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Navigating the Universe with StarDate Radio Host Billy Henry

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You could call Billy Henry, the current host of StarDate radio, a Renaissance man. This month, Billy celebrates his first anniversary as narrator during the radio program’s 42-year history. He is only the third narrator of the show, after taking the reins from Sandy Wood, the voice of StarDate for 28 years.

Beginning as a telephone answering service for The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory, StarDate today serves as its outreach and public education arm. The program is the longest-running science feature in national syndication. Its two-minute daily segments are heard over 300 radio stations nationwide, including over thirty in Texas.

Navigating the Universe with StarDate Radio Host Billy Henry

Photo: Mcdonaldobservatory.org.

The Encyclopedia Brittanica equates the terms “Renaissance Man” and “Universal Man,” referring to the 15th century Italian Renaissance idea that a person should fully embrace knowledge and develop his talents as completely as possible. Billy Henry has done just that, including composing music for television and film, piloting a plane, performing musical theater, lecturing at area universities, and touring with international recording artists.

Navigating the Universe with StarDate Radio Host Billy Henry

Photo: Mcdonaldobservatory.org.

Growing up with dyslexia and the frustration of being called a slow learner, Billy turned to music—the doorway to his future. One of his great uncles, E. J. Hopkins, was acclaimed World Champion Fiddler in 1967 and 1968. Another musically talented uncle taught him to play, and he progressed to guitar, mandolin, banjo, piano, and several woodwind instruments, even building the ones he couldn’t afford to purchase. His singing talent led him to perform musical theater at venues such as the State Theater in Austin and in the Chicago area. He excelled as a composer and production artist, working for a company called Tequila Mockingbird (a tongue-in-cheek reference to the novel by Harper Lee), pleasing clients such as Southwest Airlines, Budweiser, and Rolling Stone Magazine. It was here he met the colleagues who, years later, would ask him to be the next voice of StarDate. He teaches at both Texas State University and The University of Texas at Austin and operates his own music business, MuzicWiz Productions. He periodically tours as a musician and engineer with internationally known artists The Chicks and Shakira.

Navigating the Universe with StarDate Radio Host Billy Henry
Photo: Hubblesite.org. Westerlund 2 star cluster.

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