Written by ModernMediaMix
Saturday, November 12th, 2011
“Begin the day with a friendly voice, a companion unobtrusive.” This lyric, from the Rush song The Spirit of Radio, encompasses what I strive to be in radio — a personality, a friend, someone with whom listeners can truly connect. This summer, I got my chance.
My roots in radio run deep — my father worked in radio for 33 years after graduating from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. From a young age, I was carted along to remote broadcasts, watching him work and occasionally making on-air appearances with him. Once I entered high school and the prospects of choosing a career became more of a reality, I was torn as to how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I enjoyed radio, but I was also interested in print journalism. However, after my father passed away suddenly in 2008, my choice became very clear. I knew in my heart that I had to carry on his legacy in radio.
Shortly after his death, I was employed by the same company with which he had worked for so many years. I did most of my work as a board operator until the beginning of this summer, which brought about an opportunity that tied together everything I love about radio.
The afternoon shift at our country station was vacant, and soon after my return home from school for the summer, they offered me the position. I was ecstatic, yet slightly terrified at the same time. I questioned myself. Was I really ready for this type of position? Would the listeners really enjoy my show?
The first week was nerve-wracking. I was still familiarizing myself with the format of the show, and with only a slight knowledge of country music, I wasn’t sure that I was playing songs people actually wanted to hear — particularly on Way Back Wednesday (Willie Nelson, Hank Jr., and Red Sovine quickly flooded my four hours of airtime). As I wrapped up my first week and moved into the next, I began to ease up and it became my absolute favorite part of the day.
I was moved when listeners called our request line just to lend their words of encouragement and to share that they enjoyed listening to me. Some would even call every day to request a song and wish me well until the next. As the days grew hotter and we moved deeper into the summer months, more and more calls came in, but one touched my heart more than I could have ever imagined.
I answered the phone in my usual cheery voice. “I have a question for you,” the woman’s voice said kindly, “are you Tom Sheldon’s daughter?” When I answered yes, I could hear her joy. “I remember when you were little, your dad used to bring you along to all of his broadcasts. He was always so happy to have you there.” She paused, and when she spoke again, I could hear the tears in her voice. “I don’t mean to upset you — I just think you’re doing such a wonderful job and I know how proud he would be.”
When she hung up, I just sat for a moment, speechless. Her call had made every bit of my work worth it. At that moment, I knew that I had truly connected with my audience. Maybe she was the only one, but for me, it didn’t matter if I had only connected with one person. It was everything I had hoped for and I could say I was becoming the “companion” Rush captured so perfectly in their song.
When I returned back to school, I had to leave the afternoon show behind. But the memories of a dream come true will always resonate within me, and I hope these experiences will lead to a successful career in the future. No matter where life leads, the spirit of radio will always live within me.