How to Get on the Radio: The Classical 89 Interview

by   |  July 8, 2012

Classical 89 is the professional classical music radio station Brigham Young University produces.   Since we moved to Utah,  Classical 89 has become our family’s favorite radio station.   Today My Dream Teacher presents this special interview with three individuals who have worked with this outstanding radio station.   They offer great advice for students on how to collaborate with college radio programs.
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Stephen TannerStephen Tanner, former news anchor at Classical 89 who has since won fourth place in the Hearst Journalism Foundation awards competition, the college radio equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
What he did at Classical 89: I reported news, traffic, and sometimes weather.   I put together a 2 to 4 minute newscast that focuses on local and sometimes national news.   Every morning I would put 3 newscasts together and in the afternoon shifts I would put together two newscasts.   The newsroom at Classical 89 emphasized local news stories because we have BBC News at the top of the hour.
Training this job required: Before working at Classical 89, I was able to learn the basics of radio production in my broadcasting class at BYU.   I learned how to  tell a story in a newscast instead of spouting out facts.   I also learned the basic of the audio editing systems we use at Classical 89 (Adobe Audition).
Hearst Journalist Foundation Award:   With help and support from Classical 89 news director Bruce Seeley and my broadcasting professor Chad Curtis, I put together a couple of news stories.   One was on John Kavenaugh and his invention, the Kavanjo, which is a banjo pick up system that helps amplify the banjo.   The other was on the  Provo Airport opening up for commercial business for the first time in 50 years.   Both stories focused on local people and organizations.   I submitted my work to the Hearst Journalism Foundation.   My work was judged by many professionals in the news industry including; Edward Esposito, Vice President, Information Media, Rubber City Radio Group, Akron, OH;   Kate O’Brian, Senior Vice President, ABC News, New York, NY; and Fred Young, Former Senior Vice President of News, Hearst-Argyle Television, Yardley, PA. I was applauded as having some of the best work out of hundreds of entries from across the country.   In early June, I flew to San Francisco to compete in the finals for the Hearst Journalism awards and placed fourth for radio news. I believe that because of the encouragement and great mentoring from colleagues of mine at Classical 89, I was able to stretch myself and thrive as a radio news journalist.

