R.A.P. Interview: Bob Holmcrans

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Bob Holmcrans, Production Director, WPGC-FM, Washington, DC


by Jerry Vigil

The country's 8th largest market is where you'll find WPGC-FM, a true powerhouse radio station with numbers practically out of reach of the competition, or anyone reaching for the top slot. The Production Director at this station is yet another graduate of Boston AOR radio, having spent nearly seven years at WBCN as a morning show producer and production assistant. Rarely does one find his or her first Production Director's gig in a top ten market, let alone at the number one station in that market. But that's Bob Holmcrans' story. Join us as we find out a few secrets to Bob's success, and the success of WPGC.

R.A.P.: Where did you get your start in radio, and how did you wind up at Washington's number one station?
Bob: Back in '78 or '79, I was actually sitting in the ruins in Athens, Greece, contemplating my future. I thought I was going to go to graduate school when I got back to Boston from my European travels that summer. I got a job as a waiter to pay the bills, and I started taking a course or two towards a graduate's degree in American Studies. I needed a diversion, so I went to WBCN, which was my favorite station. I knew a lot about rock and roll, and I started answering telephones for one of the disc jockeys just for the fun of it. After a couple of months, I started looking around and noticed that these people were actually making money, having fun, and playing rock and roll. The academic world didn't seem to be that appealing to me anymore. One thing led to another, and I became an intern for Ken Shelton who was the mid-day guy there. I loved it. It was a fascinating hobby to me at that point.

Tom Couch was the Production Director at that time, and I asked him if I could be his intern. I veered into that. It was tough for me because I wanted to get a career in radio, but I was interning at 'BCN in Boston which was a major market, and this was not the type of place where you could get on the air right away. Ken Shelton, who is my mentor, said to me, "Bob, you've got to pick up and go to Vermont, to a little town somewhere, if you want to be a DJ." I didn't want to leave the city, and I was torn. Eventually, after being the intern for years there, Charles Laquidara, the morning guy, asked me to produce his morning show. That show is called The Big Mattress. I was really honored. I had put a lot of time and energy into the station, and this was an opportunity for me to actually have a paying job. It didn't pay that much, but it was a springboard.

So, I was Charles' producer for about a year and a half, and during the latter half of that I left the on-air studio to go into the production studio to work on bits with Billy West, who was the creative guy for The Big Mattress at that time. I did that for a little while.

A friend of mine who had done the production part of the morning show before me was now the Production Director at WZLX in Boston. His name is Mike Coleman. He called me up and he said, "Listen, the company I work for has a station in Washington, DC and needs a morning show producer. Call Ben Hill, the Program Director." So I did. I went down there, and I got a decent paying job. It was WCLY at the time, an adult contemporary station which was 19th in the market. It was a far cry from the glory of 'BCN, but I finally had a job that paid enough that I didn't have to be a waiter at the same time to support myself.

About six weeks after I was there, Ben became General Manager and hired Jerry Clifton as a consultant, and they decided to change the format to what it is now. WPGC had been a top 40 station back in the '70s and early '80s and very successful at the time. They realized that being WCLY, doing adult contemporary, was just not the way to go, so they changed back to the old call letters and did an updated version of top 40 which they called Contemporary Crossover, an Urban/Top-40 crossover type of format. So there I was, a fish out of water, in a format that I knew nothing about. The personnel at the station was changing daily. New DJs were coming and going, and I thought, "Well, what is going to happen now?" Ben pulled me aside and said that we needed a Production Director. He thought I would do well at it. He offered me the job, and that's how I ended up where I am. That was just over seven years ago, and I'm very proud to say that I'm a part of a team that has taken the station from nineteenth in the market to number one.

R.A.P.: That's quite a story -- your first Production Director's gig, and it's at the number one station in Washington, D.C.!
Bob: It's kind of neat. I have only worked at two radio stations in my life, one as an intern basically. 'BCN was a monster of a station, and now I am very happy to say that 'PGC has attained equal status.

R.A.P.: How long has WPGC been number one?
Bob: We literally have been number one for the past thirteen rating periods in a row.

