About 10 years ago, Terri Allard had an idea for a television show.
As an Americana-folk singer-songwriter raised in Barboursville, she had been sharing stories for years. Some of those stories belonged to her, but most belonged to other people, she says, and sharing them with an audience is what she’s always loved most.
She had this nagging thought to host a television show “where we tell people’s stories, where we get to the bottom of things. I’m fascinated by people, what makes them tick, why they think the way they think, how they’re doing, how they’re doing what they’re doing.”
Allard called a friend who worked in public relations. “Am I crazy?” she asked. Allard’s friend assured her that she was not and suggested she deliver a proposal for such a show to a local PBS station.
Around the same time, D.J. Crotteau, then WHTJ-PBS station manager, had a similar target: to produce a show that would take viewers all around Charlottesville. Crotteau approached Allard at a Music Resource Center event and introduced himself. “I hear you have an idea,” Allard remembers Crotteau saying. She tried to wriggle out of the conversation, as her proposal wasn’t ready yet, but Crotteau, who’d already heard a bit about her “nagging thought” from their mutual friend, pressed on. Allard gave in, and once they got support from locally owned and operated media company Charlottesville Community Idea Stations, they were off and running.
The first episode of “Charlottesville Inside-Out” aired months later with a crew that included Allard as host, Crotteau as co-producer and Shawn Freude as director, editor and co-producer. The show’s 10th season premieres on WHTJ-PBS and WCVE-PBS on January 12 at 8:30pm, and to celebrate, Allard is hosting a concert at the Paramount January 11 that includes Robert Jospé, Gary Green, Erin Lunsford, Ellis Paul, Devon Sproule, The Pollocks and many other musicians she’s interviewed. The evening will also include highlights from past episodes.
Over the years, Allard estimates they’ve shot about 235 15-minute segments in total—and she and Freude, who have served as co-producers since Crotteau departed PBS in 2009, have no shortage of topics to cover. “For the size of the city, there’s a tremendous amount of culture” in Charlottesville, Allard says, adding that people often approach her in the grocery store with ideas for the show. Art, music, education, science, history, technology, innovation, food, film, nonprofit work—Allard eagerly delves into it all.
She’s skated (and learned how to slide on her knees) with the Derby Dames and tossed pizza dough at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. She learned to juggle with Mark Nizer and slung a hammer on a Habitat for Humanity job site. She arm-wrestled with the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers and rode a polo horse named Zorro.
Allard gets into the action so that her viewers can, too. Jason Pollock, a local musician and member of rock ’n’ roll, blues, folk and psychedelic group The Pollocks, says that “Charlottesville Inside-Out” keeps him in the loop on local goings-on “that often work in obscurity.”
“The 15 minutes, rather than one or two minutes in a conventional news story, that are devoted to each subject allow the viewer to feel the very personal touch that Terri and her crew try to convey to the community,” Pollock says.
Allard interviewed Pollock (who is also a founding member of Seven Mary Three, a hard-rock band that earned mainstream success in the 1990s) for the show in 2015, and Pollock quickly felt Allard’s genuine curiosity about his story—his music, his life. Allard sheepishly admits to “crashing” Pollock’s solo acoustic performance at the end of the episode (as she often does with her fellow musicians, as long as they’re cool with it). But she can’t hide her enthusiasm, and Pollock didn’t seem to mind.
“Terri loves people, loves digging into the details about the small, or big, roles that we play in our community,” Pollock says. “She puts everyone at ease and makes them feel as if their little piece of life’s puzzle is the key to the enigma.”
You can all but see Allard’s heart melt when she talks about orphaned baby raccoons, skunks and squirrels at the Rockfish Wildlife Sanctuary and the staff working to nurture them back to health before releasing them into the wild. She chokes up when talking about Monticello Little League’s Challenger League, which gives kids with special needs the chance to play baseball; and the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville’s trailer park transformation program.
“I’m mushy about it all. Gushy,” Allard says, laughing.
Allard says that while hosting and producing the show has always felt like a natural thing to do—she and her crew are storytellers, after all—she sees “Charlottesville Inside-Out” as a map that plots ways in which we’re all connected to each other here in Charlottesville, and how, if we’re feeling disconnected, we can weave our way in.
“Charlottesville is endlessly fertile with cool people doing amazing things, and chances are good that most of those people know Terri and want to share their stories on her show,” Crotteau says—it’s what’s kept the show on the air for a decade.
“Everyone’s always telling me, ‘You know everybody!’ But I tell them, ‘In Charlottesville, everyone knows everyone,’” Allard insists. But just in case you don’t, she’s there to introduce you.