Career Capsule: My first exposure and intrigue into radio was when my parents volunteered to answer phones for the newly formed KJLY in Blue Earth, MN. One of their main announcers went to our church and he and I had good banter throughout my teenage years.
In 1998, at the age of 17, on career day at our high school, our local Top 40 station, KFMC was looking for weekend announcers, back when radio was 24/7 hosted live. I worked either 10p-3a or 3a-8a on weekends. For an active teenager, this was no problem. I did this for just over a year before heading off to then Northwestern College in St. Paul for Radio Broadcasting.
After 2 years at NWC and being on WVOE, the student station, I graduated with my Associates degree in radio and took about 2 years off. But then in 2003, I started worked again at KFMC and KSUM (their AM station) not only as an on-air host, but in production, in-studio engineer for sporting events and dubbing for their weekend programs. From when I left to coming back 4 years later, they went to no one live after 8pm, yay technology!
On KSUM, I worked a lot of Sunday mornings where we recorded a local Lutheran church and aired the Lutheran hour. But what was fun for me is that they had a selection of ‘religious’ cd’s that for about 30 – 60 minutes I could be my own music director. I’d go through the tracks and sometimes make themes. Sometimes seasonal, sometimes based on what the local Pastor’s sermon was on. This was a great way to explore music selections and music that ministers to people. I heard some great reviews by friends of my grandmother who listened and were blessed by what I was doing at this mainly country radio station.
Fast forward to 2009, I got married and moved to central Wisconsin. In November 2010 I was hired at Christian Family Radio, now The Family from Appleton Wisconsin to be the Underwriting executive for their station in Central Wisconsin on 88.5 WGNV. I’m a people person and loved going out and meeting with potential business sponsors, getting to know their stories of how God has blessed them…and a good lunch or cup of coffee. I was there for 6.5 years and Coy Sawyer from 89.5 WCLQ (89Q) approached me about becoming the Operations Manager for 89Q in Wausau.
I’ve been at 89Q now for almost 5 years (April 10) and God has blessed this ministry from the talents he’s taught me from my previous radio experiences. Since the pandemic started, the decision was made to have me return to doing overnights 12a-6a (voice tracked). With this, I’m the voice for people who need a friend and need Jesus Christ. Hopefully people have accepted Christ into their lives and maybe have learned a thing or two about how to live a Godly life and to share their faith with others. Our tagline is Hope and Encouragement and that’s exactly what I try to give and share to those on the overnight hours.
Ryan, tell us what’s new at 89Q … any news, changes etc… and what’s new with YOU?
What’s new at 89Q. Since my arrival, we’ve moved to a new building that allows us to expand and reach the community more effectively. In that, the biggest news is that this spring 89Q will be launching a mentoring studio, bringing in teenagers and college-age people who have an interest in communications and radio. We have hired another Northwestern graduate to help facilitate this program. Our GM, Music director and I will also help teach during the program. 89Q currently has a secondary stream doing all Christmas music, this will transition to a new, youth centered Christian music playlist. Our goal is to get the next generation of interested youth to be used in a ministry like this to spread the gospel and have their friends and family listen in and be affected with what Hope and Encouragement this music will bring.
We’ve also hired a new Business Development manager to help with new fundraising sources to help this new studio grow and positively impact our community.
We also have a yearly concert – Hope in the Park. Last year we held the event at the county fairgrounds and brought in Jeremy Camp. On a beautiful August day, we had 8500 people in attendance, for this FREE concert.
How do you balance work & family, how important is it for someone in Christian Radio to ‘have a life”?
The work/life balance. I’m pretty proud of this, my role allows me flexibility in my overall timecard as it were. I’m able to drive my 3 girls (9,7,4.5) to school everyday (except during Sharathons’) and in doing so, we always have a time of prayer for our day. So much so, that my 4.5 yr old is excited every day to do this, that she sometimes starts early! Then, at various times, I also DJ weddings and special events like our 89Q Daddy Date Night. I also produce music on the side and have been on 4 record labels over the past decade. With all of that, ‘to have a life’ is what you make of it. I could go home and play video games or be a husband who helps, I choose to be the helper. My wife appreciates that no matter what the day brings, I’m still there to be her parakletus – advocate helper. Then, when all is said and done, then any extra time in my day can go to my interests.