How he got started: I had always wanted to be involved in the news industry when I was a little kid.   When I was 7 years old my brothers would ask me what I wanted to watch on TV, instead of saying cartoons or sports, I would say I wanted to watch the news.   I thought I wanted to be involved with television news, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 I took a comprehensive career aptitude test, that I learned I worked really well with noises and sound.   In September of 2010, I was offered a 4 month internship at Classical 89 to work with their news team.   By October of 2010, Classical 89 offered me a job to work as an anchor and reporter in the newsroom.   I hadn’t really thought as myself as a radio guy, but the more I worked at Classical 89, the more I realized how much I loved radio.
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Monica RasmussenMonica Rasmussen, current on-air music host at Classical 89.   She has sung with the elite singing groups Concert Choir and BYU Singers.   Additionally, as a pianist she has accompanied these groups as well as several award-winning singers.
What she does at Classical 89: I host the weekday music live and I pre-record weekend time-slots.  My job is part-time, though I also fill in for the full-time hosts when they are on vacation. Recently I filled in for Mark Wait for several days, as well as a few days for Steven Kapp Perry. The other part of the job is preparing for these shifts, which involves some research into the music being played: the composer, the performers or conductor, the history of the piece itself, stuff like that. Another thing to research is current classical music news. On the national or international level that could be things like recently released recordings, new conductor appointments for big orchestras, festivals and tours. On the local level it could be anything that seems relevant to a classical music audience: what famous performers are coming to the area, concerts coming up (though these usually appear in our underwriting scripts, so I don’t often go out of my way to look for this), art exhibits. Just last week I talked a little about the exhibit going on at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art called “Play Me, I’m Yours!”—ten different pianos had been painted by local artists and placed out on the streets in Salt Lake City for the public to play. So basically, an on-air music host is the human connection. Anyone can get on the internet and listen to great classical music, but what (hopefully) makes this different is the insight the host gives into the music, the connection to the broader world of classical music, and the connection to local artists and events.
Training this job required: My training for my current job all happened when I was a student employee at Classical 89. One summer I got a job doing landscaping on campus: mowing lawns, weeding flower beds—hard, sweaty, hot work. But I had a friend who was a choral conducting graduate student, working at Classical 89, who told me they were hiring. So I applied, and was very grateful to get the job and get out of the sun! At the time, I was hired as a production assistant. My job was to take concerts and recitals recorded at BYU and turn them into hour-long radio shows. I generally tracked down the performers, usually students or professors, and recorded an interview with them about the experience of performing, about the music, about their background. Then I used bits of these interviews and interspersed them throughout the concert, along with my own explanatory bits, including an introduction and conclusion. It was really fun. So, of course, part of the process was “voicing,” recording my own voice reading the scripts I had written. After I’d done a few of these, and the management liked my voice, I started training to be an on-air host. The friend who helped me get the job did most of my training for on-air work: coaching me on how to do a good break (a break being the time filled by the announcer between pieces of music), how the on-air equipment and software worked, what buttons to push and when, that sort of thing.
Her favorite part of the job: I love being on the radio live. Absolutely love it. There’s a performance aspect to live radio—telling stories about the music in an engaging way—and as a musician, I love performing! In radio it’s even better, especially for naturally introverted people like myself, because even though you have a huge audience, you don’t have to see any of them! It’s like chilling in a room with a massive library of music, talking to myself about how awesome it all is! But I shouldn’t say talking to myself, because the teacher in me loves sharing what I know and love about music with others–that’s a big part of why I love radio. Second to just being on the radio, I love that my job requires me to constantly keep learning new things about all varieties of music. This definitely fits into my master plan of eventually knowing everything.
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Willhelm EvansWillhelm Evans, former student producer at Classical 89.   He currently resides in Omaha, where he studies English at Creighton University.
What he did at Classical 89: I produced shows and got the music ready for all of the day to day stuff.   I also helped with the stations archives and audio library.  I worked with the full time staff members to produce holiday programing, as well as a daily clip announcing various cultural events in the community.
Training this job required: I did get special training, but it was nothing very serious.  I didn’t need to learn how to write computer programs, but I did learn the ins and outs of some computer programs that I hadn’t been familiar with.
How he got started: It actually was a surprise.  I had a job that I really liked, and that paid me good money, but this was something that came out of nowhere, and it sounded like a fun opportunity.  One of my friends worked at the station, and he was approaching graduation, so he brought me in to talk with Marcus Smith, and I was hired.
Biggest takeaway: One of the great lessons I learned from working at the radio station was the importance of finishing projects on time.  It was my job to make sure that the on-air hosts had all the audio they needed for their shows.  If I didn’t do my job then the hosts wouldn’t have music to play.  I had to be prompt, and diligent to make sure that those projects got done first that needed to get done.
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How to Get Involved with Radio Programs

We asked each of our interviewees to give us advice on how students can get involved in college radio programs.   Here’s what they had to say:
Stephen Tanner: If you want to get involved in college radio programs, learn how to write.   Whether you are reporting the news or writing poetry, writing plays an important role in radio.   Also, just learn to listen.   Listen to people, listen for stories and listen for sounds around you.   If you can put interesting stories from interesting people and intermingle sounds into a piece, you will be far more prepared to get your foot in the door for a college radio station.
Monica Rasmussen: There are tons of ways to get into a radio: through communications internships, production internships, clerical jobs; it takes a lot of different kind of specialties to make public radio work.  But to do it the way I did it, listen to public radio all the time—every chance you get.  You have to have the sound of public radio in your ears.  I grew up listening to public radio in Washington State, and it was practically the only station I listened to.  Listen critically for things announcers say and do that’s successful and that works, what’s irritating and what doesn’t work, etc.  Embrace your music history classes—know as much as you can about every possible style, genre, era of music.  The broader your base of knowledge, the more you’ll sound like an authoritative voice, an insider, someone who really knows what they are talking about.  Also, know what’s happening in classical music currently: who the big names are and why, how to pronounce their names!  This was the sort of thing I think I had going for me that got me the job.  I was hired as a production assistant who didn’t know anything about production!  But I knew music and I knew the sound of good radio, so picking up on the technical aspects of production was just a matter of learning a few new computer programs, and having some good training.
Willhelm Evans: Just go and do it.  The radio station has so many ways for students to get involved.  From producing, to being a guest, and various things in between, there are lots of things that students can do to get involved.

More on: Classical Music, Culture, Education, For Music Students, News
About the Author:

Having achieved so many of her own dreams, Mimi West has devoted her career to paying it forward to the rising generation of musicians. You can follow her on Twitter @mydreamteacher.
Publshed: July 8, 2012  | 
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