Sterling Tarrant, Director of Network Production, The Word In Music Satellite Network/KBIQ-FM, Colorado Springs, CO

by Jerry Vigil

One of the fastest changing and growing formats in our industry is the contemporary Christian format. This month we check in with Sterling Tarrant, who is not only the Production Director for KBIQ-FM, but oversees the production for The Word In Music network, a 24-hour Christian music network with programming originating at KBIQ. And if that's not enough work for Sterling, he's heading up the companies latest effort, a Creative Services division, but one a little different than what you've read about in these pages before. Join us for an enjoyable visit with Sterling as he shares some insights into Christian radio, how he manages to keep on top of all he's got going, and how his network is taking advantage of the latest technology.

R.A.P.: Tell us about your background in radio.
Sterling: Well, I knew that I wanted to do either music or broadcasting all of my life. I started off playing with little tape recorders when I was a kid, but my first quasi-radio experience was back in 1978. I was in high school working with a Junior Achievement company that produced a live half-hour program that aired every Wednesday night on WSOY in Decatur, Illinois. It was kind of innovative because there were not a whole lot of radio stations that would just turn the station over to a bunch of high school kids for a half hour. But these guys did. We scripted the shows. We got all the interviews together. We selected what music we wanted to use, and we put a show together and had to be under the clock for that half hour.

After high school, I went to a liberal arts college in Anderson, Indiana and started there on the campus station doing morning drive my freshman year. I was Music Director the next year, and during my last three years in college, I was Operations Manager. At the same time I was working at a station in Anderson, Indiana, WLHN and WHUT, an AM/FM combo. The AM was nostalgia, and the FM was adult contemporary. Anderson is only about thirty-five miles northwest of Indy. I did just about everything there. I worked every shift. I was even an Account Executive for about three months -- hated it. At the end of those three months they wanted to fire me, and I wanted to quit. So I went back on the air.

From there I went down to Orlando and got a job at Walt Disney World. I'd always wanted to work there, and I did for three years. I got out of radio and worked in costuming at Epcot Center, the Magic Kingdom. I also got to work at Disney/MGM Studios about six months before it opened, and I got to work on some Disney television specials here and there. It was at that time I felt like my talents and abilities were best suited for radio. I was in costuming, and I was trying to get into other places within the company. But I just found all the doors slamming shut.

I started working back at the bottom again, doing Sunday morning and afternoon shifts at a Christian radio station in Orlando, WTLN. I worked there for about six months part-time, then got a full-time job as Music Director and mid-day personality at WAJL in Orlando, a contemporary Christian station. I was there for two years, then my wife and I were looking for a move. I sent out ten tapes and resumes one day to various stations, and later that day I got a call from a guy in Spearfish, South Dakota, whom I had an interview with a few months before at the National Christian Radio Seminar in Nashville. He didn't have anything for me then, but he offered me a job in Spearfish doing evenings. My wife and I didn't know if we wanted to move to South Dakota. It wasn't the edge of the earth, but it was pretty darn close. We decided we didn't have anything holding us back, so we moved.

I worked at KSLT for about fourteen months, and that was the first station in what is now The Word in Music network. The company that owned it put a station on the air in Kirksville, Missouri, then in Spokane, Washington, and then in Colorado Springs. We've got another station that's been built since then in Billings, Montana. After they started KBIQ in Colorado Springs, I left South Dakota to come to work here, and I've been here almost two years.

We have a network of a little over twenty stations that are affiliated with us coast to coast. We have the five owned and operated stations that carry our programming, then the rest of them carry our programming from just overnights to twenty-four hours a day.

