Heather McClain

Assistant Producer, Essential Pittsburgh

Heather McClain is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, originally from the Main Line Philadelphia area. Her interests in the environment and sustainability have been reflected throughout her career, most recently as a news anchor and features reporter/producer at WBZH Community Radio in Pottstown, PA. At WBZH, Heather was host and producer of the weekly program Our Environment, and worked part-time as production assistant for the PBS TV program Growing a Greener World. Heather started her career at the CBS Early Show and the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. She developed her public radio skills at WRTI public radio at Temple University.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:58 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Meet etta cetera, the Woman Who Married Pittsburgh

etta cetera, a performance artist, political and social activist, married the city of Pittsburgh at Point State Park last May in front of a crowd of supporters.
Tom Jefferson performanceheartist.wordpress.com


"Today I promise, in order to form a more loving union, I will fight for justice, I will work toward peace, I will mobilize in defense of the commons, I will promote the general welfare of all life, and weave the braids of liberation to my movement for the future generations " - etta cetera

When 90.5 WESA Weekend Host Liz Reid found out she'd be filling in as host of Essential Pittsburgh, she took to her Facebook page and asked followers who they'd like to hear interviewed on the show.

Overwhelmingly, people wanted to hear a conversation with etta cetera, a prison justice activist and performance "heartist" who married the city of Pittsburgh earlier this summer. Etta joins us to talk about why she married the city and how it ties in with her advocacy and prison justice work.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:50 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Penn State Football Heads to Ireland for First International Game

Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland hosts Penn State and the University of Central Florida this Saturday for their season opener.
Credit Florian Christoph / Flickr

The Penn State University football team plays its season opener this Saturday against the University of Central Florida, with a unique spin. The big game is scheduled to be played at the Croke Park Stadium in Dublin, Ireland. Croke Park officials expect the game to bring $30 million into the Irish economy, thanks to an expected 16,000 visitors from the US.

John Affleck, Knight Chair in Sports Journalism at Penn State is in Dublin with a group of student reporters. He says the success of previous American college football games held in Dublin caused Irish officials to take notice.

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:22 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

The Devil's Arithmetic, a Tale of Time Travel and the Holocaust Brought to Life on Stage

Young cast members in the Prime Stage play, The Devil's Arithmetic. From left to right: Victoria Perl as Esther, Lily Lauver as Shifre, Julia Zoratto as Hannah and Megan Krull as Rachel
Credit Rebecca S. Antal / Prime Stage

The Devil’s Arithmetic is an award-winning historical novel about time travel and the Holocaust by author Jane Yolen.

The book has been adapted for the theater by Lancaster, PA resident Barry Kornhauser. This weekend Prime Stage Theater gives the first performance of the adapted play, at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

The story centers on Hannah, a modern day teenager who is mysteriously transported back to the time of the Holocaust. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:42 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Like Black Friday For Vinyl, Local Shops Gear Up For Record Store Day

Flipping through the stacks at Jerry's Records.
Heather McClain 90.5 WESA

What started eight years ago as a gathering of store owners and employees celebrating the culture of independent record stores has evolved to include major music industry events, limited edition album releases and people camped out in front of record stores.

Saturday is National Record Store Day, and it’s one of the biggest days of the year for record stores and collectors alike.

“I like that it was started to bring back the whole record store experience,” said James “Selecta” Scoglietti, part owner of 720 Records in Lawrenceville. “People used to go every weekend to their local record store, and it was a social event. It was like a barbershop, where guys and gals would come in and discuss the latest hot tracks of the week. So I love that it’s bringing that back to the mainstream.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
3:55 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

President Obama Wants to Model CCAC's Job-Driven Approach to Education

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited the Community College of Allegheny County's West Hills Center campus in Oakdale Wednesday to announce system-wide reforms of federal job training programs.

