Watch the 2021 KCRW radio race winners from India to Santa Monica

On November 13th, hundreds of producers from around the world – from India to Ireland, London to Las Vegas, Sydney to Santa Monica – spun their recorders in full swing to overnight an audio story for the 9th annual 24-hour radio race to shoot from KCRW. In the end, we received 101 submissions and narrowed these down to ten finalists and three Specialty Awards.

Our expert crew of professional radio judges have rated their favorites and the results are there. The top winners presented here were based on creativity, storytelling, technical ability and the inclusion of this year’s theme: Don’t you want my neighbor? Additional points were awarded for taking up the 5pm bonus challenge that added the sound of a knock on a door.

This year’s jurors included:

Scott Newman – Founder and Creative Director, work x work & On-Air Fest

Julie Shapiro – Executive producer, Radiotopia / PRX

Nick Quah – Podcast Reviewer, Vulture / New York Magazine

Sean Rameswaram – Moderator of “Today, explains” / VOX

Sam Sanders – Moderator of “It’s Been A Minute with Sam Sanders” / NPR

The kitchen sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) – “The kitchen sisters present …” / Radiotopia

Congratulations to our winners! First place will air on Thursday, December 2, on the morning edition of KCRW and All Things Considered; second place will air on Wednesday, December 1, on All Things Considered; third place will air Tuesday, November 30th on All Things Considered; and this year’s LA Awards winner will air on KCRW’s Greater LA on Tuesday, November 30th.

To hear all of the submissions to this year’s KCRW Radio Race, check out KCRW’s Soundcloud playlist.

First place

Team: Jude Brewer
Story: “Buzzy”
Price: $ 1,000 contract to air the play on KCRW and other incredible sponsorship awards

You say smell is the strongest sense tied to memory, but here producer Jude Brewer makes a moving argument for the evocative emotional potency of sound. Instead of voicemails, letters, or other tangible mementos, the sound of a skateboard remains Brewer’s only connection to his late childhood best friend and neighbor, Buzzy. Beyond the beautifully crafted audio design and editing of the piece, Brewer vibrates the sound as its own character, guiding the listener into his ability to trigger – and maintain – memories of happy days he spent perfecting post-school kickflips and the to enjoy unwritten opportunities and the potential of youth.

“The immersive sound design pulls you under its spell and drives you through the piece (crucial given the skating references). The narrative offers as much speculation as there is history, and he sounds natural and pleasant to share this slice of his past. The dynamic he is exploring is relatable and no doubt makes the listener (or at least that listener) think about old friends who have disappeared, where they are now, etc. Overall, this feels nostalgic but not sentimental and holds some meaning for humor so that it doesn’t come off as too precious. Excellent use of the medium! “- Julie Shapiro, Executive producer, Radiotopia / PRX & Ear Hustle

“I was really taken with Jude’s piece. It really captured a certain mood or feeling, and while there are some aspects of the sound design that were literal, it was pleasantly off the center how that sound design got into the intended headspace, and I really appreciated that. ” – Nick Quah, Podcast Reviewer, Vulture / New York Magazine

“It had a mood, meaning and a background noise that captivated me from the second number on.” – Sean Rameswaram, Moderator of “Today, explains”

“BUZZY stood out for its overall deafening production, unusual narrative and delivery style, fine and original sound design, and heart of the story. A compelling piece and beautiful rendition of the subject. Love the way Jude the story told and the rhythm of its mixture. ” – The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva)

Second place

Team: Anonymous hot dog slices
Story: “Veranda light”
Price: $ 500 contract to broadcast the pieces on KCRW and other incredible sponsorship awards

A mischievous piano reduction and seamless sound design enliven this delightful story of a cold war for a hot light between neighbors and their unexpected path back to common ground.

“The story of porch lighting was just a joy! What a joy. Such a compelling, unique story with a twist AND a great payoff. Wonderfully fast-paced and ultimately very fulfilling!” – Sam Sanders, Presenter, “It was a minute with Sam Sanders” / NPR

“I was [compelled] through the developing relationship with the neighbor. It is at the same time a simple negotiation between literal neighbors, at the same time a bigger look into the perspectives, mutual understanding and with a funny ending. “- Scott Newman, Founder & Creative Director, work x work & On-Air Fest

third place

Team: Chris Attaway
Story: “Tump-Tump-Tump”
Price: $ 300 contract to broadcast the pieces on KCRW and other incredible sponsorship awards

In an eerie, real version of “The call comes from inside the house”, producer Chris Attaway uses nerve-wracking film music and sound design to document the story of a woman and the neighbor about the strange noises that come from the supposedly uninhabited basement of her new apartment who was never there – or was it?

Newbie Award

Best piece from a team of first-time audio producers

Team: Boen Wang and Susan Peterson
Story: “Think of me when you see the stars”
Price: Featured on; One-year KCRW membership for each team member; Considerations for Placement on PRX Remix

Neighbors are more than the people you live next to, whom newcomers Boen Wang and Susan Peterson remind us of with the story of an astronomer who dreams of finding herself – physically and spiritually – in our galaxy and how she contributes to it Bringing new generations and communities into our sparkling neighbors in the sky.

LA award

Best radio story with a strong sense of LA

Team: Augusta Chapman
Story: “Suburban Coyote Golf League”
Price: $ 100 contract to air in Greater LA from KCRW, selected by GLA’s production team; Featured on; One-year KCRW membership for each team member; Considerations for Placement on PRX Remix

We in Los Angeles are no strangers to the coyotes lurking in our neighborhoods. Sometimes they stay in the shade, but sometimes they are much more present. Augusta Chapman meets one of her more intrusive neighbors.

Social butterfly award

Team with the most convincing social commitment during the entire race

Team: Do tell
Story: Untitled
Price: $ 100 cash; KCRW swag and one year KCRW membership for each team member

The producer and storyteller Diana Opong starts her first KCRW Radio Race. In her piece she reflects on the experience of foreignness (Seattle Freeze) and how she seeks warmth when she does not feel welcome in the spaces in which she lives or creates.


Price: Featured on; One-year KCRW membership for each team member; Considerations for Placement on PRX Remix

Sonja Cho Swanson
Story: “Throw shit people off the roof”

Ten years ago, in New York City, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee discovered that her balcony had a seemingly magical ability to catch the debris thrown from the roof of her building.

Team ARN
Story: “My white whale is a ferret”

It takes more than a vicious ferret to save a vile Facebook group.

Tired of bones
Story: “Neighbors Pasta and Pie”

In a suburb of Los Angeles, a pan of lasagna brings a quarter together.

Shrikant Joshi
Story: “Do you want to be my neighbor?”

The only context in which Mr. Rogers’ metaphorical question – “Don’t you want to be my neighbor?” – takes an absolutely literal meaning … when you are looking for an apartment.

Team: Scott Wen and David Gonzalez
Story: “The persimmon tree”

Some people really risk it for the biscuit … but in this case the biscuit is a hanging persimmon and the risk is that the 70-year-old woman will climb the tree to grab it.

Snack club
Story: “The fruit shop next door”

New York-based producer Dylan Heuer studies the relationship between two Greek Queens fruit markets located next to each other only to find that – even in business – you need your neighbors to survive (even if they’re your biggest competitors!).

Many thanks to our sponsors: AIR, Apogee Electronics, Descript and PRX.

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