Program Director/ Co0host The Morning Show with Bill & Denise
Career Capsule: Originally from Delaware. After graduating from high school she lived in Charlotte, NC & Pensacola, FL before returning to her roots in Delaware in 1990 with her hubby. She met her husband, Ken, while touring nationwide with a musical group called Sound of Joy for three years. Before that she toured with The Spurrlows across the US for a year. In between tours, she spent a year singing in Charlotte, NC at The PTL Club and completing an internship at The Heritage of Evangelism & Communications. Denise worked in radio 12 years before coming to The Bridge. She & Bill began doing mornings together on 101.3 WXPZ (The Light FM) over 27 years ago. When 88.7 The Bridge started, December 2010, Denise and her co-host, Bill Sammons, were delighted to begin waking people up again each weekday morning.
Denise, what’s new at The Bridge?
We hired a new afternoon host and Assistant Program Director, Mark Dickey, who has a creative ear for production, a tender heart, a great sense of humor and leads the pack in being a team player. We effectively doubled our reach on the Delmarva Peninsula (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) last year when we purchased a full-power FM licensed to Pocomoke City, MD and we added a translator to boost coverage in Ocean City, MD. We recently received two awards from Delaware Today’s 2018 Best of Delaware Awards for: Best Radio Station for Music Downstate and Best DJ’s for our Morning Show – Bill Sammons & Denise Harper. What’s new with me? Stepping into my new role as Program Director, as of December 2017, has been a little like deja vu in some respects since I served as PD at a previous station for more than 10 years. While there are new things to learn, like making new friends in the industry, and technology opportunities, I must say, it feels most like I’ve come home. I’m honored to serve in this role at The Bridge.
Christian radio has become very competitive. What do you do to stand out from the crowd?
The Bridge is the only Christian-formatted radio station in the Salisbury/Ocean City, MD market that is locally owned and provides locally produced content. We’re only 7 years old, and the mission of loving as many people as possible in our communities, and inspiring them to connect with Jesus Christ, has been the lens through which we view everything we do.
What is the best programming/show advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Play a song she loves. Talk about something she cares about. Repeat. (Best. advice. ever.) Worst advice ever? A sales manager once told me I needed to add a daily on-air fishing report. When I inquired as to ‘why she would care to hear a fishing report?’ His response was ‘because we sold it!’.
Some say the more Christian stations in a market the better. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?
I have mixed feelings about it honestly. The Bible tells us that iron sharpens iron. We are the only live and local Christian radio station in our market. It is a privilege and joy to live, work and worship with our listeners day in and day out. We want to honor God and love our listeners in every way possible. The cume, TSL, financial support, community honors and reciprocated listener love are a direct reflection of God’s blessing. So while we are aware there is another network playing our format in the market we do our best to keep our eyes focused on God’s calling for us and trust Him in His plan.
What is the ONE thing you must have every day to do your job/show?
Where will future Christian radio air talent come from?
Effective communicators can come from just about anywhere. We are absolutely open to air talent who have studied and come with a degree in communications. But we’ve also had good success identifying a local worship leader who excels at setting up the environment for a worship song set at her church and a local Chick-fil-A Director of Hospitality who lights up the room with his engagement people skills. When you identify the heart and the passion in a prospective air talent, it can be tempting to ‘plug and play’ for the PD who has more work than time, but, coaching patiently, consistently and persistently will bear much fruit!
Generally speaking to the industry, what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian radio?
Technology is moving faster than the speed of light practically. Being open to new ways of effectively communicating the Gospel is imperative. Busyness and the tyranny of the urgent can hold us all back. Being ok with the mentality that ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ can definitely be an obstacle for growth. Not making professional and personal growth as well as team growth high priorities can choke out the ministry. Dream BIG. Ask GOD for BIG things. I’m not talking about monetarily BIG. I mean KINGDOM BIG. How can we have maximum impact on the signal(s) footprint He’s given us with the message of hope and grace? Then do it!
Who are your radio heroes and influences? And why?
I am truly grateful for the CMB team that advocates for Christian radio and its broadcasters and ministries. Creating environments to help us connect and grow and ultimately make Christian radio better for every ear that can hear it is invaluable. One of my earliest radio influences and definitely a hero in my book is Brad Burkhart. His programming summits in Atlanta in the early 90’s allowed small market radio programmers, like myself, to network and learn alongside medium, large and major market programmers from the best of the best. Gurus like Mike McVay, Dan O’Day, Roy Williams!
I have such appreciation for Jon Hamilton, his vision and leadership for the Christian FM network. When The Bridge first signed on the air in 2010, as a Christian FM network affiliate, it allowed us to have access to strong, well tested music with gifted communicators from markets all over the country. His team made our team look and sound good and allowed us time to build a solid foundation of on location staff. While we are no longer an affiliate of the network we are forever grateful for the professional product and ministry Jon, Paul and the Christian FM team brought to us when we began.
I continue to be inspired by so many broadcasters who aren’t afraid to be vulnerable, who embrace the struggle to be real and offer hope day in and day out. This quote from Erwin McManus sums up the value of that struggle for me. That while we can learn from each other God has made each of us unique with His own fingerprint on our soul. And that we have been given a platform to help others identify their own uniqueness and God’s fingerprint on their soul…well that is worth it all!
“While religions have historically tried to make us the same, Jesus calls us to be different. If you have ever experienced this, you know your soul bristled at the demand to quietly get in line and conform. But something in your gut told you this was wrong. If there was a God, his value would not be uniformity, but uniqueness. And you were right. Imprinted on your soul is the fingerprint of God. There is something inside you that resists surrendering your soul to legalism. The good news is that all that time it wasn’t you fighting against God; you were fighting for what God has created you to become.”