I’ve been spending a lot of time with our fledgling new announcers this month. I was determined that during their first few weeks on air they would not be manning the airwaves alone. WSMC actually has a pretty extensive training program (which has since expanded even further under my direction). We employ students for nearly 3 months before we give them an official shift. During this time they come in as often as they can to learn, observe and practice. However, when I was a student, after the 3 months I was given a shift to run all by myself. Sure I had seen it done, but I soon learned seeing and doing are completely different things. I was beyond extremely nervous. I’m sure listeners heard my voice quavering with anxiety, but I survived the first couple of weeks and soon became quite at ease with running the studio by myself. However, I didn’t want my new trainees to feel the same terror I felt upon starting fresh and alone.
For the past two Thursday evenings, I have stayed well into the evening to help our new announcer Jonathan Harper cover his shift. He’d program the CD players and talk on the air, while I answered the phones for Classics by Request. We’d take turns finding CDs and working on the music playlist. He would be constantly rehearsing the names he would have to announce next and checking their pronunciation in our “Well-Tempered Announcer Book” or looking at this website which has quite an extensive music dictionary. However, the site uses some pronunciation conventions that make it hard to decipher what it’s actually supposed to sound like. I still can’t figure out what sound “6” is supposed to make, but for the most part, it can be helpful.
In between looking up names, talking on air, answering phones, looking for CDs, getting the playlist typed, Jonathan had to work on his billboards for A Little Night Music. If you’re not familiar with a billboard, anytime a student has a local music shift (that’s not Classics by Request) he is to pick a piece that will be his “feature piece” and talk about it at the top of the hour, in this case from 7:00-7:01; 8:00-8:01; 9:00-9:01. Billboards can be heard on anything from Performance Today to Talk of the Nation, so we try and model in their footsteps as close as possible.
Well, Jonathan happened to arrive at his shift with only 5 minutes to spare before he went live. He had planned on arriving earlier but got detained by someone else. As a result he was agitated and flustered when working the board. At one point he even absently turned the mic slider on and up and started to talk on air before I frantically gestured for him to turn it off because he was talking over Marketplace! In the rush to begin the program, he introduced his first piece without checking on its pronunciation and ended up introducing the Hebrides Overture as the “He-Brides Overture” *wince.* You can only imagine how that set the phones to ringing. Within several minutes I think we got 4 phone calls from listeners seeking to correct his pronunciation. He correctly back announced the piece and apologized; he also explained it was only his second week on the job and asked listeners to call him if they heard something wrong or had any concerns.
Here’s the thing. Those are classic moments and we actually laugh about them now. Everyone has one (or maybe several) of those times where they hang their head ashamedly and admit their biggest faux-pas on-air. Jonathan will probably forever now remember how to pronounce the Hebrides Overture after the events of last night. One of my favorites was hearing one of my announcers talk about “scattered temperatures” instead of scattered showers. Another announcer said he once announced the high in Fahrenheit and the low in Celsius for quite an extreme range of temperature!
At any rate, I kindly informed Jonathan that hearing a name slaughtered on the airwaves can make people upset and that’s why it’s always important to look things up. Ralph is not always Ralph, sometimes it sounds like Rafe. Kodaly and especially Milhaud sound nothing like they look! As it says in one of the WSMC audition scripts, the life of an announcer is not an easy one. It’s difficult work threading one’s way through the landmine of foreign, and sometimes difficult to pronounce names. Thanks for your patience as these students learn, feel free to call in with gentle reminders of how things actually should sound if you ever hear the “He-brides Overture.”
We all have to start somewhere,
Wow. The new year has begun and my nerves have been frazzled and stressed since the holidays. Not the best way to begin a new year, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
If you’re a faithful listener to WSMC, you’ve probably noticed some changes in our programming since January 1. Did you know WSMC has been in a state of short-term and long-term planning since the summer of 2009? It started with a survey we sent to our members asking them about their favorite programs and listening habits of 90.5. We’ve been analyzing our mission, dreaming big dreams, and coming up with numerous strategies for improvement. We’ve also been working closely with an incredibly talented woman from DEI who is a public radio consultant for stations all across the nation. She has been a great resource, advisor and help in instituting some of these new changes.