R.A.P.: That's incredible. What do you attribute this success to?
Bob: I really think it was teamwork based upon Ben's vision of what he wanted to do. He is a great people person. He believes in the product of programming. He came up to General Manager through programming which is something you don't find that often. He believes in setting goals: this is where we want to go, and we are going to get there. We are not going to follow any conventional rules. We are not going to listen to what other people say. We are going to do it ourselves, and we are going to do it with teamwork.

As you know, in radio, there are egos that pop up here and there. We all have them, and sometimes they can be difficult to deal with. But I really feel that through the years we have developed a family atmosphere around here, a real good teamwork type of thing. And our people are dedicated. They're not afraid to wear two or three hats. If they need someone to go down and stand at the door to collect tickets after a promotion, well, you go down and do it. There's a lot of that type of thing around here.

So, I'd say our success is due to Ben's vision, having a real hot consultant in Jerry Clifton, and good Program Directors. Right now, Jay Stevens is our guy. He has been here for four or five years now, and he has taken us to the top level. We did it with good leadership, team spirit, the proper direction, and attainable goals. Take it just one step at a time, and don't listen to people telling you you can't do it. That's how we did it.

R.A.P.: The format obviously has a lot to do with the success of WPGC. You called it an urban/Top 40 crossover format. Tell us a bit more about the music.
Bob: We were able to carve a niche by playing music that black people would listen to and white people would listen to also. We play all the street rap and have club shows at night, and we also tone it down a little bit with crossover stuff like Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston, particularly in the daytime. We pretty much play all the stuff that is on the urban charts. It's pretty urban. But, that is what the kids are listening to. Our listener breakdown is about sixty-six percent black and the rest white.

R.A.P.: Would you say the station is highly produced?
Bob: No, not highly produced. It is more or less understated actually. But apart from the day to day, week to week production of commercials and promos, there are some special pieces that we do. An example of one of these was a tribute we did to Martin Luther King, Jr. on the anniversary of his death. We contacted various people in the public arena and had them recall where they were and how they felt when they heard of King's death. We also had them state what they felt his legacy was. I then produced an intro and outro and put a bed under the sound bites. The result was a very powerful series, including Smokey Robinson recalling his civil rights work in the '60s as well as David Brinkley remembering his experience at the time. I almost fell over when we called ABC News and asked to speak to him. The next thing we heard was, "David Brinkley speaking."

We also produced a "Dream Concert at Fantasy Park." This was a 4-hour radio broadcast of a make believe concert. It took almost forty hours for Christina Kelley, Paco Lopez, and myself to write, produce, and mix. We used bootleg live versions of songs by Madonna, Janet and Michael Jackson, Prince, etc., and with the help of reverb, delay, EQ, and sound effects, we put on quite a show. I think my favorite part was the "interview" we did with prince. We got hold of an old interview Prince had given years ago by telephone. We produced it by having Christina insert questions, and we EQ'd her voice to sound like a telephone conversation. Then we put them both in a limo. The result was Christina talking to Prince from a car phone, talking about his performance at "WPGC's Fantasy Park Concert" as they both left the concert in Prince's limo. The whole thing was great fun and a real exploration of that old radio term, "theatre of the mind."

There's another thing we do once in a while. It's a simple concept, but very effective if done properly. It's taking an issue that's in the news, usually one which has the elements of some kind of emotional impact, using a song which relates to the issue, and inserting sound bites from the people involved in the issue -- news bites, and listener comments. We used "Wind Beneath My Wings" when Magic Johnson's retirement due to AIDS happened. We also did "Leave Me Alone" during the Michael Jackson controversy. Most recently we used a Frankie Beverly and Maze song called "Mandella" as the basis for a piece when Nelson Mandella won the election in South Africa. These are very effective, but you can only do something like this two or three times a year. Otherwise, I think they lose their impact. It's also very easy to do them poorly. You have to be careful or else they will sound very amateurish. But, if you really craft them, they sound great on the air.

R.A.P.: Describe your roll as Production Director at WPGC.
Bob: I look at my job as being at the crossroads between sales and programming. Obviously, the Program Director is my boss. I am responsible for promos, stagers, special features, things along that line, and I'm also responsible for all the commercials. There was a Bobby Poe convention in town recently, and I was talking to a few Production Directors there. They were saying how they really don't deal with commercials. Basically, their gig is taking care of promos. Boy, what a sweet thing that would be. I serve two masters: there's the sales department and the programming department.

