Richard Stroobant, Instructor, RTBN/SAIT, Calgary, Alb., Canada
If you’ve thought about what’s next in your career, after radio, you’ve no doubt thought about making it in the VO business, or with your own production company or advertising agency. But there’s another career path that you might not have considered… Teaching. No, not math and science, but teaching the very things you’ve mastered over the years in radio. Richard Stroobant enjoyed a 20-year run at Calgary’s legendary CJAY-FM as an award winning producer when he began to see the writing on the wall in an economy that no longer places great value on well seasoned talent, but rather places a target on their back when budget time comes around. While good jobs teaching radio may be even scarcer than good jobs in production, if you can find one, you may find a home well suited for your next twenty years. Richard is in his third year as an instructor at SAIT Polytechnic, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary. It’s a job that Richard finds just as enjoyable as radio and just as rewarding, if not more so. This month’s RAP Interview gets an informative look inside one of North America’s best broadcast schools from one of the three instructors in their Information and Communications Technologies Department. Be sure to check out this month’s RAP CD for an impressive collection of work from Richard’s students (or click here).
JV: How did you get your start in radio, and what were some of the highlights along the way to becoming an instructor?
Richard: When I was a little kid listening to the radio, I heard a couple of guys on the air, and after they’d finish they’d have some joke and say something along the lines of, “Okay, I’m going to go my real job now at One Hour Martinizing, the drycleaner’s down the street.” I never realized that that’s probably the job that they did go to and make all the money that they did. But then -- I guess after watching WKRP -- I started realizing that this actually is something you can do for a living, as long as you’re making enough money at it, I suppose.
So at 17, I entered the SAIT broadcasting program that I’m now teaching at, and took their two-year program. After I’d finished the program at SAIT, I went to a small town in Northern Alberta, worked there for nine months and had enough of it. I figured if I stayed there much longer I was going to be an alcoholic, so I left. I came back home to Calgary and was able to get an assistant producer slash all-night guy job. I did that for a while and then realized that production was more my calling and went that route. I left the dream of being an on-air guy when I realized how much more fun production was and how much better I was at production than I was on-air. I worked at a few stations before I started at CJAY in August of ’87, and then worked there at CJAY until July of 2006, almost 20 years, and then I became an instructor full-time.
JV: How did the idea to become an instructor come about?
Richard: I really didn’t anticipate going into teaching full-time as fast as I did. I had been teaching night class for about three or four years before that. My wife was also in the business; she was a television news anchor at the time, and we were doing a long-distance marriage thing, and I figured rather than sitting with a bag of Doritos watching Monday Night Football and whatever else was on TV every night, I kind of picked up the evening instructor position that they have here for an audio production course.
So I did that for a couple of years, and I wouldn’t say it was more rewarding than radio, but it sure gave me a lot of different things that radio never did offer. One of them was the kind of instant gratification you don’t get in radio. In radio, you’re working on something in August for the ratings book that’s going to come out late in December. You’re working on it for a couple of months and you really don’t get any feedback until the ratings come out.
I was really lucky to work for a station like CJAY that is, in Canada, pretty much legendary -- number one rock station in Canada, and the number one radio station in Calgary. And for a rock station to get to that point is pretty rare, as you know. So, I was really lucky to be on a really good team with a lot of really good people. Our results were really good, but there was still no immediate feedback; and when I came in the classroom, it was like the very first day you’re sitting people behind a board and you’re showing them how to work it and how to mix songs and later how to edit and how to create things. A few minutes or maybe an hour after you’re showing them something, they’re playing and they’re starting to create something and the light goes on. You get that instant feedback, immediate gratification. It’s like, “Wow, I’ve done something.” I’ve affected them and they’re moving on.
So, when this position came open in July of 2006, it was really a tough decision to leave radio because I’d been doing it ever since I was 17 and I loved it. But I also knew that it was only a matter of time before the budget cuts came and they hired two kids at half the salary they’re paying me. I never saw that radio was going to be something I could do for the rest of my life. They never really pushed me into the programming side, and the sales side was not something I was awfully interested in either. So, there are not a lot of 55-year-old producers out there that have been doing it and continue doing it. Usually, management starts looking around for places to downsize and cut the budget, and the target gets bigger on your back the bigger the salary you make.