R.A.P.: You said you hated your three months as an Account Executive. Tell us a little more about this experience.
Sterling: I was fresh out of college, and it was my first real full-time radio job where I wasn't doing something else as well. I had taken some sales classes in college and thought, "Yeah, I can do this; no problem." I'd seen the Account Executives at the station and thought, "That job isn't too tough." But it just shows how naive I was. I had a great time coming up with ideas and concepts, coming up with copy and packages to sell, but I just didn't do well at hoofing it out on the street. I was not real comfortable asking people for money. So, my closing ratio was not very good. I didn't provide the bottom line the station wanted from me, and after three months, I was just a nervous wreck. One day I was out with the Operations Manager. We were going to a seminar or something, and I got out of his car, leaned up against it, and just started throwing up. I was going through a lot of stress, and I just wasn't accustomed to it. I decided then and there that being on air and doing the production end of it was what I was suited for. Like I said, they were ready to fire me, and I was ready to quit. So I asked to go back to the air staff, and they put me there.

We had a consultant at the time. He wasn't real crazy about my voice, but he saw there was some potential in the area of production. Back when I was in college, I was doing music work for my alma mater. I was producing music beds and things like that for the video productions they would do. We had a little feature called Soap Opera Update that we aired every day. I developed a thing called the Soap Opera Update Mobil Unit which enabled me to take my report on the soap opera Ryan's Hope to many different places -- the inauguration of the President, the North Pole at Christmas time, things like that. I would write and produce little parody songs to go along with all of that and was really getting into working with MIDI instruments and computerized music. Sampling wasn't quite there yet, but as soon as it started making an appearance, I got a sampler. That really helped me develop what I'm doing now with the computerized systems that KBIQ uses.

R.A.P.: I assume you are a musician to some degree.
Sterling: Yeah. I'm not too bad on the drums. I could be a lot better on the keyboards. I found that being a musician does help a lot with being a Production Director -- just having some sort of natural sense of rhythm and pacing. I think that really helps a lot in developing a piece of copy, too. It transforms it from just reading into more of a performance. It seems that a lot of really good Production Directors, ones that I've even read about in the pages of Radio And Production, seem to be musicians.

R.A.P.: What MIDI gear are you working with?
Sterling: The studio at KBIQ has my sampler in it. I have an Ensoniq EPS sampler, and it's MIDI'd to a Roland U220 sound module. I don't do a whole lot of full-fledged thirty and sixty second music beds nowadays; I don't really have time for it. But I will use the sampler and the sound module to embellish a piece of music. I might add a cymbal crash or a drum fill here or there with the sound module.

We did a spot that needed Hail to the Chief on it, and I didn't have Hail to the Chief. So I looked through all the libraries and picked out a music bed that would fit. Then I added my own melody line to it for Hail to the Chief. I did the same thing with a spot for a fireworks dealer around the Fourth of July. I had a piece of music that was kind of Americana, but it needed a little more to it. So I called up a flute patch and played Yankee Doodle over the top of it. I've also taken our jingles and made them Christmas jingles by taking a bell patch and playing a little bit of Jingle Bells over the top of them, adding in some sleigh bells and things like that. I've only done a few fully produced musical bits, and I've heard some examples of these kinds of music beds on the RAP Cassette. I think one of them was for a pet store. It had sampling of a dog barking and cats meowing and birds chirping, and this was actually added into a music bed. One time I was doing a dog days of summer ad. Wipeout was pretty easy to play on the keyboard, and instead of all the drums we had barking dogs. Our digital workstation is the Orban DSE-7000. It's been great to be on the RAP Workstation Network with the DSE-7000. I've received some calls from folks who are interested in it. Craig Rogers at WHO in Des Moines gave me a call. He said my input wasn't the deciding factor but it helped. I love the machine. The nicest thing about it is that someone who doesn't even have multi-track experience can get up and running on it in a very short time. I had multi-track experience before I started working with it, and I was doing basic recording and editing functions within fifteen minutes. There are a lot of workstations designed for music production type work, but for radio, this thing is just gangbusters. You can work real fast on it.