The way I think production fits into what we are doing is you have two hands, and you need the left hand and the right hand to survive. Sales is essential. We bill very well, and we don't miss commercials. One of the things that I pledged to the sales staff when I became Production Director seven years ago was that they would not lose commercials, that I would be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I have not let up on that pledge in all this time. We don't miss commercials. The jocks know to call me twenty-four hours a day if anything goes wrong. I'll get up in fifteen degree blizzards at three in the morning to get an overnight spot on the air if I have to. And I think that is real important because that gives me respect from the sales staff.

I also hold the programming staff to those standards, too. They have to call me. They have to do their production. There is no excuse if they don't. So, I think production plays a major role in the station. The promos, they stand out. They are clever, but they don't take away from the product. Music is the star.

R.A.P.: Do you write the promos?
Bob: We all do. I write some of them. The Program Director writes some. Christina Kelley, who is our midday talent, is also my assistant. She does a lot of the writing. We write in teams sometimes. We all take part in the writing.

R.A.P.: Do you write the commercials, too?
Bob: I don't write commercials very often. The sales staff is mostly responsible for that.

R.A.P.: Does Christina write commercials?
Bob: Not usually. Christina is my absolute right hand. She has got one of the most gorgeous voices you would ever hear. When I am not there, she takes over production, and she does a fine job. She is an excellent producer. As a matter of fact, she used to be a Production Director in New Orleans.

R.A.P.: Since this was your first Production Director's position, what guidelines did you have to set up the department? What idea did you have of what a Production Manager was supposed to do?
Bob: That all goes back to 'BCN and my training there. As I mentioned, Tom Couch was the Production Director that hired me on as an intern, but about a month or two after I became his intern, he left the station to go off to fame and fortune working for Second City TV and then on to various other projects. That is when Tom Sandman came to 'BCN. Tom is, in my eyes, the greatest Production Director of all time. He is just wonderful. He taught me standards. He taught me technique. I learned how to run the department from watching him. Billy West was his assistant. Between the two of them, I started learning the basics and saw what production could do, what the possibilities were.

Then, when I became the producer of the morning show, Billy was in charge of the creative. We had a group of people called the Not Ready Before Breakfast Players. They were a group of about six or seven writers and voice talent. They would come in every morning, and we would do either a parody song, a little skit, or some type of satire or comedy. It was a very, very demanding pace. It was very quick, and very topical. We'd be there at six o'clock. Billy would be writing his head off, and then, boom, we'd put together something that would air in an hour and a half. That is when I got my first skills, working under deadlines and working under that pressure. By the time I got to 'PGC, I had the basics down, but I could by no means have stepped into a number one major market station at that time.

We had this guy, Dr. Dave, who we still use for our voice work. Dr. Dave worked at our station and was very good at production. I learned a lot by being there with him. In terms of actually setting up the structure of the station, I called Sandman and I said, "Help! Give me a few pointers!" As I went along, I would make mistakes. There was a lot of trial and error. But I had a good base from those people at 'BCN from which to build and some good help from Dr. Dave as I came along, and I gradually built it up that way.

I think two of the most important things for any Production Director to have are organizational skills and people skills. And those are things that I am real strong in. In terms of creativity, yeah, I can write. In terms of a voice, I don't have a big ballsy production voice, but I have the dedication.

R.A.P.: Where would you say your greatest talents lie?
Bob: Definitely organization, and coaching. I am real good at coaching people. I'm real proud to say that I've coached people like Michelle Wright, who was one of our DJs. She started off as an overnight board-op, and I remember coaching her through doing commercials and things like that. Now she has gone to New York City to do mornings.

I remember what I was doing when I first started out and how intimidated and uncomfortable I would get in a production studio. I try to keep that in the back of my mind whenever anyone comes in and stands in front of the microphone, even if they are a very experienced pro that has been in the business for years. When you are on the production side of the board instead of on the mic, you're in a different role. I think you have to be able to put yourself in the place of the person behind the mic and realize where they are coming from, and then try to make them feel comfortable and not threaten them. And sometimes it's hard. If you get someone with a big ego, they don't want to be told how to read a line or read copy. If you can put yourself in their perspective and come across in a non-threatening way, you can coach them through. I think that is one of my big talents.