I left CJAY when I was 40, and when I was the young guy coming up I saw what happened to the other guys. When they started to get 40, 45, it was a shock to see them have to leave, to lose their job, and I just went, “You know what? I want to call my own expiry date on this.” I knew I had the chops to be able to do it for as long as I wanted to do it, but at some point in time, even Wayne Gretzky has to retire. So I just thought, “What is there left for me to accomplish?” I’ve had an incredible amount of success, more than I ever could have dreamed of. I was extremely lucky to win international and national awards. I’ve got two of the trophies that I won from your magazine sitting right in front of me, and there was a string there of about eight years in a row when I was in the finals for Medium Market Promos or Medium Market Commercials, and I thought, “Okay, what’s left… other than consistency and continuing to do it day in and day out?” -- which was obviously a challenge as well with budget cuts and new talent and everything else coming in. But it’s like, how many times do I want to climb that mountain? And I wasn’t getting bored; I was still enjoying what I was doing, but I could see that the writing was going to be on the wall one day. If it wasn’t tomorrow or next month or next year, it would be in four or five years, and at that point, what have I set up for myself? Where I am going to go? What’s left for me?
I knew full well that my days were going to be numbered, so I started looking in different directions, and this teaching thing happened, maybe a little earlier than I thought it was going to, or had hoped that it was going to. But I knew this program. It was something that I had graduated from. It has an unbelievable reputation in this country as being one of the best broadcasting schools, in Canada for sure, and probably in North America as well. We’ve graduated thousands of grads and have hundreds of success stories. In this city of Calgary, which is the fourth largest market in Canada, we’ve got people working at every single station, and at some stations, up to a quarter of the employees are SAIT grads. So it’s got an incredible reputation, obviously in Calgary, but there are SAIT grads working from one side of Canada all the way to the other, from one coast to the other.
So, it’s had a lot of success, and when they had an opening for a production instructor, I knew full well that if I didn’t take this now, it probably wouldn’t be available again for 5, 10, 15 years, because the guys that have taken it before have all been here forever. So I took the gig, and I’ve really never looked back.
JV: What were those first weeks like on the job full-time?
Richard: The first few weeks and months were a little difficult because, after being behind the production board for 20+ years, not producing anything and showing people how to do it was a little difficult. It was kind of like a complete job change. Although it’s still associated with radio, I wasn’t actually creating anything, and I was going through a bit of withdrawal -- “I haven’t produced anything in a week!” You start scratching your head and going, “Geez, I got to get my fix.”
JV: Tell us a bit more about SAIT. It’s obviously well-known throughout Canada. Would you say it’s the number one place to learn radio?
Richard: Well it’s really easy for me to say that they’re number one because they pay my check, but I can tell you that when I was in radio, I rarely hired anybody but a SAIT grad, and the reputation that they had when I was a student here was that they were one of the best in Canada.
Nobody wants to go out and say, “We’re the best.” There’s a lot of colleges out there that produce really good grads, but our program is a little bit different than most of them. Most have a two-year media studies program where they do a year in radio and a year in television. Ours is two full years in radio, and there are two semesters in first year and two semesters in second year. The first semester they go through a bunch of classes. My class is more or less the play class because they get to produce stuff, and I put them right behind the board the very first class. They get to start doing mixes and things like that, and I start teaching them Audition and other programs. So they start learning rather than just sitting in classes and getting the foundation, which is important.
So the first semester they do that. The second semester is kind of like a simulation. We run part of a radio station and we rotate them through it, then kind of critique them for the rest of the week and give them a chance to prepare for it. But then the second year, they’re basically the employees of the radio station. Our radio station is online at Radio.SAIT.ca, and everything that’s on there, except the songs they’re playing, the students create, from the commercials, the promos, to the traffic reports; they even do the traffic scheduling. We also have remotes that we stick them out in, so they do remotes as well.