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Essential Pittsburgh
6:59 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Making Sense of Pittsburgh's Nonsensical Roads

An aerial view of Pittsburgh
Credit Phil Quinn / wikipedia

Pittsburgh’s topography is pretty unique as far as cities go. It's essentially a peninsula surrounded by mountains. And with the city's numerous bridges and triangular shape, facilitating efficient traffic patterns has long been a challenge for the region.

Pittsburgher Phil Anderson runs the popular blog The Nonsensical Roads of Pittsburgh, where he records his observations about bizarre traffic and road layouts. He's driven in cities throughout the world and seems to find Pittsburgh infrastructure both amusing and frustrating.

“You have stages of driving on Pittsburgh roads," he said. "There’s anger, grief, and eventually you have acceptance.”

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:35 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

With the Great Lakes Frozen, A Rare Flock of Seagulls Roosts in Pittsburgh

A rare sight: Gulls take flight against a backdrop of downtown Pittsburgh.
Heather McClain 90.5 WESA

Thousands of birds, commonly called seagulls, have made a rare migration south to roost at Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Bob Mulvihill, an ornithologist at the National Aviary said the gulls ("seagull" is actually a colloquial term, he explained), normally roost at the Great Lakes this time of year, but the extreme cold from the polar vortex has frozen the surfaces.

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Essential Pittsburgh
9:16 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Watch As Pittsburghers, Including Our Own Paul Guggenheimer, Get a Handle on Curling

Essential Pittsburgh host, Paul Guggenheimer, gets a handle on how to get these stones to curl across the ice.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

Curling is growing to be one of the most watched sports at the Winter Olympics. Although it may be a little while before Team USA wins a medal, Pittsburgh has a growing curling culture.

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Arts & Culture
11:58 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Stream It! Music to Make You Move in 2014

Stick with it!
Credit yuki55 / flickr

The first month of 2014 is almost over, how's your fitness resolution going?

The New Years' season craziness at the gym should be thinning out, now's the time to really stick with that routine.

Cindy Howes, host of the Morning Mix at 91.3 WYEP and program director Kyle Smith have helped compile a playlist with some of their favorite songs from 2013 to keep you moving as the year progresses. Follow it and stream it anywhere.

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Arts & Culture
10:07 am
Thu January 9, 2014

'I Got Dibs!' Pittsburgh Isn't the Only Home of the Parking Chair

Credit Lauren Zawilenski / Chicago Dibs Tumblr

It's that time of year again, snow inevitably falls, you spend time shoveling out a parking spot on the street, spread salt, then have to worry about someone pulling into that space while you're away. 

So what do you do? Mark it with a chair? Maybe another piece of patio furniture? How about a tiki torch or your discarded Christmas tree?

The Tumblr blog, Chicago Dibs has been collecting photos of parking spot markers with photos that range from straight forward...

To straight up odd.

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Environment & Energy
1:56 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Passion for Pawpaws with Pittsburgh's Pawpaw Ambassador

Pawpaws have the flavor and texture of a tropical fruit, but they're native to northern regions of the US.
Credit The Pawpaw Book/Andy Moore / Flickr

Andy Moore is a writer who lives on the North Side of Pittsburgh. In 2013, The Allegheny Front interviewed him about his proclivity for the pawpaw, a fruit that's native to Pennsylvania and many other regions of the United States. The Allegheny Front recently listed the story as one of their favorites of 2013, and it's one of mine too.

AF Reporter Hal B. Klein says:

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:17 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Tuesday Rundown: A New Path for City Council & A Potential Path for the State

Pittsburgh's newly elected City Council President ,Bruce Kraus addressing the crowd in council chambers Monday.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

These topics air Tuesday January 7, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:18 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

Monday Rundown: A Community Approach to Higher Ed & Pittsburgh Refugee Healthcare

The Saxifrage School utilizes the whole city as a campus such as Garfield Community Farms and this living room/classroom at the PULSE house on the East End.
Credit saxifrage / twitter

These topics air Monday January 6, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:00 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Rebroadcast: Addressing the Achievement Gap in Pittsburgh

Audience member asks question of the panel at the community forum on the achievement gap
Credit Tammy Terwelp / 90.5 WESA

This program is a previously broadcast show, listen to it here.