R.A.P.: What production libraries are you using?
Sterling: I'm using Air Force, The New Production Library. I've had that since day one. About a year ago I got forty disks from Network Music. Right now I'm at the point where I need to get something new. For production elements I'm using Power Play. Basically, when we first started, I had $150 a month that I could spend on music and sound effects, and I was able to get Air Force, Power Play, and the Network sound effects. I would love to have new production libraries. Our contracts are almost up on both of our libraries, so I'm actively looking.

R.A.P.: What are your responsibilities as Director of Network Production?
Sterling: I actually work for three different entities. I'm basically the Production Director for Q96, KBIQ. I'm also the Production Director for The Word in Music satellite network. And I'm also the Production Director/Creative Director -- they haven't given me an official title yet -- for The Word in Music Creative Services. My duties are to make sure that all of the production for Q96 is completed in a timely manner. I do a lot of writing. The salespeople do some writing, and we also turn some over to the announcers on the air. But most of the creative stuff that the Account Executives need pretty much comes to me. I do the writing and producing of most of the spec spots and most of the promos for the station. I have three assistants -- one person who writes, one person who voices, and one person who just produces. The producer and the writer will voice occasionally. For the satellite network, my job is to make sure that the network sounds local at each affiliate. I'm in charge of getting all the announcers -- we have seventeen of them right now, full and part-time -- to cut their lines on a weekly basis for whatever affiliates send us material. For instance, we'll have an affiliate in Memphis, Tennessee who will need an announcer to cut a line that will say something like, "It's time to check in with traffic now with Sergeant Lee." The announcer cuts that line and gets it to me. I make sure that someone else puts it all together and gets it out to the station.

I do all of the regular administrative tasks that are involved in running a production department for basically five different broadcast facilities. There's Q96, The Word in Music, and the three stations that are subscribing to Creative Services which we've just started.

R.A.P.: We'll get into Creative Services in a moment. First tell us a little more about Q96/KBIQ and The Word In Music.
Sterling: KBIQ is the origination point for all of the affiliates' programming. We have, for instance, a two person morning show that broadcasts out of Studio A. Their signal goes up to the satellite, comes back down, and then goes to KBIQ's transmitter. Our station here in Colorado Springs is a full-fledged affiliate of The Word in Music, just like our station in Spokane is, or our affiliates in Des Moines and Davenport are.

R.A.P.: When KBIQ is localized, is it done with liners like the other stations in the network are?
Sterling: Yes. We are now offering satellite programming twenty-four hours a day. When we originally started, we were offering it at all times except morning and afternoon drive. Now that we're completely twenty-four hours, we have to cut the customized lines for all of the affiliates and send them to them on a weekly basis. They load them into their systems. We have a bank of eight buttons that are called relay closures. One of them is labeled Magicall. When we push that button, the announcer on air comes on with a recorded message and says, "Q96, Colorado's Word in Music," and then they start talking, "...with the latest from Amy Grant." At the same time, their voice at our station in Wheeling, West Virginia, comes on and says, "WZAO, Miracle Valley's Word in Music," and then they start talking. And, if they get it right, it sounds seamless and it flows beautifully. At the same time, we record lines here in Colorado Springs and load them into our computer systems in the studio, lines that may be talking about a concert coming up this Saturday night here in Colorado Springs. The announcer has also recorded a line for our station in Kirksville, Missouri, that may be talking about the fund-raising thing they're doing with the local Domino's Pizza or something like that.

R.A.P.: At a lot of satellite operations, when they break away from the network, you can really hear the difference in quality during the transition from the live jock to the pre-recorded liner. When the jocks on The Word In Music do liners for the affiliates, are they sent via the satellite, or are they dubbed to reel and sent out?
Sterling: It depends on the size of the satellite feed that I have. If I've got ten stations one week that all want their lines, it's a little tough to get them sent down all at once. Because we're twenty-four hours, we can only send things down during stop-sets. In the future, we hope to add a second satellite line that will let us feed audio anytime, a closed circuit feed.