I also think I'm very clever with a script. I might not always be the best with coming up with the original written script, but once I have the script in my hand, I have a knack of being able to take that and make it work.

R.A.P.: Many times we'll interview a Production Director who has an incredible voice making an extra $75,000 a year on the side, or someone who is cranking out a lot of superb bells and whistles type of production. You sound more like the perfectly well rounded Production Director.
Bob: Exactly. Once in a while it's kind of fun to blow out and do a little bit with the bells and whistles, but it is not appropriate for our station. We keep a low profile on that. I get as much satisfaction out of running the department as I do out of doing a good promo.

R.A.P.: Managerial skills and people skills are real important in this position, and those skills are probably a big part of the reason why you have been able to stay there for seven years. Would you agree?
Bob: Yes. Definitely, yes. Since I made that pledge seven years ago that we wouldn't miss spots, I don't think we have missed a single spot. We've made a mistake here and there, but, once a production order gets on my desk, it gets on the air. And I will do everything I can to make sure that it runs. A lot of being successful at that has to do with management of your time and the people working with you. Another thing I'm good at is teaching new people the basics of production. I'm teaching a course at the local community college in audio production, and there is a recording studio in town that has a course in the business of music. I go to the studio and speak on the radio business and how that relates to the music industry.

R.A.P.: What kinds of things do you teach in the class at the community college?
Bob: It's basic theory and basic skills like mic technique. They have three or four lab projects where they have to produce radio shows, mixing music with their voice. I get them right at the lowest common denominator.

I found out that teaching is also an excellent way to find interns. I took one of the students that got an "A" in the course and brought him to the station. He just started this summer as an intern with me. He's real sharp and already has the values down. That is an excellent way to bring someone into the station for assistance.

R.A.P.: What is one of the most common mistakes people make when stepping up to a microphone, and how do you help people with this in your class?
Bob: One of the most common things you find when someone steps up to the mic is that they tense up and the pitch of their voice gets high. One of the things I teach them to do when getting on mic is to keep their voice down low. Another thing is popping Ps. I work with them on how they are using explosives and help them angle their mouth to the microphone without going off mic. That's a pretty tough trick. A lot of people just can't stay on mic.

R.A.P.: Is it just the FM station there, or is there a sister AM down the hall?
Bob: We have an AM also.

R.A.P.: Are you doing all the spots and promos for that station also?
Bob: Not anymore. When we originally changed format several years ago, we were simulcasting on our AM station. Shortly thereafter, we went all talk with a business format. I would say for the first year and a half or so, I had to do all the work for that station as well. You can imagine how crazy that must have been. But once they started generating some revenue and getting more talented people on their staff, they were able to finally take over the production themselves. Now the AM staff does all their own production. I help them out once in a blue moon, and they help me sometimes, too. They are a great source for voices.

R.A.P.: Do you have spots that you have to produce that run on both stations, spots that run on "combo" schedules?
Bob: Not that many. They just hired a few people and are trying to sell combo schedules. At this point, there are a few national buys that come through that way, but it hasn't been much of an issue so far.

R.A.P.: How many commercials would you say you are producing a week?
Bob: I would say from scratch, probably about eight to twelve.

R.A.P.: How many promos?
Bob: Well, every week we do two New Music promos. We do a weekend promo, and, depending on what kind of contest we have going on, it might be two promos for the weekend. Sometimes we do morning show promos. I'd say, in all, five or six promos a week.

R.A.P.: What about IDs and sweepers. Are you producing a lot of these?
Bob: We do a bunch of little dry drop-ins, twenty to twenty-five a week sometimes. These are just catch phrases. We might take a line in the popular culture of the day and just transform it to relate with WPGC. An example might be something like a drop-in about the commercial with the guy that gets off the airplane and wants to get in the limousine. The guy says Dr. Kolakowitz? He goes, "Yes, I am!" So we might do a thing that says, "The station that plays at least 18 songs in a row?" The second voice says, "Yes, we are!" That type of thing. We do a zillion of those, and we change them all the time. They pop these drops in about four times an hour.

