Jayme Summers Interview
Director Of Operations
Career Capsule: I worked in TV and it didn’t take me long to realize that the high stress just wasn’t for me. I got into radio because I knew the equipment and could do the job, and it enabled me to work in a way that kept my children out of daycare. I started in Savannah, Georgia at Cat Country 94.1. The format changed to 94.1 The Beat, and I was able to facilitate the change over and remained there until my move to Brunswick, Georgia. I worked for Golden Isles Broadcasting for many years doing promotions, Music Directing, APD, and whatever else they needed over the years. I decided to get out of radio when my son was born. I was convinced that I just didn’t desire to do radio anymore. 6 months later Luke Stephens gave me a call and said he was moving his station to our area and needed local talent. He asked if I would consider taking the position. I turned him down. I believe I turned him down 8 times over a 6 month period before I said yes. I have loved radio again, since the day I entered that small town Christian station.
Jayme, tell us what’s new at Salem … any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
So many exciting things are happening at Salem Nashville. The Fish is gearing up to celebrate 20 years in our market. Our nationally syndicated host, Amanda Carroll, has stepped into mid-days. Her Good News segments and stories that inspire us all to be brave are a perfect fit for our demo. Hannah Jansen is filling the overnight position, bringing a fresh and youthful voice to that time slot. They round out a lineup of already well performing shows, Kevin and Taylor and Keep the Faith with Penny. Kevin and Taylor have been with us for several years now. It’s such a blessing for us to be able to share the experience and quality of a top 10 market show, with stations across the country. They are fun and relatable and make for a wonderful start to our work days. Keep the Faith with Penny has also been with us for some time now. I feel like I go through a whole range of emotions with Penny. Her stories and listener input can have me crying one minute and laughing the next. She is amazing at what she does. They all make me very excited to see what God has in store for our team.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
We live out our life on air. Those fun family moments are what makes each day interesting. When we don’t have boundaries with work, that comes out on air too. It is the most important thing we do, to set everything down and go for a hike with the family. I have to remind myself to close the laptop and walk away, because family time has to be a priority. There are always programmers to take our place, but no one can take our place as a spouse and parent.
Overall, what is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
My first Program Director told me that if I wanted to survive in radio, I would have to be a chameleon. It was advice that guided me to roll with the changes. Now some 24 years later, I get excited when everything changes. I see it as potential for growth, an opportunity to reassess our direction and make sure we are doing what God is calling us to do in that moment.
The worst advice? To be honest, it must have been so bad I completely threw it out of my brain and into the garbage can. I consulted my team and asked their thoughts, and here is where we landed. The worst advice is to assume every market is the same. The taste and texture of the listeners vary from market to market. A song that works well at my former station in Brunswick, Georgia; may not be the vibe that my Nashville family enjoys. My VP of programming Mike Blakemore, places emphasis on painting our own picture with our own brush strokes and unique perspective. It give me the ability to highlight our Nashville flare when choosing music for the Fish Nashville. It also challenges me to come up with ways to localize our Today’s Christian Music and The Word In Praise networks. I want every resource to feel like home for our listening family.
What’s something you’ve learned due to the pandemic, about Christian Radio, that you didn’t know before?
Be intentional about spending time with family and friends. (This goes right back to that work boundary). When you realize you can’t just hop in the car and go see the people you love, it changes you.
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?…
Everyone has a passion for something. We can forget about those passions when the kids are small and we are spending our days potty training and teaching them how to count. Eventually, we come back around the things that God has woven into our hearts. If a talent is at a place in life where their passion can shine through, absolutely GO FOR IT! Trying to force a passion with a someone who is focused elsewhere, will not produce a favorable result. It’s my opinion that Podcasting should be something a talent feels led to do.
I will add that Jen Allen changed the way I view podcasting. She expressed that both podcasting and social media can be a source for listeners to find their way to us. I have always approached podcasting as a branch on the radio tree. I am currently marinating on these platforms being more of root TO the tree.
Where will new up and coming air talent for Christian Radio come from?
This is one of those “I have no idea how God does it” questions for me. I started in radio because I was a stay-at-home mom who had never “not had a job”. I could work at the station, after my husband came home. I never set out to do radio, and I was too much of a behind-the-scenes person to place on a mic. Somehow, here I am. When everyone’s radio career story begins with “I never set out to do radio, I just loved music”, how do you measure that?
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
Raising the next generation of industry leaders. Jeremy Sweat used to tell me we spend every day building our ship, only to burn it down every night. In the midst of building and burning, we can forget to pour our experiences into the next generation. We have the privilege of having a “fun job”, but one day we will want to hang up our hat and enjoy sleeping through the stormy nights. When that day comes, will we have shown anyone where the tools are to build the ship? If we walk away holding the tools, we have surely failed.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why?
I have been so blessed to work with so many great mentors in this industry. Luke Stephens and Jeremy Sweat both made sure I had access to consultants, exceptional program directors, and experienced talent. They are both great examples of how to care for and grow your team. Chuck Finney is someone that I have admired and respected for the majority of my Christian radio career. I still refer back to past consultation notes with Chuck, and he has been right there during the big moves of my on-air life, to guide and advise. Jeremy Sweat… I could write a whole article on how much I admire that man. He has poured so much into growing me into something more. His leadership skills are what I continue to strive for. His heart is so immersed in our industry and his love for radio is what has stretched me to be the best that I can be. Jeremy and his wife Caryn are the first call I make when I am lost, and they patiently advise without pushing. Kevin Anderson, he’s like a big brother to me. He believes in what I can do in this industry, even on the days when I am entirely uncertain of myself. Last but not least, the Mike’s … Blakemore and Couchman, who continues to kill it in their markets. I want to be just like them when I grow up.