We just got something else up and running this week. It's called an ACS system. It stands for Automatic Commercial Sender and was developed by Shaw Radio up in Canada. It works with the computer systems that we have in our studios which are called DCS, Digital Commercial Systems, made by Computer Concepts in Lenexa, Kansas. We can load a spot or a custom line, anything, into one of these DCS units, and this ACS unit will then put it into a stack to be fired off over the satellite during the stopset. Say, for instance, that our station in Kirksville, Missouri, has a tornado warning. Our announcer can go into the studio, cut a line about the tornado warning, and load it into the ACS. When they push the button to fire off all the stop-sets over the network, the ACS will send up data to the satellite and back down specifically to the Kirksville, Missouri station into their DCS unit. That will cause it to click on the satellite down-link and record it directly into their DCS unit, assign it a cart number, and get it ready to play for the next relay closure that we fire for the next custom line. We just got that up and running this week, and we're testing it here in Colorado Springs. We're getting ready to add that feature into all of the affiliates that use the DCS system, and we're pretty excited about it.

R.A.P.: Sounds like you're right on the leading edge of technology!
Sterling: Yeah. We don't even have a cart machine in the building. We've got reel-to-reel machines, but we use them just for transferring dubs and for recording phone calls. Getting back to your question about how we maintain consistency from the live jocks to their liners, each announcer has their own voice setting. We use Symetrix 528s on all of our microphones. Every studio has an AKG 414 microphone wired directly into the Symetrix 528. The Program Director will set all of the settings for the 528 for each announcer, and whenever they record a customized line for an affiliate, they have to set their 528 to that exact same setting.

We told all the announcers to try to keep their mouth about a fist's width away from the microphone every time they cut something. This way we always have virtually the same mic placement and mic processor settings each time we record. Occasionally, we'll have a week where an announcer will not be in the best voice, maybe going through a cold or something like that. When that happens, we'll usually delay sending down their customized lines for a week or so.

R.A.P.: You are certainly doing all you can on your end to make sure everything is consistent and high quality, but do your affiliates take these quality recordings and dub them into digital systems, or are some of them recording the customized lines on analog tape and going to cart with them?
Sterling: Most of them are recording into digital systems. Out of our twenty-some affiliates, all but seven are using the DCS system. Of those seven, one station is using an automation system called Systemation. One is using a DAT system. One is using another digital system, but I can't remember the name. The others are using old automation systems with cart machines and reel-to-reel. It's nice because the DCS will interface with pretty much any of these systems. We have offered packages to our affiliates -- special lease programs and things like that -- to help them get the same equipment that we are using. We try to work with them on that, but sometimes their budgets just won't allow it.

R.A.P.: How many studios are there at KBIQ?
Sterling: We have three, one production room and two program studios. Studio A, the big studio in the corner, is the one that's occupied twenty-four hours a day with our satellite programming. We are hoping to add another production studio in the future. How far in the future I don't know. It's getting pretty busy, though. We're also looking into adding a couple of voice booths that just have a microphone, a processor, and a DAT in them. Those will be used when the announcers get off the air. They can walk into a booth and do rough cuts of their lines for the stations. Then we'll turn it over to a producer who will edit them down into a nice package where each line is five seconds apart, which lets our affiliates load them into our systems easily. Then, once the producer has done that, he boxes them up, labels them, and we'll either send them out on reel, or we'll set up a time that they will be sent down the satellite.

R.A.P.: What is most of your time spent doing?
Sterling: It's getting to the point where most of my time is spent organizing this thing. I have two day-timers that I use. One of them is a week-at-a-glance thing where I can look at what productions are due on what day and who I've assigned them to. It also keeps my appointments and has my own to-do list. I also carry a little pocket day-timer that's always on me; if the Program Director comes up and has something he wants me to do, it goes in that book. If the president of the company needs something produced or the General Manager or anybody else needs something, it gets written in there so it can be transferred into the main book later. I've got a couple of white boards in the jocks' room. One of them is a month-at-a-glance thing which shows when all the productions are due. Everyone has their own separate color, so they can glance at the board and see when their productions are due. Then I've got another white board that is just for Creative Services. It lists the name of the productions and the date it needs to be written by, the date it needs to be voiced by, and the date it needs to be produced by. I have it all redundantly in my day-timers as well.