There are two other instructors that I work with. I take care of the production side of things. One of the other instructors, Steve Olson, he takes care of the announcing side, the presentation side, and then we’ve got a writing instructor. Her name’s Louise Lutic, and she takes care of the writing side. So it’s kind of like that triangle of producer, writer, and announcer, and we all work together.
The students rotate through all the positions through second year, and the three of us kind of manage it, we oversee it and obviously mark them for what they do. In one week they’ll be on air, the next week they’ll be the Creative Director, the next week they’ll do traffic, then the next week they’ll do remotes, and then they’re doing the evening shift. And we run our radio station from 6:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, and then it’s automated from 9:00 until 6:00 in the morning.
So, they get a lot of chances to do on-air shifts. They get lots of chances to do other projects, production and writing for myself and the other instructor. Like I said, they’re employees of the radio station, so when they come out of here they’ve done pretty much every job that you’ll see in radio, including sales -- they do a week in sales as well. They also go out into the industry to do a practicum, or an internship they would call it in the States, and one of the biggest comments we get back from people that have our grads out there doing a practicum or an internship is, “I can’t believe how prepared they are. We told them this is what we need them to do, we just kind of let them go, and boom it’s done.” Often times they’ll go out and do this internship and they’ll get a job out of it.
There have been occasions as well in the past where the student goes out there and does so well that they create a job for that person because they’re just like, “Wow. We didn’t know how valuable it was to have somebody like this.” This is maybe not as common in the economy that we have now, but still, it was things like that that would happen.
JV: I would guess the students would be most attracted to the on-air work. Is that the case?
Richard: Yeah. They come in with these dreams of being a radio star and stars in your eyes – even I did -- and I think you sometimes don’t realize how much work is involved behind the scenes to get the product on the air. Through the two-year process that we have them here for, I think they get an opportunity to realize where their true talents lie. For example, there was no way I was going to be a great jock, not even a good jock, but I wanted that. And when I finally realized that production was something that was really easy for me and I did really well at without even trying, when I actually started focusing on it and putting my effort into it, that’s when I started to really see a lot of success.
I think that’s what happens here; they come in with these dreams of grandeur, of being the next Howard Stern or whoever, and all of the sudden they start realizing that they’re really talented in production, and production is very sexy with all the new gear. Or maybe they find themselves having this writing ability and they see that that’s where they can have a lot of success.
So it gives them an opportunity to dabble in a lot of different areas. And yeah, no doubt, we have a lot of people graduating that do go on air. But this really gives them the broad based education, so even if they do go on air, they see how valuable being a producer is, or they learn proper mic technique or levels and things like that. So even if somebody comes in here and wants to be a great jock, my goal for them is to make sure that they have the best produced show that they can possibly have so they can concentrate their efforts on the content of what they’re providing. They don’t have to worry about levels or mixing, like when they’re talking over music, over the intro of a song or something like that.
JV: Is there anything they don’t care much for in the course, generally speaking?
Richard: I don’t know. I mean radio’s a pretty fun business. I guess scheduling traffic is probably one that they’re not a big fan of. But even in that, there’s a lot of learning opportunities there for them. I had a student graduate who was a hell of a producer, who sent me an email just a few months back and said, “You know, I never realized that being in production, half of it is being organized.” You think back on doing things like scheduling commercials; it’s all data entry, but it’s still organizational skills. So there are still things that they can learn even if it’s something they’re not a big fan of.
I mentioned earlier that we do remotes, and we obviously don’t have the budget to have a telephone line to any business in the city or that type of thing. So when we do remotes, we stick the students out in an area on the campus like a foyer or a rotunda or an atrium. We’ve got hardwired mic cables that go through the ceiling, and they plug in the gear. It’s all the same gear that you’d have in a normal radio station for remote equipment. And I guess sitting out in the middle of the rotunda or the atrium, saying that they’re broadcasting from Best Buy or Future Shop might be a little bit of fun, but it’s also not one of their favorites, sitting there for three hours doing a remote with people walking by. This is a regular school. There are people learning how to be paramedics here or people learning how to be plumbers or pipefitters or whatever. So they’re walking down the hall wondering what the hell this guy’s doing with a microphone and headphones on in the middle of the atrium.