“Where’s the moral outrage over the lack of equity in education,” asked Duquesne University Dean of Education Olga Welch who attended a recent community forum on the achievement gap held by 90.5 WESA.

“Where is it,” replied forum panel member Jeremy Resnick, a founder of Propel Charter Schools, “it’s missing.”

Dozens of parents, teachers and administrators crowded the Community Broadcast Center recently for a public forum as part of WESA’s Life of Learning initiative.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:00 am
Thu January 2, 2014

Revealing Interviews With Our Favorite Authors

Author Amy Tan is just one of the award-winning authors we've featured on the show.
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

In the nearly two years that we've been on the air, we've interviewed a variety of authors. We revisit conversations with three of those authors. 

The story of Maya Angelou's extraordinary life has been told in her bestselling biographies. Last May she shared with us the story of her relationship with her Mother, which is chronicled in the book Mom and Me and Mom.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:42 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Looking for a New Year's Resolution? How About Social Change

Credit creepyed / flickr

Resolution season was never a big deal in my house growing up. When someone in my family attempted a resolution, it was always health related. And the endeavor was usually abandoned by Valentine's Day, only to be rekindled at Lent, then ditched again.

The goals that actually stuck were the ones inspired by lessons learned randomly throughout the year, usually with an emphasis on social good. For example, after returning from environmental summer camp one year, I convinced my family to always snip the plastic rings that hold 6-packs of soda. The uncut rings are extremely harmful to aquatic life.

In the process of exploring 2014 resolution ideas, I came across an inspiring list for teens and parents from The Road Less Traveled - ideas I could have used in the 1990s and great ones for today.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:00 am
Tue December 31, 2013

Musical Guests and Interviews to Ring in the New Year

Credit Heath Alseike / Flickr

Since the debut of our show in 2012, some of England's best rock singer/songwriters have performed in Pittsburgh. We invited a few of them to join us for conversations on the show.

On today's program you'll hear our interview with two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Graham Nash, as well as Billy Bragg. 

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:00 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Stories of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Past & Present

Stories that show why the Steelers are worth cheering for.
Credit Drew Allen / flickr

We bring you excerpts of conversations with Pittsburgh Steelers, past and present.

Author Gary Pomerantz's book about the Steelers, Their Life's Work addresses what it means to be teammates in the truest sense.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:00 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Public Radio Hosts & Contributors in 2013

Public Radio Host, Diane Rehm in studio at the WESA Community Broadcast Center
Credit Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

If you listen to 90.5 WESA on a regular basis, you know that we carry a number of your favorite NPR programs.

For today's show we've assembled interviews with a few of the hosts/contributors featured on those programs.

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Essential Pittsburgh
7:00 am
Thu December 26, 2013

Health & Innovation Highlights in 2013

Jan Scheuermann, who has quadriplegia, brings a chocolate bar to her mouth using a robot arm she is guiding with her thoughts.
Credit UPMC

From robotic arms to treating high blood pressure, in 2013 we delved into many stories dealing with health innovation.

We'll revisit our conversation with Dr. Michael Boninger and a quadriplegic woman named Jan Scheuermann. A robotic arm surgically attached to her brain allows her to perform basic tasks with focused thought.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:37 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

Essential Pittsburgh Staff Choice: Compelling Conversations of 2013

The folks behind Essential Pittsburgh share their choice conversations of 2013.
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Here at 90.5 WESA there are three people who work specifically on Essential Pittsburgh. In addition to host Paul Guggenheimer, there's producer Marcus Charleston and assistant producer Heather McClain.

For this special edition of the program, we offer excerpts from just a few of our choice interviews out of the hundreds we aired in 2013. 

There's a compelling conversation on the death penalty with Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking," a discussion of what it's like aging out of the foster care system and a tale of two classic movie theaters.