R.A.P.: You said the AM is handling most of their own production. Are there two production rooms?
Bob: We have my main studio, and then the other studio has about four different uses. In the morning it's the newsroom. At ten in the morning that is freed up, and we usually have my intern in there till about two. At two, the AM station does about one and a half to two hours of production. By that time, Christina is off the air and has had lunch, and she goes in there and spends however long is necessary for us to get all our FM stuff done between the two of us. Then, in the evenings on weekends, we have what we call Club 95 where we have a club jock come in and set up with two turntables. They come in and do mix shows for us. So, that studio is hopping like twenty-four hours a day, continually pumping it out. We have a 4-track in there, my old Sony MCI. The day they wheeled in my digital studio, they wheeled out the 4-track and put it in the second production room.

R.A.P.: What digital workstation do you have in your studio?
Bob: I have a Waveframe 401. About two years ago, when we decided to go digital, we checked out the three or four workstations that were out at the time. I was computer illiterate at the time -- scared to death. In most stations you find the Production Director begging the GM to buy a digital workstation. In my case, it was the GM coming to the Production Director and saying, "Come on. We're taking this station to the '90s! We're going digital!" I just trembled in fear. I had never touched a computer in my life.

Between the engineers and myself, we checked out several different workstations, and most of them just didn't make sense to me. What finally happened was, we went to one of the local dealers and were supposed to have a demonstration one day for the ProTools system. The guy who was supposed to do the demo didn't show up. While we were waiting for about an hour and a half for this guy that didn't show up, I struck up a conversation with another customer that was in the store. He invited me to come over to his studio and check out his system. He had the Waveframe. I never heard of the Waveframe. It had been used basically for a lot of post production film work. He had this huge zillion-track digital thing in his studio, but he told me they had an 8-track version of it. He hooked me up with a rep, and the rep came down and demo'd it. I could actually follow what was going on while this guy demo'd it at the station. I said, "This is it! I never heard of this thing, but this is the one I want." I think it was the best move we ever made. It is a wonderful system.

I think the company was sold recently. They were first sold to Digital Effects Corporation. Then Digital Effects went out of business, and they sold it to Time Line. Now, I'm awaiting new software. Time Line is suppose to be doing a whole new treatment with it. They are calling it Studio Frame DAW-80. That software should be ready in a couple of weeks, hopefully.

R.A.P.: How long have you had the system?
Bob: About 2 years.

R.A.P.: Have you found any shortcomings?
Bob: Nothing. It took me about six months to really get up to speed on it. I had to learn not only how to use a digital workstation, but I had to learn the basics of computers at the same time. That's life in the '90s. You have to know that stuff. The sound quality is perfect, and the editing capabilities are just unbelievable. And it's fast. I just can't say enough about it.

R.A.P.: Do you remember what the price tag on the system was?
Bob: I think we paid around $17,000 to $18,000. That's for the whole set up. It's a little bit more than some of the less expensive units out there, but it is also considerably less than the $40,000 things.

R.A.P.: Does it have any digital signal processing on it?
Bob: It has EQ on it. That's it.

R.A.P.: Does this system use a mouse for the user interface?
Bob: Yes, I use a mouse in the Windows format.

R.A.P.: What other toys do you have in the room?
Bob: The board is a Harrison Pro 790. It is a real good board, but we had a lot of trouble with dirty switches. We had to send every single module back to the factory to have them repaired. Once you get it up and running though, it is a fine board. I also have an Otari MTR-15 2-track, and a Sony MCI 2-track which I use as a backup 2-track. I have the Eventide H3000B Ultra-Harmonizer and your basic array of compressor/limiters, DAT players, cassette machines, and things along that line. I also have the Digital Generation Systems box. We've had that since about last October or so. That system is wonderful, but it took them a while to get their act together. There was one point where I almost threw the thing out the window. I just got so frustrated with the customer service. But they seem to have that in line, and it works fine now.

R.A.P.: Your radio background before WPGC's urban format was rock and roll. How did you make the transition from one format to the other, especially with the formats being so different?
Bob: I don't really know a hell of a lot about what is going on in my own format, but I don't think that is a negative. Ken Shelton taught me years ago at 'BCN that a radio person will beat a music person every time. That was a real eye opening thing for me at the time because I thought that if you were going to be on the radio you had to be a music guru. What I've learned is that he is a hundred percent right. It is a business. You have to understand how the business works, how radio works. And it doesn't matter what format you are working in. I'm living testimony to that. It is almost a joke around here. If we're playing a song and I like it, they say, "Gosh, we better pull it off the air because Bob doesn't know what the hell is going on in this format!"