So that may be one that they’re not a big fan of. But again, there’s a lot of money to be made in remotes, so it’s an important area that we teach them, to get used to being in the public and doing something like this and not being affected by these guys looking around going, “What the hell is this?”
JV: At least here in the U.S., syndication and deregulation have pretty much eradicated the traditional training ground for new talent. Is the situation similar there in Canada?
Richard: Yes. The program before I got here really had to start changing what their focus was because we used to train people for doing the midday show in Scrubwash, Saskatchewan or wherever. Now they’ve got people doing voice tracking from Regina or other larger markets, and somebody’s doing the voice tracking for three, or four, or five different stations. So those shifts don’t exist anymore, and obviously the quality of the instruction has to go to the level where now we have to get them ready for a bigger market. Calgary is typically where people get to after 5 or 10 years. However, with the success of the program we’ve had in the last three years that I’ve been here, we’ve had three or four grads from each year get a job in Calgary straight out of school -- three of them being writers and then some assistant producers and positions like that.
So we’ve had to get the students’ ability to that level where they can compete for a job in a Red Deer market, which is 50,000, 100,000 people and so on. But the 5,000 and 10,000 population markets, where there’s only one station, the one-watt light bulb, a lot of it is voice-tracked, so we’ve had to lift the level of the education upward.
Now, when I came to SAIT in ’83 and graduated in ’85, at that time, I guess you could still go out to these little stations in Small Town, Alberta and just say, “I want to be on the radio.” But at that time, they were also graduating people from colleges like this, and if you’re sitting behind a desk, are you going to take somebody off the street, or are you going to take somebody who’s had two years of training at a school? You know what I mean? So it gives them an opportunity to get something a little bit better on the air. But I think pretty much the only way to get into a radio station now is to have some training -- either that, or I suppose you just keep knocking on the door and bugging the general manager in these small little towns.
JV: What are some of the surprises you’ve had in your journey as a teacher?
Richard: I thought when I was coming in that my job was to teach them how to produce, that was it. I didn’t anticipate having to deal with the life problems that an 18 to 25-ish year old would have, where the biggest crisis they’ve ever dealt with is their boyfriends breaking up with them on Facebook. So, when they come in my office and all the sudden the tears start falling, I’m like, “Wait a minute. There’s no crying in radio,” [Laughs] unless they’re a salesperson and you can’t close a sale.
But that was a surprise, just trying to deal with those personal issues. In a lot of cases, these are just kids, and you’re trying to give them the life skills where sometimes it’s not the most talented person that’s going to get the job, but it’s the person who wants it the most, a person who just won’t give up and keeps on trying. One of the biggest things that I say in class is, “How bad do you want it?” My students are so sick and tired of hearing it, but that really says something. Instead of going to the hockey game tonight or going out with your friends for happy hour and $0.10 wing night, maybe you should be working on this project that’s going to further your career. I try and get that across to them, and sometimes it’s a little difficult.
And then there’s the type of millennial student that we have now where there’s a sense of entitlement, where they have this attitude sometimes where they’re kind of like, “Well, I don’t have to work for this. Everything’s been given to me.” The other instructors and I, we treat this like a real radio station, and if they come in here with an attitude like that, and if you can’t cut it, the “F” doesn’t stand for failed, it stands for fired. My best friends are in this business, and the last thing I’m going to do is have somebody come out of this program, where I was their instructor, and have them come up to me and go, “Dick, what are you doing? I mean, how did this person graduate? They’ve got no life skills. They have no idea how to do the job.” I’m not going to let that happen.
On the other side of the coin, for the student, I’m not going to send them out ill-prepared where they go out there and three weeks after they happen to get a job, they get fired. Then they come back to me and go, “You didn’t train me right. There was no way I could do that job.” Well, then that’s my fault.
