Montana Public Radio

John Floridis

Host and Producer

John Floridis, the host and producer of Musician's Spotlight, has been with Montana Public Radio since 1997. He has interviewed over 200 musicians during that time from household names like B.B. King, Alison Krauss and Lyle Lovett, to Montana musicians such as Eden Atwood, Darko Butarac and Tom Catmull. He is also an independent recording and performing artist in his own right and a former registered music therapist.

Ways to Connect

courtesy of the Garifuna Collective

In July 2019, Al Obando of The Garifuna Collective transported host John Floridis from Butte's Montana Folk Festival to the small coastal Caribbean towns where the Garifuna community (also known as the Garinagu) speaks an endangered language and sings and dances what UNESCO calls "a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity." The Collective, an intergenerational group of musicians from Belize, galvanizes audiences around the world with lyrical call-and-response melodies and driving, overlapping rhythms, recalling a heritage of West African percussion and indigenous Arawak and Carib singing.

Ani DiFranco at Montana Public Radio, August 2019.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio


With her twentieth studio album, Binary, singer/songwriter/activist/poet/DIY trendsetter Ani DiFranco returns to territory that brought her to the world’s attention more than twenty-five years ago. One of the first artists to create her own label in 1990, she has been recognized among the feminist pantheon for her entrepreneurship, social activism, and outspoken political lyrics. At a time of global chaos and confusion, DiFranco's punk edge remains sharp, her writing clear.

Tom Beetz (CC-BY-2.0)

Pat Martino had been playing jazz guitar professionally for 19 years in 1980 when a severe brain aneurysm sent him into life-saving surgery - and then into life-altering amnesia. He barely recognized his own parents, let alone his guitar, and felt as if he had been "dropped cold, empty, neutral, cleansed ... naked." Martino's long journey back from that musical erasure began with his father playing back his own recordings for him. Slowly, he taught himself how to play again. By the early '90s, Martino had returned to the soul-jazz, post-bop and jazz-rock fusion scene.

Complete this sentence: "Béla Fleck is to the banjo as ______ is to the _______." Louis Armstrong to the trumpet?  Jimi Hendrix to the guitar? Clara Rockmore to the theremin? Among North American banjo players, only Earl Scruggs is as legendary (to diehard fans of bluegrass) for pioneering new techniques on this instrument.  From his early tutelage with Tony Trischka and nine years with the New Grass Revival to ingenuity with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and masters of other genres - as well as his duo with partner Abigail Washburn - Fleck's reinvention of the banjo goes beyond virtuosity. He's a banjo visionary.

Edgar Winter at Gulfstream Parkin 1998.
Flickr user, Carl Lender. CC-BY-2.0

The 1970s hits "Frankenstein" and "Free Ride" may have been your gateway to keyboardist, guitarist, saxophonist, percussionist, singer, songwriter and record producer Edgar Winter. But Winter is no two-hit wonder; his music is all over "Netherworld," "Air America," "Dazed and Confused," "My Cousin Vinny," "Wayne's World 2" and "The Simpsons." He's toured in Ringo Starr's band and played with his band on late-night tv talk shows. Winter even popped up in a Miller Lite commercial, which may be the real proof that his work isn't synonymous with just rock & roll, but American culture.

If you've attended a Missoula Symphony Orchestra and Chorale concert since 2007, you've watched energetic music director Darko Butorac on the podium, gesturing the classical masterworks to life. 2019 marks the year when he trims his directing duties down from three orchestras to two, in Asheville and Tallahassee. Butorac talks with host John Floridis about his final MSO season, his favorite pieces to conduct, his top five "desert island" composers, and parallels between conducting music and shooting hoops.

Justin Townes Earle carries the names of a pair of troubadour heroes: his father, Steve Earle and his father’s mentor, Townes Van Zandt. Like both, Justin is a recording, performing musician; like both, addiction is one of his oldest adversaries. And like both, Justin Townes Earle has become a sharp songwriter, conjuring, as Skip Anderson puts it, “memorable characters into relatable songs that Americana fans love and latter-day country radio loves to overlook.”

Moira Smiley
Michael Wilson

She sings “old modal folk songs” with Solas one week and performs with the indie band tUnE-yArDs the next. You might catch her with her own group as they re-imagine the piano miniatures of Bartók, or at a choir rehearsal of her original choral compositions.  Musical improviser and experimenter Moira Smiley returns to “Musician’s Spotlight” on the heels of her latest release, “Unzip The Horizon.” About it, she says: “The lonesome freedom and experience of years on tour were midwife to this music, all about seeing down to the origins of anxiety and up into the freedoms we ignore.”

Their hypnotic repertoire may be more than 700 years old, but every time the members of Riyaaz Qawwali take the stage, they introduce a new audience to the rhythms and melodies of qawwali. For the last twelve years, from their home in Austin, Texas, the band has toured to bring alive the joyous sounds of this South Asian music, played on harmonium, violin, tabla and handclaps, and sung in Urdu, Punjabi, Persian and Brajbhasha.

Russ Nasset at Montana Public Radio studios April 19, 2016.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio


If you attended college in Missoula any time in the last 25 years, you probably closed down the Union Club dancing to Russ Nasset and the Revelators at least once. Nasset takes his inspiration from the songs and styles passed down to him from a childhood spent in Shelby, on Montana’s Hi-Line.

"I love that '50s and '60s honky-tonk sound. I like to say we rock up the country and country up the rock."

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