This past week, I was given the great honor of being named Radio Producer of the Year for 2011 by Access Sacramento, for my radio show Twirl.
This is a tremendous and humbling award. It’s true, I do work hard on my radio show each week. I got to accept my award on live TV here in Sacramento County. But with limited time, and not wanting to hog the stage, I didn’t get to fully express what this award really means to me.
Access Sacramento is a creative oasis in the heart of California’s capital city. It’s a place that any resident of Sacramento County can walk in, pay some very inexpensive membership dues, learn how to use the equipment, and produce their own radio and TV shows, or get their short film made. And we are privileged, because we are thriving, other access facilities in bigger places such as San Francisco and Los Angeles have been struggling, or have gone away completely.
So the little secret is that anybody can do what I do. A few of us do; there are many who don’t.
For me, it has always been a childhood dream to be on the radio. I started college with that intention, until I found out that the RTVF (Radio/TV/Film) Department at Cal State Northridge in L.A. didn’t have radio or television. It was just a film department. So my youthful “go with the flow” attitude caused me to not seek out where I could learn radio. I just dropped it. Probably a good idea, because unbeknownst to me at the time, commercial radio was in decline, and if I took up radio as a profession, I’d probably be living a life of poverty. So I have a “day job”, and a great, meaningful career at that, one that covers several of my other interests.
I’ve been a huge fan of radio my whole life, and even got close to it when I lived in Chicago, and volunteered at the fundraisers for local NPR affiliate WBEZ. And what a thrill for me, the one or two times that one of their hosts let me say a few words on the air.
Nearly 14 years ago, I moved back to California–to Sacramento. Finding out that the public access TV facility here also had radio was a tremendous life-changing revelation. I called Shane Carpenter, the radio Program Director/instructor/tech guy, and he was nothing but supportive and enthusiastic about my idea to do a radio program which features mostly neglected, underplayed, but really great music.
I left after 5 years of some of the best times of my life, but radio never fully left my bloodstream. When I returned in the fall of 2006, the world had changed, and for the better. The indies were taking over the world. Our radio station at Access Sacramento, The Voice, had always been fiercely independent. But we were starting to get onto the internet big time, with improved webcasting service, as were many like-minded startup webcasters. And at the same time, musicians were giving up on the traditional aim of trying to get a record deal (and usually getting abused in the process), and going DIY. Like us radio folks, they started getting access to top quality, inexpensive tools for recording, producing, and distributing their music. And the game changer for all of us was the rise of social networking–MySpace, Facebook, Reverbnation, Twitter, WordPress, and the like. More than anything else in the entire time I’ve been doing radio, these channels enabled me to find great new music to play, and to reach out to musicians and listeners. I can easily post playlists and tag the musicians to let them know they’ve received airplay. I use Facebook to interactively chat with people during my show. And these venues provide a safe place for us all to meet up. I’ve even met a few of my musical heroes this way.
So as I thank Shane Carpenter, and also Ron Cooper (Access Sacramento’s Executive Director–a huge free speech advocate), I have to acknowledge who this award is really for. I’ve been standing on some huge shoulders for a very long time, and my success is really due to these people.
The musicians. They have been so giving of their talents to create the wonderful music that they let me share with you. Of all people, they understand what a selfless creative venture is. The listeners. They have chosen to spend a couple of their valuable hours with me each week to listen to what I’m putting out there. They could be doing almost anything else, especially on a weekend, but took the time to tether themselves to a computer or smartphone for my show. And my wife Amber, who’s seen an awful lot of the back of my head while I’m doing show prep at home.
So this award carries a tremendous responsibility. There are other great radio producers at The Voice who certainly deserve awards too. My show presents Sacramento to the world, so I want to make sure my hometown gets the respect it deserves. A lot of musicians depend upon my show, and others like it, to get their wonderful art out to the world. And the listeners depend on me to get them something new to listen to. I do not take this responsibility lightly, but instead, want to use this award to work even harder at making good radio.
If you’re reading this, a big thank you. This means everything to me.