So, like I said, I treat it like a real radio station. Students these days are sometimes getting pushed through high school. It’s like their grades aren’t fantastic, but the school system now just pushes them through. When those students come here, this is essentially, what we try to make, the real world. And for them to have me come down on them and go, “Look, this project was due at 2:00, and it’s 2:05. It’s not accepted.” And they’re like, “What do you mean? It’s only five minutes late.” “Well, the 6:00 news goes on at 6:00 every night.” For me to come down on them like that is kind of a big shock to them, to have somebody who’s maybe as hard-ass as me, I guess. But when they come out of here, they know full well that stuff’s got to get done on time.
JV: What are some things the students have taught you?
Richard: One thing hanging around students all the time is doing to me is keeping me young. The halls are filled with people that are 18 to 24, so keeping me young is definitely up there. The job has also taught me to be more patient. The biggest personal reason I took this job was because I’ve got a very young family. My daughter’s six years old, and it’s important to me to be able to spend as much time with her as I can. Teachers have a great schedule. I get nine weeks off in the summer. Even after working at CJAY for almost 20 years, I still was only looking at getting five weeks of holiday. So, I get nine weeks off in the summer to spend time with her. But the students teach me a lot about patience; I think is probably the biggest thing.
JV: What things do you look for or see in a student that lets you know right away that they’re one of the special ones?
Richard: That fire in their eye, that enthusiasm, that won’t quit attitude. It’s not an easy program, and I think a lot of kids come in here and think it is. Their mum and dad say, “Okay, you’re going to graduate high school. What are you going to do?” “Uh, I don’t know.” “Well, if you’re not going to school, you’re going to pay rent.” So they go, “Okay, well, I don’t know what I want to do, but Radio sounds pretty easy. All you do is play music and talk.”
So they come in with this idea and maybe they’re not sure exactly what to expect out of this, but they see very quickly that this is not an easy program. There are a lot of challenges for people. And for them to come in with that never say die attitude and to always be trying, that’s something I can’t teach. Maybe I’m naïve or maybe I haven’t taught long enough, but I still honestly feel that if I get a student who has that quality, I can teach them how to produce, or at least well enough to get by.
And I’ve had students who have more than ample ability, and the attitude is they just don’t care. Projects are late, and it doesn’t matter if they’re done to them. You know they can do a lot better and they just hand something in that doesn’t matter. There’s no way I can teach that person if they don’t have that enthusiasm and that fire. I think that’s the key to success. And I’m not just talking about radio; I think it applies to life in general.
You look at all the great movies about success stories, and there’s the underdog -- it’s always somebody who’s not the greatest football player or not the greatest this or that, and they’re fighting through adversity. The hero is always somebody who’s got that passion and that desire. It’s never somebody who’s really, really good but lazy, that makes it. I can’t think of any movie that’s ever been made about somebody like that.
JV: Well that’s something you cannot teach. But of the things that you can and do teach, which would be the toughest?
Richard: Attention to detail. I don’t think it’s any surprise that this business is filled with people who are ADD poster children, so that’s a tough one to teach. Try and get as well-organized as possible and stay on top of every detail and make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. We throw a lot of projects at them all at one time, so they’ve consistently got stuff to do. And if they’re not either paying attention or if they’re not organized well enough, things can slip through the cracks pretty easily.
For me, a lot of the times it’s the quality of the work. For example, I won’t accept anything unless it’s 320 kilobytes/second for an MP3 file. If it’s 128 or 192, it’s like, “Sorry, that’s not good enough.” And my reasoning for that is this: we get them to do half-hour music specials and things like that, where they write the whole thing and research it and voice it and produce all of it. I mean, they do everything from start to finish. Now, if they’re going to put that much effort into it, why the hell would they export it to such a low quality bit rate? It’s like, “Do you have any pride in your work?” The amount of time it takes to bounce it from that file in Audition to a 320 kilobytes/second file is only a few more seconds. Considering how many hours you’ve put in this project, isn’t it worth it? Attention to detail; that’s tough to teach.
