Career Capsule: Jami was born and raised in Amarillo, Tx, and got her start in radio as a freshman while attending Texas A&M University. After stints in Oklahoma City and Southern California, she settled in Nashville in 1990 and stayed for 23 years, doing country and Christian radio. She was on XM Satellite Radio when it first began, doing country programming from a studio in the lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame. She not only did radio but was on the State Senate Staff for the 103rd General Assembly working for Senator Mike Walker. She also became the Music Industry Liaison at the Tn Film, Entertainment & Music Commission for 2 years before returning to her first love, radio, in 2005.
Jami, tell us what’s new at KPWJ … any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
It’s incredible to think that Peace 107 has only been in existence since 2012. Bryan Broadcasting hired two former Salem employees (Brian Christopher and I) and allowed us to do LIVE radio every day. It’s really paid off for them as we were finalists for the Marconi Religious Station of the Year award in 2018 and 2019. Brian Christopher has done all the hard work and deserves the credit. I just stayed out of his way.
On a personal note, after being single for many years, I was married in 2021 to a wonderful Christian man, Mark Benton. He’s a widower and we were set up by a dear friend of over 40 years. I guess she knows me well. I was very content to be alone for the rest of my life, partly because I was diagnosed with a gynecological cancer in 2013. After surgery, chemo, and 30 radiation treatments I was certain remarrying was not in my future…but God had different plans.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
I decided to get a better balance with a move from Nashville back to Texas in 2013. I slowed down and learned about self-care. I started eating and sleeping better and can say from experience it is very important to find a healthy balance. When I was diagnosed with cancer there was no survivor I could talk to and I made God a promise that, if I survived, I would volunteer through MD Anderson’s MyCancerConnection program to speak to any woman with the same type of cancer that wanted to speak to a survivor. I’ve spoken to over 35 women from all over the US (some in states I’ve never stepped foot in) and it has changed me. I think speaking to these women and encouraging them is one of the biggest purposes of my life. God took something devastating and turned it into something that brings Him glory. Isn’t that just like God?!
Overall, what is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
The best advice was always self- edit as you talk and physically smile when on the air. Also, experience beats talent every time.
The worst was not to listen to your audience.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
That people are hungrier than ever for local radio that connects them. Christian radio has had a unique position throughout the pandemic and I’ve seen them rise to the occasion so graciously. It’s reminded me how powerful music can be during times of crisis. Many people have told me they began to listen to Christian radio again which give us an incredible opportunity to share the gospel.
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?…
Only do a podcast if you have something to say. Make sure you have something to say from an authentic unique voice.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
After discussing this with Bryan Broadcasting’s General Manager Ben Downs, unfortunately we agree they’re not coming. Not in the way of making it a main career goal. Things are so diversified now it will probably just be a small part of someone’s career. That breaks my heart. However, the young ones I’ve met and worked with are extremely focused and dedicated to learn how to communicate Jesus to a dying world…and so bright. I’m impressed.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
Finding a place where you can develop your talent while making a living wage. That’s always been the dilemma and it’s even more challenging in today’s radio world. One thing that has breathed life back into my on air work is to be able to do it LIVE again. It’s thrilling for all of us here at Peace 107.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
A big influence on my career has been the Hicks Brothers. It was Steve Hicks (SFX) that hired me in Nashville on WSIX-FM and I had a great run in the 90s doing country in Music City. Then Bill Hicks (Bryan Broadcasting) hired me where I’ve been since 2013.
Being a part of KYMS-FM Orange County from 1983-1988 was instrumental in forming me as a broadcaster and a Christian. I keep in touch and remain friends with everyone I worked with there. They’re incredible people and Christians and made history in CCM.
Jon Rivers was a huge influence and watching him handle the Dallas radio market in the 80s gave me the courage to try secular radio again. He has my favorite radio voice of all time. He doesn’t even know what a tremendous effect he had on me.
In Nashville while at WSM, the Opry Announcer Hairl Hensley befriended me and mentored me for about 10 years. I asked him how he had survived 35 years in the market and he said, “I know where the bodies are buried.”
I also got to work for 7 years with the great Gerry House and tried to absorb as much as I could from him. His creativity at the speed of light was amazing to be around. Many mornings as I handed him his pulled music he would have a new ‘take’ on my name …Jamerific!!.. .Jamalamadingdong!!… Jamerama!! One time I asked our PD if Gerry liked me because I could not read him. He said, “If Gerry didn’t like you, you wouldn’t be here.” I was honored to work with so many great radio professionals.