Feature InterviewInterviews

Connie VanKleeck Interview 8-20-18

Connie Van Kleek
General Manager
The Sound of Life
Albany, NY

Career Capsule: After becoming a believer in my senior year of high school, I went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago to study Bible with an emphasis in Communications/Broadcasting. My hope and prayer was to one day own or work at a Christian radio station. I met Steve at MBI and after we were married, we moved to the Kingston area in New York State where he was from. WFGB-FM Kingston had just gone on the air a year and half before that as the flagship station of the eventual 12 station network. I’ve held almost every job at the network except for engineering and have worked part-time and full-time through my 32 years as a staff member… taking time off here and there for having our four daughters. Almost three years ago our CEO left and I was named Acting General Manager. After about 6 months in that role, the board of directors said, “you can stop calling yourself ‘Acting General Manager’”. I guess they were happy with the job I had been doing!


Connie tell us what’s new at The Sound Of Life.. news, changes, & with YOU… etc?

We’ve just filled the position of promotions director with Wayne Reichert who we’ve shared a little bit about already. Wayne became a believer 9 years ago and during those years he became more and more serious about using his gifting to serve in Christian ministry in some way. He and his wife felt lead to move from Long Island to the Hudson Valley without a job in place. When the position was advertised over the air his wife suggested he offer his resume for promotions director though he was hesitant about how he would fit in. We’re excited about the way God is already using him as part of our team and we look forward to how he’ll grow into his knowledge of radio and promotions.

Another big piece of news as that our northernmost station (Glens Falls which covers a large part of the Adirondacks including Lake George) will be upgraded from 45 watts to 650 watts very soon. We’ll be able to reach even more people farther north in New York State with this hope-filled music!


Christian Radio has become very competitive… what do you do to stand out from the crowd?

Our major competitor in two of our markets is the BIG name in Christian radio (insert winky face). We understand and accept that many people will feel connected to that network and prefer to listen to them. One of the things that we have tried to do to stand out is to remain as local as we can, even with 12 stations on the air covering 200 miles north to south. Our community calendar announcements and presence at events allows us to have that personal connection with our listeners.


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

The best managerial advice I’ve been given is that conflict often arises from unmet expectations. If I find myself in conflict with a member of my staff I try to examine myself and see if there was some expectation that I didn’t communicate well enough. Or if I did communicate the expectation, was it reasonable? Along those same lines, someone once told me years ago that if you make a change (even a small one), you have to ask yourself “Who else needs to know this?” and then make sure you follow up. Communicating with those key players can prevent a lot of headaches! I can’t remember the worst advice… I guess I’ve just tried to forget it if there was any!


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

I suppose I should say that I agree with that, but I do feel that as believers it can serve to weaken and divide us. As a listener-supported station we already struggle. It’s a lesson in faith for me to trust God to meet our needs even with a competitor who might seem more polished than we do and has large financial backing.


What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job?

I know others have said COFFEE… and that’s certainly true for me, too, but really it’s our team here! We work so well together and support each other. I’m very thankful to God for each of them and the unique gifts they contribute!


Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?

Anywhere! God uses who He will and I’ve heard some great stories about how He has led people out of other industries to work in Christian radio. Also, I still hope that young people will be interested in going to school for broadcasting/media so that we can have an infusion of the younger generations into our industry.


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

From my chair, it’s funding… we need to continue to present the vision and mission of our organizations in a compelling way so that listeners will not hesitate to step out in faith and will feel confident supporting what we do. And I have to remember that I don’t have to feel uncomfortable asking because this is a great and worthy cause to give to!


Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?

One of my radio heroes is one of my professors from Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Charles Christensen (now with the Lord). He taught us a lot about human communication in general and I’m frequently coming across situations where something he said comes back to mind. He ministered long after he retired from MBI and wrote books with his beloved wife to help married couples. Another person who influenced a lot of what I do today is one of my previous managers here at the Sound of Life, Sam Mason. He taught me a lot of practical things – smiling when you talk on air, subtle pronunciations of words, and best practices for interviews. He also modeled servant leadership by being willing to do just about anything for the ministry.