JV: What’s the job market in Canada like for these students when they graduate?
Richard: Surprisingly, even with the economy the way that it is, it’s exceptional. I say that because I think what’s happening is, the top end people in radio are getting punted, and when that happens, the people in the middle get moved up to those top end positions at a lesser salary than the people on the top end were getting. Then the people with the lesser experience are getting moved up. This past summer was incredible for new jobs. I’ve got a Facebook account and a Twitter account, and I use them pretty much exclusively for contacting people in radio. As you know, people in radio move around a lot, and so do their email addresses, so my Facebook account is more for just staying in touch with all of my friends in radio. I’m still old school enough that when I want to talk to a personal friend I phone him rather than sending a Facebook message. So I use Facebook for all my radio friends that I keep in contact with, and that’s how they let me know where jobs might be coming in. I use my Twitter account for kind of the second half of that. My students are pretty much all on Twitter, and I’ll send them a Twitter message saying that there’s a job opening in Port Hardy, B.C. for an anchor, or a reporter for a news station, things like that.
It’s an opportunity to get the word out to people. And even though nine weeks off in the summer is nice, it was really hard to just not do anything for nine weeks. So this past summer was a good opportunity for me to send these messages out to students saying, “Hey, there’s a job here.” There were lots of jobs this past summer, in the height of the recession, where I was having no problem sending students out.
That’s probably one of the most rewarding parts of the job. Even though I worked at only one station, I worked with a lot of people that went through the building, and also got to know a lot of people from this market. The afternoon drive guy here at CJAY when I started is now the general manager of a station in Nanaimo. One of my students was applying for a job, so I phoned up and said, “Hey, Rob. It’s Big Dick,” which was the name that I was pretty much known by as a producer here; students don’t call me Big Dick – I guess you’ve got to go with the educational corporate side of things. But anyway, Rob would go, “Hey, Big Dick, how’s things?” I said, “Hey, I’m teaching at SAIT now.” He goes, “Oh, we got somebody that’s applied from there.” I said, “Yeah. Matt’s a fantastic writer. He’s our best writer that we have here, really well-organized, mature, he’s got that fire, he’s got the energy, good team player. I think he’d be a great fit for you.” Five minutes later Matt walks into my office… just got off the cell phone and he got the job. That’s really rewarding for me to be able to help, and then I look at Matt and I go, “Okay. Make me look good now.”
Six months later, he gets nominated for a Crystal Award, and Rob phones me back when he needs a producer and goes, “Okay Dick, I need a producer, who do you got?” It’s like I’m the farm for these people that I used to work with. And like I said, these are my friends, and I’m not going to send them an idiot. I’m not going to send them somebody that they’re going to come back to me and go, “What did you send me this guy for?”
In the two years I have with a student, I really get a good opportunity to see the quality of the people that are coming through these doors. It’s really easy to put on that face for a couple of months and show people another side of you, but sooner or later, your behavior will betray you. I can see what the real person is like and whether they’ve got it or not. I think the students see that as well because I get my students sending me emails, or phoning up, or even letting past students know, “Wow. If it wasn’t for Dick, I wouldn’t have gotten this job,” and that type of thing. But for me, it’s their ability that got them the job. I’m just kind of putting my neck out on the line and saying, yeah they can do it, and knowing that they can.
JV: I can see how watching and helping your students get jobs can be very rewarding.
Richard: Oh, God, yeah. I can remember when I got my first full-time job out of school, and it was like I was bouncing off of the walls, and then to be able to see these guys do that when they get their first gig is so gratifying, to know that I, in small way, helped pour a little water on the seed that they planted when they were here.
Then it’s really cool for me, because I’ve been here long enough, three years now, where I can start to see some of my students on TV. I not only teach the radio side, I also teach some people that are on the broadcast news side. Our program is called RTBN, for Radio Television and Broadcast News. So we have people that are just taking television, how to be camera men, and edit, and things like that. Then there’s the radio side which is everything in radio. And then there’s the broadcast news side of things for people that become news people and either go on TV or go into radio and do news.
