinical operations of the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine and assistant dean for student affairs for the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

She takes the helm at a time of upheaval in the health care realm, and with potential reforms on the horizon, Dr. Miller is taking steps to ensure that potential liabilities like PPCs (Potentially Preventable Complications) are minimized.

"We need to be very proactive. No one can argue that certain PPCs, such as wrong-site surgery, should never happen," says Dr. Miller. "Patients and third party payers should not bear the cost of such mistakes."

By her own admission, Dr. Miller's list of goals in her new position is long. She has identified some key proirities, and one that will be of relief to those worried about the latest viral threat to public health.

"One goal is to work closely with our hospital epidemiology and infection control group on the current H1N1 pandemic. We need to achieve both effective prevention of the virus through vaccination efforts, as well as treatment of those patients with the actual infection in a setting where resources could be strained."

A Space of Our Own

In 2004, Russell DeoCampo was bartending and making music for his band, Yeveto, when he got the idea to open a bar of his own. His cousin was living in Portland, Oregon, and told him about a theater she had visited that also housed a bar. The fusion of these traditionally seperate places intrigued DeCampo, and he set about bringing the experience to his native Baltimore.

"A lot of people don't necessarily want to go to a gallery, and be a part of what they see as a 'wine-and-cheese' crowd," says DeoCampo. "Having a space that was open to all different types of things and people was important to building a strong arts community."

DeoCampo is interested in challenging the sensibilities of his patrons. He designed the inside of the space so that it could be easily changed to accomodate varying events evening to evening. He welcomes experimental music acts and performance artists into the Windup Space and keeps costs for admission low to encourage an accessible scene for artists to mingle and exchange ideas.

This inclusive philosophy on music is reflected in DeoCampo's overall vision for the venue.

"I like to have people say 'I would never have expected to hear a talk about Greek records I've never heard of for 45 minutes at a bar," says DeCampo. "Being exposed to new things is what this is really about."

DeoCampo would like to grow and possibly open another venue, but not before the potential of Station North as a vibrant neighborhood has been more fully realized.

"If Station North were a game of connect the dots, right now there are only about four or five," he says. "As more people start to invest and turn on their porch lights you get a better sense of community, and that's what I'd really like to see."

Photo captions:

WNST radio owner and longtime Baltimore sports analyst Nestor Aparicio - Photo by Arianne Teeple
Dr. Redonda Miller, Vice President for medical affairs at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an associate professor of Medicine - Photo by Keith Weller
Mike Subelsky, Co-Organizer Ignite Baltimore, Director of Baltimore Improv Group - Photo by Arianne Teeple
Brian Sacawa, Saxaphonist and Co-Curator of Contemporary Museum's Mobtown Modern music series - Photo by Brian Sacawa
Russell DeoCampo, Owner of The Windup Space - Photo by Arianne Teeple

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