Nation gets a taste of musical duo Atomic Sharks

Musical duo the Atomic Sharks have already made their presence known on Fort Wayne’s own PBS station WFWA, thanks in no small part to Shark Kristopher Hensler’s day job as program director for PBS39. But this summer, the Atomic Sharks, which includes popular Fort Wayne guitarist Kenny Taylor, took that relationship up a notch and in the process put their unique brand of musicianship and entertainment in the national spotlight.

Their Music Minute, a short piece explaining various aspects of music, aired not only locally between PBS children’s shows, but has also been picked up by 30 stations around the country. This past summer, their instructional one-hour PBS pledge break program, Play the Ukulele with the Atomic Sharks, aired through most of Indiana and many markets throughout the country, including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami. Airing on about 125 stations, a little more than half of the PBS stations nationally, gave the Atomic Sharks a new forum for their unique brand of island-inspired fun. It also gave them the opportunity to build a bigger set than they’ve used in the past.

“I’ve done a lot of TV over the years, but I’ve never done anything this elaborate,” said Hensler. “They gave us $30,000 for the set and brought in a set designer from Atlanta. A company in Indianapolis actually put it together, and there was a palm tree in the middle of it. The set for the Music Minute cost about 100 bucks, and I was the one who did all of the construction for it.”

In addition to the show, PBS sent in pledge break hosts to interview the pair during the breaks. And, as is typically the case for pledge programming, Atomic Shark merchandise was used as a thank you for pledging to the station.

“We shot the show in March and spent three or four weeks editing it and putting it together for the August pledge drive,” said Hensler. “Then we also had to record the CD and put together the book which was offered for a pledge. And there’s a DVD of the special. The largest package included all of those items and a ukulele and was called The Big Kahuna.”

Taylor, who works at Sweetwater Sound, says he’s heard great feedback about the show, which will continue to air during pledge drives for the next three years.

“A lot of people have been coming up to me at Sweetwater and have been excited. They think it was an awesome show, and I think it came off really well myself. I can’t wait to do it again,” said Taylor.

While those projects are property of PBS, the duo has big plans ahead which include more Music Minutes, a show for commercial television and even an animated series. Two songs from the CD, Everybody Limbo and Just One More, are also available on iTunes. There’s a lot to look forward to for the Atomic Sharks, and they’re ready to embrace whatever is next.

“I don’t know where it’s going,” said Taylor. “But we’re headed that way.”


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