We had broadcast all throughout December that program changes were going to begin in January. Since people appear not to like change, I anticipated at least a few angry phone calls and emails. I was surprised that nearly a whole month went by without hearing from a single soul! Then I received a flustered call a day or so before the New Year and the theme of the conversation was this, “Well, if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it!”
Now that’s a very interesting saying. My question is: which party gets the final say in determining whether something is broken or not? I think about my crummy car radio. It plays most of the time, but seems to have a mind of its own. It will turn off at will, change volume at random, and be nearly impossible to turn on/off at times. But hey, it works most of the time; I got used to it. It’s fine. It mostly works. That’s exactly what the staff, board, and consultant thought of our programming. It’s fine. It mostly works. In all honesty, it could be better.
I have since had my car radio fixed and the improvement is superb. I can turn it off when I want. I can even change the volume at my discretion. It’s quite amazing really (but here is where you think, this is what your radio should have been like all along). The lesson I’ve been learning recently is that change doesn’t always have to be bad! Change should also be dynamic and not static. The moment my radio started acting up I should have worked to fix it. The moment WSMC notices that a change needs to occur in its programming that needs to be looked at right away.
I know the analogy is far from perfect, but it’s the first thing that came to mind. Since then, I’ve only received a few calls asking where a favorite program has moved to. I have found our listeners to be quite polite in their inquiries, which is refreshing. Sometimes it feels like we only get a call or email when someone wants to complain and not to commend…But I know that isn’t entirely true. Many members write notes of encouragement and praise when they send in their contributions. Other listeners call in with praise over a gorgeous piece of music they heard, but I suppose in my mind, it takes 2 positive comments for me to forget 1 negative comment received.
Do you notice anything positive in WSMC’s new program lineup? I know I have received several positive comments from our staff. Timothy mentioned how he enjoys the new Classical Guitar program (if you haven’t heard it yet, it comes on Sundays at 7pm). Jason, who loves Fred Child, is happy to have Performance Today extended into Sunday. One of our producers thinks it’s really nice to have a symphony during the day during our Symphony at Noon. I personally like the Surprise at 9 (which, to be exact is actually the surprise at 9:01). For the next few weeks at 9:01 we’re playing music off one of our LP albums called the “Fabulous Forties.” It’s not classical, but it’s truly classic. I hope you enjoy it too!
Focusing on the positive side of change,
Before I go off blogging to my little heart’s content, perhaps I should introduce myself to those of you who may not know who I am. My name is Jessica Morris and I am the Office Manager of WSMC, but don’t let the mere secretary-sounding title fool you into thinking I just answer phones and open mail.
WSMC is a huge operation, we broadcast at 100,000 watts which gives us quite a large umbrella of sound. We reach down to Atlanta, halfway to Nashville, to the outskirts of Knoxville and we’ve even got quite a few nice listeners in Murphy, NC (hey Jeff! Hope the taxi service is going well) and even further out to Hayesville, NC to one of our faithful listeners, Ben, who lives out there.
Are you somewhere on the outskirts of our signal listening to us? Maybe you listen to us online from another state? Think you’re listening to us from the most unique location? I’d love to know who you are and where you’re listening from.
Having mentioned the strength of our broadcast signal and the fact that we offer live or streamed programming every day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it may be surprising for you to learn that WSMC only employs 3 full-time staff. WSMC also employs 11 students currently attending Southern Adventist University. Eight students are announcers you hear on air throughout the day and three students work behind the scenes recording, editing, and creating local programs.
My job responsibilities have grown and evolved over time into the somewhat unwieldy job description I hold today. I’ve done anything from designing magazine ads for WSMC, writing and editing letters to our donors, keeping the web site current, supervising and training the student staff, processing member contributions, creating public service announcements for air, monitoring air quality, ensuring proper programs are downloaded and available, and basically whatever else that needs to get done.
I love working at WSMC. If you’ve read my bio on our website, you’d know that I’ve worked here since 2002. I worked as a student announcer during my entire time at Southern and when I graduated in 2007 I gladly accepted the office manager position. However, I’m sad to say it, but I will be leaving WSMC within the next few months to pursue a career in secondary education in the fine, non-humid state of Colorado.
Here’s to WSMC and nearly a decade of fantastic employment!