I maintain a phone log for times when clients or agencies call me up saying stuff like, "We're going to send you a dub. It's going to arrive tomorrow." I write that down. I follow up on that. I write in there in red what mail has come in that day. Anything I may need to follow up on or just cover my butt with goes in the book.

R.A.P.: Tell us about this new division, Creative Services.
Sterling: Our Creative Services is not like many of the creative services that have been profiled in RAP. Most of those are where the Account Executives will sell a creative advertising service for an extra amount of money. It's kind of like a premium service to get a better commercial for the client. Ours is a package deal that we're offering to our affiliates right now, but it's not just exclusive to them. For a certain amount a month they get fifteen spots. For an additional amount they can get twenty-five, and on the third tier, they can get forty. If they just want us to produce one spot for them, then they pay the regular hourly studio fees.

R.A.P.: Is Creative Services basically a production house for your affiliates?
Sterling: Right now it is, but we don't anticipate it remaining that way. We also want to offer the service to stations that aren't our affiliates. We may be offering it to agencies around town. My boss is heading off to Nashville this weekend, and he's taking some demo tapes of some spots we've done for Creative Services. He's passing them out to people he's meeting with at Christian record companies and other stations, hoping to drum up some business doing concert spots for them and things like that.

R.A.P.: That's a rather large venture to be getting involved with.
Sterling: It is. We're not at the point where we can do it right now, but we've got three people on the Creative Services staff. Right now we're using one studio. If it grows, we'll get more people, and we'll get more studios. Actually, these people were already part-time on our staff, but they've been given a certain amount more per month just to work with Creative Services.

R.A.P.: The whole operation there sounds quite ambitious and is much larger than I expected. How many people are on staff?
Sterling: We're doing it all with a staff of about twenty people. I've been fortunate. We've been here for two years, and my regular full-time announcers are really coming up to speed in the production room. They're really starting to do some great work, and that just thrills my heart to no end. I've had to delegate for quite a while, but to be able to delegate and finally have great stuff being produced is just wonderful. It's a great crew.

Ideally, they'd like me to concentrate more on the creative end. That's where I feel my strength is. I really enjoy the whole creative process. As a matter of fact, the first RAP issue I ever got my hands on had a headline that read, "Creativity -- Three Books on the Subject." The article talked about a book by Roger Von Ashe called "A Kick in the Seat of the Pants." He's got another book out called, "A Whack on the Side of the Head." These books have helped me immensely in the whole creative process when it comes to writing. I even have a piece of software on my Mac called The Creative Whack Pack that's based on those books. If I need an idea, that's something I can go to.

I'm also working on developing a seminar. I have to do a seminar on copywriting next year at the National Christian Radio Seminar in Nashville. I find copywriting is a lot like a railroad. Actually, the whole production process is. You're basically trying to move goods and services from one point to another via a vehicle much like a train does. The new digital workstations are great, and they save us time. But the one area that I find we're still wasting a lot of time on is copywriting and the creative process. I wouldn't say wasting, but we just spend an awful lot of time generating ideas. So I'm developing a system known as the Radio Railroad. Basically, it's a metaphorical concept. It teaches how to gather the information you need to put into a spot. When you put the train together, you have an engine. You have a hook, something that draws the listener in and keeps them listening throughout the rest of the commercial. You have parts of copy that help to move you from the beginning of the copy to the end, which I refer to as the hoppers -- they hold your attention. They might be just little sound effects here and there, but they keep you moving through the copy. You have what I call the boxcar which, of course, is what all clients want. They always want a certain amount of information in that spot. And then you end it all up with a punch line, with a caboose, something that everyone is always looking for at the end and something that ties it back together. That puts the whole train together. I'm supposed to present this concept to our staff in the next couple of months, and then at the seminar next April in Nashville.

