Feature InterviewInterviews

Carlos Montanez Interview 1/2/17

Carlos Montanez
On Air Personality
Reach Radio Network
New York

Career Capsule: I started out producing a sports show at WBCR in 2012. I climbed the ladder and became Sports Director in 2013, doing play-by-play of the school’s sports teams. After that I got hired by WFAN to do promotions in 2014, which lead to me work at all stations at CBS Radio. With my foot in the door at CBS, I took what I learned and brought it to WBCR, now as Program Director. After a year as Program Director, I was finally able to submit my career to the Lord and he redirected it. I was introduced to Christian radio in 2014 and never looked back. I began volunteering for K-LOVE (WKLV) and months later at Star 99.1 (WAWZ) after the 2015 Momentum conference. Since the redirection, I continued as Program Director and hosted afternoons for WBCR. I also managed their social media, in addition to my own social media pages as a personality and also for my church (Primitive Christian Church). I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity in New York City. I was born and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and currently reside in the neighborhood of Chelsea. My tenure at WBCR came to an end this past August. I am currently doing Marketing and Promotions at CBS Radio, using my downtime to be mentored by the on-air talent there.  

Carlos, Tell us what’s new with WBCR… news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

WBCR continues to be a free-form college station on a low-power AM signal. The biggest change was this past August when I stepped down as Program Director after two successful years. Since it was a college station I was able to treat students/talent like professionals so they would be prepared for what awaits them. We call WBCR a laboratory so students can experiment with different styles and genres of radio. When I began as PD, I was making strides in the world of sports radio, until the Lord redirected my career to pursue a career in Christian radio around the time I went to my first Momentum conference in 2015. For about a year I’ve hosted afternoons doing a Christian AC type program for a few months. I realized the audience I was targeting was 18-24 or younger. I re-formatted the show to be what Mike Couchman now calls “Christian Top 40” mixing christian hip hop, rock, pop and contemporary all in one. The youth I work with at my church loved it. This was my first time experimenting as an on-air personality. I saw that my mentor Rick Hall from Star 99.1 was doing afternoons and being a PD. I said to myself “If this is what it takes to be in this industry, then might as well learn to do both”. My last year as PD at WBCR I did exactly what Rick Hall did, plus implement the things I picked up at CBS Radio. Even on my days off at CBS, I would visit Star 99 to shadow Rick.

What is your typical day like regarding getting ready to go on the air?

A typical day going on air for me is always on social media, knowing what is going on in the city and in local neighborhoods. Who is performing near NYC? What events are taking place at churches and etc. I try to find really cool stories that are uplifting, again that’s what social media is for. Also what’s trending. Is it a national day of something? Once I feel comfortable about the material, I begin to write out my breaks. As a young on-air personality my mentors at CBS always told me right out everything as a reference, to have talking points. So thank you Fabi Pimentel (WNEW) and Broadway Bill Lee (WCBS-FM). I use notes from Sunday or Wednesday service at my church if it ties into a song. I try to be over-prepared for a show then start the process of elimination when I create my log. I try to leave room for any breaking news during my program. You never know what can happen in NYC *hint bombing in my neighborhood in Chelsea*. But before I start my show I have to stop and pray. I have made it a habit to give thanks to the Lord for using me to connect with so many people for His Glory.

What is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?

The best programming advice I ever gotten “so far” was to work as a team and to stay humble. My former professors Miguel Macias and John Anderson taught me this during my first year being PD at WBCR. I came in thinking I knew it all. In reality I had tons to learn and I am still learning. Even in 50 years I see myself still learning. Learning never ends. That is what stuck with me in my coaching session with John Frost. The worst advice I ever got was from a former PD at WBCR. He told me to be assertive and let everyone know that what I say goes. Yeah that might be true in some cases, but I know quality work wont get done with that attitude. That just reinforces the leadership advice I get from Brian Sanders and the people at P.A.R. If I wasn’t able to listen to my students and producers ideas then we weren’t going to get anything productive done. I needed them to trust me and my thoughts on their show to make it better. My main goal was to prepare them for the real world in professional radio at the same time prepare myself because I was no better then them. I am still looking for my first break in this industry, wherever God may lead me. 

Some say more Christian stations in a market the better, do you agree with that, why or why not?

Well I live in a market that has very few Christian stations. When it comes to Christian music I feel NYC only has Star 99.1 as its only local station. K-LOVE is the other one, but that’s syndicated. I truly believe this city needs more Christian stations. As much as I love Star 99, I was very vocal at CMB Momentum about how NYC needs a station like Boost 101.9 or NGEN. A station that is urban enough to attract the non-believes in parts of the city that are not publicized. For example, the low income areas like where I grew up, where hope is almost lost. This was another reason why I did a “Christian Top 40” format for my program as an experiment. I chose the music that is playing in a Hot AC/CHR format and added more hip hop and pop because I knew the community I was serving. All I needed was a dope beat from a KB or NF song that would attract attention, especially to unbelievers. The great thing is that they’ll be planted with the seed of the Holy Spirit as well.  

