Prod512 Logo 400pxMost of the interns I ever had the (mostly) pleasure of working with over the years came to Z100 from college, although a few were still in high school. In the off-chance that some of you are gearing up for interns either for the summer or next fall, I thought it might help to pass along an experience that I am going through right now. It might seem a little off-topic, but it does tie in quite well. Stick with it.

Every year about this time, the local high school has a program called “Senior Portfolios.” As the name suggests, all senior students must present a portfolio which contains academic achievements of the 4 years of HS, a complete resumé that includes work and volunteer history, a cover letter which outlines their plans for the next few years and a couple of letters of recommendation. Basically, it’s like a job interview. They’re required to dress appropriately in business attire, introduce themselves to a panel of one teacher and two community leaders and then demonstrate to the panel by Power Point or performance, their mastery of something they are passionate about. It’s the student’s choice whether to present an academic passion or another life passion like music, film or even animal husbandry. (One student showed off his prize steer. Welcome to the Lone Star State, Dave!)

I volunteer each year to be one of the community leaders (Ha! If they only knew), and because of my background, most of the panels I am on are presented by wannabe singers, actors, video editors/directors, drummers…well, you get the idea. And each year I am more than blown away by some of the talent on display. This year I’ve seen an “Adventure Film Maker” whose work is easily as good as I’ve ever seen (skiing, off-roading, cliff diving, parkour and a bunch more), a student DJ who wants to be a master interviewer, a pianist who performed an amazing piece by Sibelius, a singer who sang a more obscure Adele song and brought the panel to tears and a student who is already working on robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

The one thing almost all of these students have in common is a desire to continue their education at the university level…even the guy with his prize steer was headed to Texas A&M. (The ‘A’ stands for Agriculture.) One boy who wants to be a music therapist, a very real thing, is headed for The University of Kansas with his euphonium. One very talented R&B singer has a big scholarship to the University of the Arts in Philly. But not ALL students need to, or even should, get a 4-year degree.

If you’ve followed the career of Mike Rowe at all (Host of Dirty Jobs , Returning The Favor and Voice Actor extraordinaire), you know that he talks a LOT about high-paying trade jobs that stand open while high school students line up to spend a TON of money on a university education. Sadly for too many of them, those students will complete their studies, get their parchment and then NEVER find a job in their chosen field, and still have crippling student debt.

The student DJ I mentioned earlier stated clearly that he wasn’t sure which school he would attend, even though there are several excellent schools that teach broadcasting and I asked him, “Why bother?” The teacher on the panel cleared her throat and was probably about to launch into a long speech about the importance of education, but I followed quickly with, “Not every job, in fact MANY jobs really don’t require any higher education.

“I’ve personally known most of the most famous broadcasters of mine and following generations, and there are more than a few who never got past high school. The things you need to learn to become a master interviewer are not skills you can learn in an academic environment. In a field like broadcasting performance, everything you can learn from a technical or even ethical standpoint, can be learned in a single semester. The only reason I would suggest a future broadcaster go beyond that is the most valuable part of any education.

“To me, the only thing about going to school that is truly valuable is ‘adulting.’ Learning how to interact with other people in a place of business, being responsible to deadlines and budgets, contributing to a team effort…all while being in a semi-safe environment, away from your family for the first time. If you’re studying to be an electrical engineer or a botanist, a lawyer or doctor, then getting a degree is absolutely warranted and often required, but to be an on-air performer in radio or online it is counter-productive.

“The real need for any performer is to perform. You learn while you earn, and the best learning can ONLY happen in a real environment. In all my 40 years at the absolute top of the broadcast business, nobody has ever asked about my education background. Nobody.

“Let me suggest that if this is truly what you want to do, get an associate’s degree through the local community college. You’ll get all the things you need for life while attending, a little bit of good tech know-how and a touch of business education, because it IS the broadcasting business. AND it will cost you a fraction of what a degree from Northwestern or Syracuse would be. 

You should start working this summer…as soon as you get out of high school. Apply at every local station you can find, doing anything they need, including janitorial work. Just being around the radio station while it is operating will teach you so much more than you will ever get in a book or class. And, as long as the Program Director or Operations Manager knows that you’re interested, you will get a break one day doing an all-night or weekend shift. Every second you spend on the air, for the rest of your life, will teach you how to be what you dream about.”

The teacher on our panel looked at me and followed with a, “What he said.” 

The student said, “Thank you” before he left. I’m pretty sure he meant it. 

Once he was gone and we were waiting for the next student, the teacher turned to me and said, “That was really good.” I honestly thought she would whip out the ruler for what I said, so I was pleasantly surprised.

A couple of days later, a girl came in and performed on the drums in a spectacular fashion, first playing to a track of Back In Black by AC/DC and then performing a couple of songs with a live Bluegrass band (not students, I might add. In fact, it’s been a few decades since any of them were in high school.) She already has a studio job lined up locally, starting the day she turns 18, and I fully expect that she will one day be an absolute star. She never even hinted at a desire to go to college and she was right…she is ready.

For the record, and for those who don’t know my history, I DID attend college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I went for 5 years, but I never got a degree. I started out in Speech and Dramatic Arts to become an actor, then I tried Journalism, Political Science, Marine Biology, Computer Science, Microbiology, back to acting for 5 minutes and finally discovered Radio/Television. But, after a couple of semesters, I figured out exactly how important a degree in RTV would be (not at all important) and dropped out. A few months later, I hit my first Major at WPGC/Washington, DC and have never looked back.

For my sound this month, a promo for Most Requested Live Worldwide with Romeo and a flyaway to Tampa to see the Red Pill Blues tour with Maroon 5. A bit of fun at the end with some out-of-context verbiage with Adam Levine.

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