I’ve got a few news people that I teach the technical side to, and to be able to see them on TV or hear them on the radio is very cool. One of my students was the one who broke the story about Michael Jackson up here in Calgary; he was the first one to report that Michael Jackson had died. So I’m listening to the radio and one of my students is telling me that. Wow! There’s a moment that not only will I not forget because Michael Jackson died, but it was one of my students who graduated last year who told me the news.
JV: Do you think the students are learning this business in the same way that you learned it those many years ago?
Richard: I think so. I mean other than technology, the basic gist of being creative and how to put things together hasn’t really changed much, whether you’re using tape, or whether you’re using a typewriter. You’re still trying to engage the listener, and you’re still trying to create something that has that theater of the mind, and that hasn’t changed.
The technology to get to that point has obviously remarkably changed since I started, but for them to be able to use the technology to get to that point... is it easier? I don’t know, I think it gives them more time to do it. I’d like to think that the commercials are better than what we produced when we were here, but I think the quality is obviously one of the big factors that deals with that.
JV: Well, you sound like you’re having a great time, and it sounds like this was great decision for you. What would you say to the readers of this magazine that might consider teaching as a next career? What does it take to be a teacher?
Richard: Well, it’s really funny. I never saw myself as a teacher or an instructor until the time came when I started doing that night class. Then I started realizing that whenever a new person came in the building, I was always the one who taught them how to run the on-air system, or how to do national dubs, or how to process this, or how mix, or how to do certain things like that. I felt like I was kind of the go-to guy to help train people.
For people that are readers of your magazine, if you’re that kind of person in that building already where you’re always the one that people come to for help, and you’re always answering peoples’ questions, and whether it be life questions or radio questions, maybe you’re already teaching and you just don’t realize it like I did. It was such a natural progression for me to go into this, because I guess I’m just that personality where I have no problem talking to people, and sharing with people, and discussing, and being patient, and showing them things, and then challenging them, and not giving them the answer, but saying, “Okay, how do you make this sound better? How do you make that edit sound better? How do you clip this off?” and things like that.
I think the biggest thing for people that are reading the magazine is an opportunity to look at what they are going to do after radio? There may come a time when budget cuts come down. If you’re a 40-year-old producer and you’ve been sitting behind the desk for 20 years, what do you have left to do? What’s your motivation? Obviously, I was extremely happy doing what I was doing, but there’s still got to be some challenge there. You can’t just go to work and mail it in everyday, because sooner or later complacency is going to start setting in.
So what’s the next step for you? Where do you want to go? Where do you see yourself? If they’re not pushing you into programming, and you’re not interested in going into sales, where’s the next step for you? I think that a lot of people probably haven’t even thought that teaching might be an opportunity for them. It’s extremely fun, and it’s an opportunity for me to make the business better.
I spent my whole life in radio, and never worked a day in my life. I love the business. I love what it can do for people. I love how it can make them feel good after they’ve had a bad day. I love how it can make you laugh. I love how a certain commercial can make you smile or have enough influence on you to make you go out and purchase something. I’ve always been a big fan of the power of radio and the ability that it can have to influence people’s lives.
Now I’ve got an opportunity to make the business better. Every year I get 20 new students, and no, not all 20 are gold nuggets, but you know what? There’s always a good portion of them that I know are going to make a positive impact on this business and make it better. This business has always had challenges. When TV first came out way back in the ’30s or ’40s or whatever it was, people always said, “Well, radio’s going to die.” Then satellite radio comes out, and people are saying, “Radio, it’s done.” Then MP3 players come out and, “Radio… oh, there’s no way it can survive.”
It’s always had these challenges, and yet some way, somehow this business has always found a way to get through and still be that trusted voice for people to listen to, to make them happy, and to kind of just have on as a best friend in the background. To be able to be a part of that, make it a better business, by helping create people that are going to continue that, it’s extremely rewarding for me, and a lot of fun. It’s definitely a completely different challenge, and it’s as fun or even more fun than I had in radio.