R.A.P.: If you expand Creative Services outside of the affiliate stations, would you provide the services exclusively to stations with a Christian format or open it to any format?
Sterling: We wouldn't make it exclusive to the Christian format, but we do have some limitations. We have policies that don't allow us to do commercials involving the sale and distribution of alcohol, things like that. We'll air spots for Seven-Eleven, or a convenience store where they may sell liquor, but any place where alcohol is the main activity, Christian radio will shy away from.

R.A.P.: You have the pleasure of doing absolutely no club spots!
Sterling: That's right; no club spots. I have not done one in I don't know how long, but I do have to do quite a few spots for chiropractors and weight loss systems. There are certain taboos with Christian radio that you have to watch out for, and you might be surprised at what some of them are.

R.A.P.: Has most of your radio background been in Christian radio?
Sterling: At this point, it's been about half and half. I worked at stations in Indiana which were secular. Since Orlando, I've worked pretty much in the Christian realm.

R.A.P.: What are some of the taboos with Christian radio that readers might be surprised at?
Sterling: Can you imagine doing a spot around Easter time not using the Easter Bunny? Or a spot at Christmas time not using Santa Claus? Or no Halloween spots? Christian radio often times will overreact to phone callers, and there are certain beliefs held by certain Christians that Santa Claus is not a good thing because the holiday season was started by the birth of Jesus and that is the thing we should focus on. So there's not a whole lot of reindeer and things like that. There are seasonal things though; you can talk about snowmen and stuff like that.

And it's the same with Easter and the Easter Bunny. Easter being the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we focus in on that season. Now, we have done certain vignette spots around Easter or around Christmas which are clever, creative productions that will explain our viewpoint about the holidays, and in those we may use an Easter Bunny or Santa Claus or something like that. But we always go back and point to the real reason for the holiday.

R.A.P.: What about Thanksgiving?
Sterling: Pilgrims and turkeys. Those are fine because the holiday was originally a time when the pilgrims were giving thanks to the Almighty for their existence, for safely being brought to this new world. And shortly after Thanksgiving we begin playing Christmas music. We'll start with maybe a song every other hour, then a few weeks out from Christmas, we basically turn the whole format over to that because there is enough Christmas music being produced. So, Christmas, in terms of programming, is always big in Christian radio.

R.A.P.: If Christian radio basically avoids Santa Claus, does it play various versions of traditional Christmas songs like "Here Comes Santa Claus?"
Sterling: No, actually we don't. We have all kinds of versions of Winter Wonderland. We have versions of Little Drummer Boy. We have versions of just about everything except Up on the Housetop and Here Comes Santa Claus. I wish it didn't have to be that way. For me, it's part of the fun of the season. It's part of what has made Christmas for me all of my life. But there are some listeners out there who object to it, and for them I would say the majority of Christian radio abstains from Santa, unfortunately.

R.A.P.: You've worked both sides of the format fence between secular and Christian radio. What are some advantages you've found working in the Christian format?
Sterling: Every place I've worked at that has been Christian has been a place where the people watch out for one another. They're real caring and concerned about your whole being, about your emotional and spiritual being, as well as what you see day to day on the outside. They have all been places that just have a wonderful feeling of family. There's not a lot of cutting down of your fellow employees, not a whole lot of sarcastic, biting wit. It's a place where you can open up and just be real people with one another. And everywhere I've worked in Christian radio has been like that. You don't have to be afraid of being who you are. You can have any kind of personality, just about, and be accepted.

