“You need the right frame of mind….”
What got you started in radio? I wanted to be associated with radio. I felt I had a voice that was perfect for production. I never had a thought of being on the air! But I love to use my voice, I love to talk, I love to sing. And, especially, if I can use it for the Lord.
I was about 40 when I started in radio. It took me a long time to find what I was finally suited for. I had been doing inside sales for Koss Corporation; I was with them for almost 20 years.
I was listening to a Christian station while driving through Iowa City, IA and I heard the host talking about how he enjoyed working in Christian radio so much … and I thought to myself, “I could be doing that! We have that local Christian radio station, and I could volunteer there. Maybe I could do something!” I called that same day and told the station I wanted to volunteer.
They said, all we have is a sales job. And I thought, Oh no! Here we go again! I didn’t last long as the salesman, but they did like my voice work, so that’s where I started. I stayed with them as a volunteer, and about a year later they hired a new manager. He called me in, said he enjoyed my voice, and asked me to do more volunteer work at the station. That fall, he called me in and asked me to come on full time. I was able to do around my other fulltime job.
7 years later, we got a license to add an FM station. The Christian programming switched from the AM to the FM. WJUB-AM became The Breeze and changed to Adult Standards. I was asked to do afternoon drive. I had never been on-air before! At first, I was doing all voice tracks. It was the only way I would have the time to balance my FM station work with the afternoon shift on the AM
So the headphones didn’t lead you to radio? No, not at all. Here’s the story. I know I was meant to be here. When I first started volunteering at the station, I had just moved about 3/4 of a mile away. I was renting, just a cheap rental. One day, I could feel a presence in the car when I got in the car to go home. I couldn’t see Him, but I could hear Him. He said, “Susan, now that you’ve given your life to me, I’m going to show you what I want you to do. Make a right turn here.”
In the previous year, I had given my life to him, and been baptized. I was trying to live a life of serving Him. So, I made a right turn! I wasn’t going to argue with the Lord, it was bad enough that I’d already questioned him!
I drove down this little street to a new development, with newer homes. I saw a for sale sign, and I thought, does he want me to buy something? I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, I didn’t have any money! So I said, “I don’t know what you mean, Lord.”
I went home to my house, and I was in shock. I thought, “This is very dramatic! The Lord has spoken to me. If I say anything to my kids, they are going to think I’m a worse Jesus freak than they already do. If I tell my friends at the radio station, they’re going to think that this just can’t be.” So, I just kept quiet.
A couple of days later I was talking to a friend that I used to carpool with to Milwaukee. He was now living in Detroit, and he said he had a feeling that he needed to call me. I confided in him.
He said, “So, did you call the realtor?” “But I don’t have any money!” “Suzy, don’t you think that if this is what the Lord wanted, he’d make sure you got the money?” I said, “I didn’t think of that!” So, he made me promise that I’d call the realtor and just find out.
It was funny, because I’d had a fabulous month in December. My sales were far above my budget; I was going to get a very large commission check. So I was talking to the realtor, and he said, this is the amount it’s selling for. And, for 10% down, you could get a loan through this certain credit union. My wheels were spinning! That was how much my commission check would be!
Coincidence, right? No, wrong!
We were having great weather. Every day I walked past the house and prayed over it. I told the Lord to let me see if this is what he wanted; I didn’t want to be a bad steward. When I walked into the house that first day with the real estate agent, it was just like there was an angel there saying, “Welcome home, Suzy.”
But this was 6 months ahead of when the new manager came to the station, and my job got expanded. It just goes to show how God works ahead of us. He put me in place, just a mile from the station, before I even knew I would be fulltime here. When I got the job, I needed to be within 10 minutes of the radio station … and I already was.
Needless to say, I’ve been here 20 years now. No sign of retirement – I’ll probably have to have another burning bush experience to get me out of here.
Still in the same house? Yes. I’ve made some improvements to it … but since I know the Lord chose it for me, I’m not going anywhere!
Who have your radio heroes been? My first boss here had such a smooth way about him. You could snap your fingers, and he’d already have a spot written. He was my mentor: Len DeSomer. My co-worker, Dave Hendrickson, the Director of AM Operations, is one of the best in the business. He’s great. Adult standards is his great interest and hobby; I envy – and you are not supposed to envy – but I do envy his enthusiasm and broad knowledge.
You’ve always lived in Plymouth? I grew up in a little town 7 miles south of here, Waldo, WI. Yes, there really is a Waldo. It was 193 people strong when I graduated from high school. We had 19 in my graduating class.
I moved to California in 1964, but came back after 3 months. I moved to Texas for 9 months … but had to come back then, too. I had grandchildren by then, and hearing “You’re coming for my birthday party, aren’t you, Grandma?” just tore my heart out.
How does understanding your community affect you on-air? We have a listener’s photograph on the wall in the studio. I think about them during every show: what are they doing, what trips are they going to be taking, do they have grandchildren, or do they still have children at home. Then, I try to adapt my show to things of interest to them.
David does that as well, but he most often talks about the artists and music, because he’s so knowledgeable about that. On the FM station, I know a lot of the families that listen. I program the station with them in mind, so that there are programs that they will not only enjoy, but learn from.
Do you broadcast in HD? No, not currently.
Streaming? Both stations stream 24/7. We’ve had listeners from Australia. One of our local listeners went on safari and could listen to our Christian programming while there.
Social media? Twitter and Facebook. We’re on Pinterest, too.
What community events are you involved with? We do a big food drive every summer, along with a Christian concert at a local park. That’s a free concert that we put on with local praise bands from local churches; that’s always a lot of fun.
You’re a singer? I’ve performed for years with different groups. Some are Southern Gospel; I am now working with an a capella quartet, too.
We perform at local churches and community events. We’ve also performed at assisted living or nursing home facilities. I enjoy performing in the local communities. My trio, Forever His, did record a CD that we gave away for free to our audiences.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into the radio business? It’s not all of the glamour you think it is! You need the right frame of mind, and the right attitude. Be ready to start at a small station, and wear a lot of hats. That includes emptying the garbage cans and cleaning the bathrooms. But, if you’re doing it to serve more than make a big name for yourself, you will be fine. It’s like the Lord says in his Word, don’t sit in the front seat until they put you there. Don’t make yourself more important than you really are… because if you are good, you’re going to be found out.
Jubilation Ministries uses the Skylla automation system. Suzy says, “The people at Smarts have been super to work with. The system is absolutely great. I love how it sounds, and how it makes us sound.”