What is the ONE thing you must have everyday to do your show?

One thing I need everyday to do my show is my phone. I like to be interactive with my audience through Snap Chat, Facebook Live and answering tweets. I want them to feel like they are a part of the show to.

Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

One thing I always hear in mainstream is that people who work in Christian radio are jocks who couldn’t make the cut in mainstream. I want end that stereotype. I really liked the students I met who go to Cedarville University. I am a year removed from graduating from Brooklyn College and I was the only board member at WBCR who stood out to produce a Christian program. Places like Resound Radio in Cedarville is like the minor leagues. It’s stations like that who are molding the future of this industry. While I won’t give Resound Radio all the credit, WBCR is place for development as well, but more mainstream because that was my mindset for so many years. Once the Lord told me to pursue radio for Him, I changed my whole approach. I just hope I was able to show my students the great things our industry has to offer. I introduced them to the music we play and how we only want to encourage. I was in their shoes less than two years ago. I had no clue about anything in Christian radio, until my girlfriend at the time to introduced me to K-LOVE. To be honest, I couldn’t stand it. All I wanted was to listen to a ball game if we were ever in the car. After we broke up, I started to listen to K-LOVE in my office at work and months later that’s when God started to tug at me to pursue this instead of sports radio. For months I was stubborn until He provided a way for me go to CMB Momentum last year. That was my answer. When I listen to Josh Wilson’s song Fall Apart, I realized “Our heartbreak brings us back to You” was what happened to me. I was so driven to be in sports radio that I lost focus and put God 2nd to a ton of things. Once I literally got my heart broken, that is when things changed. I am not saying that’s how our future talent will get into the industry, but that was my testimony how I got to where I am today. It’s the students who have the passion to be in our industry that will go far. My passion occurred a bit late, mid-way through senior year, but God’s time is way different then ours.

Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?

From my POV, the industry lacks the expertise in social media. Even in mainstream WCBS-AM has come to me for advice to use different platforms better. Day by day I am still learning new features on how to use social media to fund-raise and how to incorporate listeners into what we do, but this is ever changing. I try to be ahead of the game as much as I can. After last years Momentum I decided to do research on various stations around the country to see how they sound and look at what they are doing with social media. One of the pet-peeves I get is when I see a station’s Instagram account and all it has is quotes and bible verses. There is a time and place for that, but that can’t be the only thing being posted. As a listener I want to see videos from concerts or a jock in studio. I also want to see the station being involved in the community. Small things like that. All you need is your phone. That why my phone is so important to me. For WBCR I was doing all the programming, social media and an entire shift and I love every second of it. 

Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

Wow, my biggest influences in radio? I will try to keep this list small:

  • Rick Hall (WAWZ) and I met last year at Momentum and not only has he been a mentor, but also a great friend. He inspired me to build a studio in my small Manhattan apartment to practice and voice-track. Almost everything I did at WBCR was derived from watching Rick work. You know how a father and son bond?  And the son if he is a toddler, imitates his dad with little things like combing his hair or wearing clothes a certain way; that’s what I did with Rick. I saw what he did, heard how he sounded and made it my own. 
  • Broadway Bill Lee (WCBS-FM) is another mentor of mine. I am literally in studio with Broadway almost everyday observing how he talks on-air and how he uses his voice. He coaches me on my style on air, always emphasizing the importance of my diction and tone. My voice has gotten a lot stronger with his advice. 
  • Mike Couchman (Boost 101.9) and Tim Collins (Lighthouse Radio Network) influenced me to add more hip hop into the mix. They also helped me connect with my listeners better during breaks and on social media.
  • Fabi Pimentel (WNEW) is one of my biggest supporters. She is always giving me advice about life and on the programming side of radio. She is one of the most positive people I know.
  • Rick Thomas (WBMP) has influence me with his teamwork. I always catch him having meetings with his entire on-air staff. I always try to ease drop on the conversations. Not to be nosy, but in the future if I am blessed to lead a staff, I want us to feel like a family and have every voice be heard.
  • Scott Shannon (WCBS-FM) has been a major part of my morning routine since his days at WPLJ. His storytelling ability has always caught my ear. It is something I try to emulate to connect with my listeners. I am blessed to walk into work as see him every morning. 
  • Scott Herman (COO of CBS Radio) is the former GM of WBCR in 1980 and ironically his protégé ran the station 30 years later. Scott gave me my first shot at CBS Radio duing my junior year of college in 2014. He took me under his wing to show me the programming and sales side of radio. He is the reason I fell in love with programming. He even paid for my tuition for my senior year with a scholarship in his name at Brooklyn College. I am forever thankful for my relationship with Scott. 

Most of the people I have named have in one way or another critiqued my air-check or still do. I am always looking to improve my style and I am always eager to address the advice I get back. You never can stop learning. 

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