R.A.P.: Were you always looking to land a job in Christian radio because of your religious beliefs, or did you land in a Christian station one day and then discover that you wanted to attain a more Christian lifestyle?
Sterling: I had been a Christian since I started in radio, since I was about sixteen years old. I went to a Christian liberal arts college. But the reason I went to it over a state college close to home was because I had visited quite a few, and at this one, I could get on the air right away and start gaining that experience. I was fortunate enough to know what I wanted to do, and I wanted to do radio. Also, my best friend was going to this school, so I had two good reasons for choosing this school. I was a Christian at the time, but I didn't really live what you would think to be the real pious Christian life. It wasn't until I moved to Florida and got out of my comfort zone, away from family and friends, out on my own in a brand new city with a brand new job, that I realized that there had to be an area of my life that was rock solid, an area where I could put my trust. I found that in the words of the Bible, and I got to know Jesus Christ more and more through that.

While I was working for Disney for those three years, I was really searching. I was burned out on radio at that time because I'd just gotten through the stint as an Account Executive, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. It was at that time I felt the Lord was really kind of confirming a calling on my life to be in radio, and I said, "Well, okay, if that's the case, I want to work at this station and do this and do that." And it was basically, "No, you'll start back at the bottom, and you'll come to see that there is a real heart for what I want you to do, both in reaching people and being real with people."

So for me, since getting back into Christian radio, I've been continuing to say, "Okay, how can I be a real person and not what people think a Christian is supposed to be, not any of their preconceived ideas, not any of their stereotypes? How can I be a real person, full of the crud inside of me -- Christians would call it sin -- yet show that "grace" and show that there is a love here for people and that it can be found through Jesus Christ?" And, lo and behold, through that process -- working at Disney and getting married at the same time and finding all that God would want me to be, first as a husband, then in my professional life - He showed me that there were a lot of good opportunities to be real with people and continue to be a Christian. Much of that comes through being a Production Director and continuing to see what people listen to, what people watch on a day to day basis, and how can I turn that around and bring the message of Jesus Christ through. I watch an episode of Saturday Night Live, for instance, and see the characters on that. How can I bring a character to life like that through a production, something that will lead people to see that Christ is real?

R.A.P.: It's wonderful that you're able to take your career and involve it and intertwine it with your spiritual and emotional growth to that degree.
Sterling: Yes. To me, being a Production Director is really a higher purpose. It's not just a career, it's a mission!

I go through times when I would just like to give it all up and maybe even go back to secular radio or something. We all get burned out. We all get tired of what we're doing. I was speaking with one of our Account Executives about this today, and we were asking ourselves, does this continue to be a calling? We concluded that if it is, then God will renew our energy for it. Well, that has kind of happened in the past week as we were trying to get these computer systems to do something they hadn't done before. You know how it is working with computers; they oftentimes will make your life more difficult than easier. I was talking to one of the consultants, and he said, "Hey, but isn't it great being pioneers?" I really had to stop and think about that. Is what I'm doing something that I can look at as being pioneering, something that no one has ever done before? We're doing a twenty-four hour a day all Christian music format -- no programs or anything. We're trying to make it work. We're trying to help stations that may be hurting out there sound a lot better. We've also been helping a lot of start-up stations as well. Quite a few of our affiliates are start-ups. It is pioneering, and all of us at the station have to step back and look at that from time to time. Once we do, we get the fire in our hearts again for what we're doing. And we're all there to help each other out. That's one of the great things about working in Christian radio.

R.A.P.: What would you say to people who have not been involved in Christian radio but want to get into it?
Sterling: Well, there's a lot of Christian stations that are aching for people, good people. Most of the people I've seen get into radio, period, got into it either through an internship or by just hanging around the station and being available. Christian radio needs warm bodies, and if you have something to offer, they are probably willing to use you. But expect a cut in pay.

R.A.P.: What's down the road for you?
Sterling: That's the scary thing. At every place I've worked at before, I've always had the next step down the road. I knew what I wanted to do. Here, I don't. I'm totally at a loss. I suppose one thing I'd like to do is get out there and find some free-lance work. I don't have the best voice in the world, but I can do the character stuff and the voice acting stuff. Other than that, I don't have anything down the road right now. I'm happy where I'm at, and I'll just wait and see what God provides. I'm enjoying the work I'm doing. I'm building what we're doing here, continuing to be a pioneer.