Overall, what is the best programming advice you’ve been given? The worst?
Best programming help. This is interesting in that in my role as Operations Manager, I oversee the programming but, not fully actively engaged in it. Best would probably be what I heard on my first day from Coy Sawyer, “good enough” is never good enough. We have that phrase as a swear word here. We want to excel in what God has called us to do in coming along side listeners. Just being ‘good enough’ isn’t what they want and isn’t what God wants.
And my worst piece isn’t necessarily a bad one, but it does make you think. When it comes to giving the weather forecast. It’s SKY not SKIES. We all have one sky, not many skies. That was a big sticking point with one of my PD’s at KFMC and its stuck with me.
What’s something you’ve learned about Christian Radio due to the pandemic, that you didn’t know before?
I’ve learned that being on again at night, is sometimes the best time to reach people with the Gospel and give encouragement to those struggling with life and hope for the future. The pandemic brought up a lot of nervous/anxious thoughts and feelings in listeners, and nighttime is typically when they get worse. Thankfully God had great plans in store and I’m grateful to play a small part of that in helping people either start a new relationship with Christ who offers peace and forgiveness, or to encourage listeners in their faith and deepening their walk with God.
What are your thoughts on podcasting, should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast?
Podcasting – that is the direction we are headed with our new mentoring studio. We will be setting it up to have interviews and have cameras set up for vodcasts as well. We have some ideas of topics we want to cover. But as a non-comm station, one of the main ideas we’d like to do is to have our business donors come in and sit for an interview and get their story, their testimony and why they support the ministry.
Should all Christian broadcasters have a podcast? That’s debatable, but I think, not necessarily. It all depends on staff and bandwidth with the staff to take the time to come up with fresh content, revise it weekly, if not bi-weekly at the very least. That’s the trouble, you don’t want to start a podcast and then never update your content. So much prayer and planning needs to go into the final decision to start a podcast and do it successfully.
What is a unique characteristic for your market, that many wouldn’t know about?
A unique characteristic of our market. We are considered a small market station and north central Wisconsin isn’t hugely populated, yet one unique thing is the number of Christian radio stations. In many parts of the country, there is one, maybe 2 to choose from. We have several. From mostly teaching stations, to hybrid, to all music. It’s great for Christians of all stages, that as we age, we have different stations to get spiritual input from and grow in our faith. Depending on where a listener is located, there are 3-5 options.
Generally speaking to the industry what are the biggest obstacles facing Christian air talent?
The biggest obstacles for Christian talent. 1) PD’s and GM’s 😊 Seriously though, for some Christian talent, we can talk for extended lengths of time, but the format of the station will dictate the length of a long break. The challenge then comes into what can be said to make a point or a connection with the listener in a minute to minute and a half. Being funny isn’t always the way to go. Being overtly preachy isn’t the way either. It’s the honed skill of being relevant, connective, encouraging and…brief.
Who are your radio heroes and influences? and why? Radio heroes?
That’s probably the toughest question. I’m typically not one to put stock in ‘heros’ but maybe it’s the GM’s and PD’s that have taken a chance on me at all of my various roles. I suppose it all goes back to when I was 4 or 5 at KJLY in Blue Earth and seeing the vinyls and reel to reels and coming to the realization that what they were doing in the studio, thousands of people to hear at one time. “The power of radio.” Maybe the radio station in general was my hero?
But to name specific people, probably Paul Cameron at The Family in Appleton and Coy Sawyer at 89Q in Wausau. Both great men of faith who always remembered that first and foremost, Christian radio is a ministry that can bring people to the Lord. We’re literally the ‘missionaries in our own backyard.’ And to never lose site of that, especially in today’s world is phenomenal.