LOCAL FOLKS: ICC instructor sings about the weather

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The singing weatherman didn’t always care about the weather.
He had never picked up a guitar until he finished college.
Yet when those two interests began to merge in his 20s, Bob Swanson quickly found his niche.
Swanson, 40, has written several children’s songs about the weather and often performs them for groups. The Itawamba Community College instructor has his own CD and a website that touts his brand of musical meteorology.
The journey to becoming Stormin Bob Swanson began innocently. In 2000, when he was working as a TV weatherman in Fort Smith, Ark., Swanson was assigned by his station, KHOG, to speak about the weather to a group of 4-year-old children.
The night before his presentation, he tried to spruce up his act by getting out his guitar and writing a weather song. The next day he played “The Weather Riddle Song,” and it was a hit. Shortly afterward, he wrote and performed “The Weather Wiggle,” also a hit.
Suddenly, he had his shtick.
“You can make your career so much more enjoyable if you can work your talents into your day job,” said Swanson, who now lives in Tupelo with his wife Meredith and two sons.
Swanson, in his second year of teaching physical science and astronomy at ICC, developed a routine for those school visits in which he would spend half of his time doing hands-on demonstrations and the other half singing his songs. He’d make 80 to 100 school visits each year, often on his own time.
“I liked the days off and giving the presentations more than I liked being in the studio,” he said.
Although his current job fills up many of his week days, he still makes appearances for children’s groups whenever he can on weekends and during the summer.
Swanson, who grew up in Pennsylvania, taught himself to play guitar. He was a quick study – with a knack for writing lyrics – and soon learned how to play harmonica, banjo, accordion and mandolin.
It was also later in life that he decided to become a weatherman. After receiving his undergraduate degree and working as a high school science teacher, Swanson decided he wanted to be on television. He determined that his best route would be through weather.
So he got a master’s degree from Penn State, worked six years in Fort Smith and Johnson City, Tenn., and then spent four years as assistant weather editor at USA Today.
Now he’s back to teaching, realizing that he prefers “performing” for live audiences. It is part of the reason he loves being the singing weatherman so much.
“Teaching is my milieu,” he said. “It has taken me time to realize that.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION on Swanson, visit his website, www.storminswanson.com

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