Listen to some of our favorites, and let us know about some of your favorites from 2013 at esspgh@wesa.fm.

Essential Pittsburgh
2:01 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Highlighting the Year's Top WESA Feature Reports

Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA News

Looking back at some of Pittsburgh’s top news stories of 2013, 90.5 WESA Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar focuses on features produced in the WESA newsroom.

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Essential Pittsburgh
2:01 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

WESA News Editors Look at Top News Stories of 2013

From the indictment of a police chief to a bridge covered in yarn. Looking back at the top local news stories of 2013.
Credit Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh region was impacted by many major news stories during 2013. From a breakthrough in the stalemate over funding for transportation infrastructure, to a police scandal and the election of a new mayor.

WESA’s Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar gives some perspective on the year’s top stories.

At the state level, privatization of government functions were a theme for the Corbett Administration.

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Arts & Culture
3:14 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Is Pittsburgh an Icon of Healthy Living?

Affordable living linked to health benefits, including decreased risk of stress-related diseases and better mental health.
Credit Flickr user Jason Pratt

Apparently living a Pittsburgh lifestyle is good for your health.

Well, not if you think that simply means eating pierogies and Primanti's everyday. 

The Huffington Post focused on nine lessons Pittsburgh offers on living well, as part of their Living Well, On Location series.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:19 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Friday Rundown: Looking Back at Pittsburgh News of 2013 & Being Thankful in 2014

From the Bucs to a big 'ol duck, looking back at what made news in 2013.
Credit Kelsey Diercks / Flickr

These topics air Friday December 20, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA, with special guest host Kevin Gavin.

To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:49 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

George Washington's Near Death Experiences in Western PA

Historic markers along Washington's route through the Western Pennsylvania countryside. They mark a driving route that follows young George Washington's first military and diplomatic venture in the Fall and Winter 1753 - 1754.
Heather McClain 90.5 WESA

260 years ago this month, a 21-year old major in the Virginia militia named George Washington had two brushes with death in the Pittsburgh area, which could have dramatically altered the course of American history. Decades before he became the father of our county, Washington was on a dangerous diplomatic mission in the Western Pennsylvania wilderness.

We explored this little known chapter of Washington's life with historical re-enactor Daniel Nehrer, and retired Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Martin J. O'Brien at the Harmony Museum, not far from where Washington was on December 27, 1753, at the boundary of French and English territory.

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Essential Pittsburgh
1:20 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

Thursday Rundown: The App of the Year and Growth in the City of Asylum

The colorful buildings of the City of Asylum on the North Side.
Credit Joseph A / Flickr

These topics air Thursday December 19, 2013 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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Essential Pittsburgh
5:35 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

“Made in PA” Label Would Show That Local Manufacturing Isn't Dead

Crayola Crayons, made in Easton, PA are just one of the products that would receive a "Made in PA" label.
Credit Dyanna Hyde / Flickr

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has introduced a bill to create a "Made in PA" program, complete with a logo and website to encourage consumers to purchase products made close to home.

State Rep. Eli Evankovich and David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, say consumers already look for labels such as "Made in the USA," while shopping.

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Essential Pittsburgh
4:51 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Kevin Sousa’s New Restaurant Could be a Community-Driver for Braddock

Kevin Sousa, award-winning chef and owner of Salt of the Earth restaurant in East Liberty, has an ambitious plan to bring a community-driven restaurant to Braddock, PA.

And he’s appealing to the Pittsburgh community for help.

Sousa is working with community groups such as the Braddock Youth Project and Grow Pittsburgh to create a community-based, world class restaurant, which would include housing.

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Economy & Business
4:09 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Namaste and the Business of Yoga in Pittsburgh

An outdoor yoga class in Grandview Park
Credit BYS yoga studio / Facebook

From the downward sun salutation, to the archer, yoga enthusiasts are striking poses across the country. And yoga studios are springing up everywhere.

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, the classic techniques of yoga date back more than 5 thousand years, and come from a desire to develop greater personal freedom, health, and self understanding.

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