Early life and education
Abumrad was raised in Tennessee where he attended the University School of Nashville and where his father, Naji Abumrad, is a doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His mother is a scientist. Abumrad attended Oberlin College, where he studied creative writing and music composition with a special interest in electronic and electroacoustic music, receiving his B.A. in 1995.
Abumrad has reported and produced documentaries for a number of local and National Public Radio programs, including On the Media, PRI‘s Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Democracy Now!, and WNYC‘s “24 Hours at the Edge of Ground Zero”.
Since 2005, Abumrad has produced and co-hosted the nationally syndicated program Radiolab. His background in music has influenced the sound of Radiolab. The 14 December 2009 Radiolab episode In C includes a musical piece by Abumrad remixing the Terry Riley composition In C.
Abumrad was named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow; the foundation cited his “engaging audio explorations of scientific and philosophical questions” which “captivate listeners and bring to broadcast journalism a distinctive new aesthetic”, while using “his background as a composer to orchestrate dialogue, music, and sound effects into compelling documentaries that draw listeners into investigations of otherwise intimidating topics.”
Abumrad also produced and hosted The Ring & I, an insightful, funny, and lyrical look at the enduring power of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It aired nationally and internationally and earned ten awards, including the prestigious 2005 National Headliner Grand Award in Radio.[10