by Dennis Daniel
"I've got to make some extra money!"
The Production Director's lament (not to mention the lament of just about everyone else on this planet). In past columns, I've discussed various ways to get a little free-lance work going. Well, hold on to your gonads lads and lassies because I've just discovered a new and more rewarding way as well! Drum roll please...the new way is... TEACHING. Ugh. Hope it wasn't a letdown for you. Yes, you can earn some pretty decent dinero getting into the old teaching game.
Here's how I did it:
For the past 12 years, I've been helping college interns learn all about the many different aspects of production. I've got a lot of teaching practice under my belt, practice I never realized could be used to my financial advantage. Many of my "students" (for lack of a better term) have gone on to become production people themselves. I've often been told by these kids that they like my teaching style. Of course, one can take a laid back approach when you have a whole semester to teach somebody (especially someone who comes in and works with you for an entire day). The thought of actually teaching classes was put into my head by several college professors. Sometimes I would give a lecture in their class and they'd be impressed by my enthusiasm. "You should teach here! It'd be great!"
Ahhhh...yeah but...there is one snag.
I don't have a degree.
I was in my fourth year of college when I started in radio. Things went so well, I just plowed along and never looked back. Besides, a Communications Degree isn't worth much these days. All anybody really wants to know is, "What have you done?"
"Uh, well, I have a Communications Degree."
"Yeah, but what have you done?"
"Well, I uh...worked at my college radio station."
"Yeah, but WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!!!"
Experience. That's the deal.
So, I never thought not having a degree would be a burden. However, if you want to teach at colleges, it's a must. All the awards, accolades, and years of experience don't mean dick. They want that stupid piece of paper. It's the same old bureaucratic runaround that rules most of our lives whenever we really need help from the government or any other high falootin' institution. Oh well.
As far as I was concerned, I'd never be able to teach a college course. Besides, the money, from what I've heard, isn't that great anyway. I remember my college radio teacher used to cart songs for a top forty radio station. Big wow. If that's the kind of experience they wanted in a teacher, fine.
One day, I heard a commercial for a school called The Connecticut School Of Broadcasting. One of their tag lines was "classes that you start now, could have you on the air by (fill in the blank)." Boy, I thought, that's one hell of a promise to make. Maybe they could use someone who's working in the business now. One of my salespeople knew the owner of the school, so I gave him a call. He sounded interested and asked me to call him back in a few weeks. The weeks went by and I called. He wasn't in. I left a message. No call back. I guess that was that. Bummer.
You see, the beauty of teaching for a place like that is they're not looking for anyone with a degree per se. With all my years of experience, awards, and reputation, it's obvious that I know what I'm doing. Add to that the fact that I've been teaching college interns for 12 years and you have the perfect prospective teacher.
A few years ago I did a few spots for a school on Long Island called ARTI (Audio Recording Technology Institute). I got along quite well with the owner. I decided to give him a call. Before I did, I spoke to my GM and the owner of the station and asked them if it would be okay for me to teach a course on production right here at the station. (Hey, I thought I'd ask. What the hell!) To my surprise and delight, they said yes! I couldn't believe it! They trusted me that much! Wow!
When I called ARTI and told them my idea, they loved it! We had a few meetings (they even decided to buy time to promote the class) and looked into the legal aspects, which all seemed fine, and then it was a done deal! I created a course outline based on how I teach my interns, which was immediately accepted, and now... ZINGO... I'm a teacher. My classes will be on Wednesday nights from seven to nine p.m. (just enough time for me to grab a quick dinner and head back to the station), and the course will run ten weeks. My pay is more than reasonable (and certainly higher than it would have been at a college), and best of all, the students will learn all about production at a real radio station! With up to date equipment, no less! Plus, if they show any talent, I can use that to my advantage. I can have them cut promos and spots for WDRE, giving me different voices and approaches and giving them real, honest to God, on air experience.
It's a great feeling knowing I can count on that extra money week by week as well as having the thrill of teaching people about something I love. Kudos must go to the wonderful people I work for, who were so open to the idea and encouraged its success. If all this sounds good to you, maybe you should check around and see if there are any specialty schools in your area that might be interested in a course like this. If you have a degree, check out the college scene. Ask your interns to get you some connections. You can be the exception to that old saying, "Those who can't do, teach." You can be doing and teaching at the same time. Next month, I'll expand on this further and give you my course outline. Maybe it could be the stepping stone to future involvement in teaching for you!