Pop Quiz

Jill Britton ’19

Jill Britton ’19

Behind the Tiny Desk

At NPR, Jill Britton ’19 helps produce concerts for a delightfully creative corner of the internet — the Tiny Desk Concert Series. The unplugged, intimate performances are recorded live behind the working desk of series creator Bob Boilen at the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. Behind the cameras sit the desks of other NPR music staff — including Britton. Her work delivers music to the ears of over 7 million subscribers.

Jill Britton standing with Vedo, Usher, and Eric Bellinger
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Jill Britton ’19 hosted singers Vedo, Usher and Eric Bellinger at NPR.

Photo: Courtesy of Jill Britton ’19

Experience Some of Britton’s Favorite Tiny Desk Concerts

Which Tiny Desk artist has made the biggest impact on you?

a. Carla Morrison
b. Allison Russell
c. Randall Goosby

Britton cites Morrison’s expressive nature as the reason for her definitive choice. The song that made its mark on Britton, “Encontrarme,” was written in Spanish. When Morrison explained the lyrics, she talked about “coming home to yourself, whatever that means to you,” Britton says. “There weren’t many dry eyes in the room.”


What makes entries to the Tiny Desk Contest stand out?

a. Raw talent
b. A unique sound
c. Musicianship

All are factors. Through video submissions, new musicians compete for the chance to perform live at the Tiny Desk. The staff at NPR seek out entries that evenly balance originality and strong musical talent. “When artists play the Desk, there’s no autotune, no in-ear monitors and no amplification of vocals,” says Britton. “We look for originality, and we look for artists or bands that exhibit true musicianship.”


Which artist left you most starstruck?

a. Regina Spektor
b. The ladies of SIX the Musical
c. Usher

“He was just as cool as you’d expect him to be.”


How has your perception of music, its creation and its impact on society changed through your work with NPR?

a. It’s deepened my interpersonal perspective
b. It’s made me appreciate the quiet
c. I’ve learned the power of music

Britton has made personal connections with the artists who come to play the Desk. “It’s given me a great perspective on the actual humans behind the music,” she says. She also has learned how music bridges gaps, acknowledging the power of resuming in-person performances following two years of virtual sessions. “Being surrounded by music reminded me of how healing it is,” she says. “It brings us together.”


What is the toughest challenge
of your work?

a. A-lister demands
b. Shoot day to-do lists
c. Technical difficulties

Concert days are a heavy lift. “I’m usually running around like a madman,” she says. “It can be exhausting, but I truly enjoy every second.”


What is your favorite prop?

a. A metal straw used by Alicia Keys
b. A box that held a piece of birthday cake given to Joe Jonas
c. A pair of 3D movie glasses

All of the above! But the collection of items that surround the workspace aren’t props. “It’s a working desk in a building where artists just happen to come to play and record for the internet,” Britton says. “The trinkets on the shelves are things artists have left behind — setlists, sunglasses, cups.”


How did Bucknell prepare you for a life behind the Tiny Desk?

“Collaboration and teamwork were a huge focus in the markets, innovation & design major. Every day, I interact with others and communicate with multiple stakeholders, and I’ve quickly found that I thrive on a team. Bucknell also taught creative problem solving, and I 100% do that during shoot days. When asked questions I don’t know the answer to, I usually find myself saying, ‘I don’t know, but let me figure that out for you!’ ”