What you need to know, you ask. You ask the Music Director or the Program Director if you feel you need a little guidance in what music to use in a certain promo or commercial. What hit song should I use if so and so is coming to town?

My knowledge is rock and roll, and I've always wanted to be a Production Director in a rock station. But the knowledge of the music doesn't really matter. What matters is that you do your job in a professional way and understand how radio works. I would encourage other Production Directors -- especially if they are just starting out or want to get into different markets -- to not shy away because of the format. I would like to work in a country format. There was even a time quite a while ago, when the all sports stations started coming out, when I was saying, "Gee, I would like to produce a sports station." I don't know anything about sports. I've never liked sports. But that doesn't matter. I think it would be a real challenge to be able to produce a sports station.

Most people I have come in contact with tend to really be into the format of the station they're working at -- really into the lifestyle of the music. That was the case when I was at 'BCN. I experienced that part of it. But it's not necessary. You will still have a lot of fun even though it is not the same format you're into.

R.A.P.: Back to interns for a moment. What do you look for in an intern, and how do you use them?
Bob: I very rarely hire an intern. I would almost rather go without one unless I find one that is incredibly dedicated. I find them more of a hinderance than a help unless I find someone that has the where-with-all to put all they have into it. I basically look for someone that has the same type of drive I did when I was an intern. I would intern at the station, then go and work as a waiter; and at one o'clock in the morning, when the restaurant and the bar closed, I would hop into a taxi, go over to 'BCN's production studio, and practice everything until six o'clock in the morning. That is what I want to find in an intern.

They are hard to find that dedicated, but once I find one, I'll give them everything I can in terms of my time and training. Basically, I take them slowly, one step at a time, and teach them to be incredibly meticulous. Then I gradually have them do dubbing.

I felt really good about my intern today. I had the day off to go to jury duty. Christina, who was my right hand, was on vacation today. So she wasn't there to run the department. But I felt very confident that my intern could do it.

I like to get them doing dubs, but only after I am totally satisfied that they understand all the basic concepts of carting up spots -- making sure they're tight, making sure they're in phase, making sure all the levels are balanced properly. And I make sure that they are meticulous in double checking and literally triple checking all the serial numbers on the production orders and the billboards on the tapes. They get the full organizational aspect of it, and I make sure they understand the larger picture that they are not just in a little room putting a tape together, but that they are putting something together that is conceivably worth thousands of dollars in revenue for the station, and that is important. The sound quality of the spot also has to be up to the station's standards so people don't tune out. And if they have any questions, then they should call me at home if they are working late at night or on the weekends, and we will figure out what to do from there.

R.A.P.: Did you find it difficult to delegate some of your responsibilities to an intern?
Bob: Yes. One of the things I learned the hard way is to delegate. But you have to learn to delegate responsibly. When I first got the gig as Production Director, I was so concerned that everything would go right that I literally did every single piece of production myself. I did every dub. I produced every spot, every promo. I was there till one o'clock in the morning every day. I did that for about a year, and finally I couldn't do anymore. I was starting to burn out, and my boss said, "Hey, you've got to learn to delegate." That was hard for me to do. But if you train people properly, and they understand their responsibilities and how important their responsibilities are, things will be okay. Keep communication with them and don't make them feel like they can't make a mistake. If they make a mistake, that's okay. Just fix it and keep going on. If you can create an environment like that, then you can learn to delegate and feel confident in your delegation and run a much more efficient department because it frees you up to do the more important stuff, things that use your strengths as opposed to sitting around doing dubs all day.

R.A.P.: What production libraries are you using?
Bob: I have Maximum Impact from FirstCom. Actually, I have discs from two of their libraries, Maximum Impact and Sound Designer. The company was really great. They sent me both complete libraries for thirty days and let me pick and choose what I wanted.

Some of the libraries out there just sounded like Muzak. They didn't reflect the sound of my station at all. I just had one of the major companies send me a demo the other day, and it's a shame -- they put so much time and energy into it, but they don't have a clue. Most of these libraries that I have auditioned just make your radio station sound like any other radio station in the country. And there is something about our sound -- we don't sound like any other radio station in the country. We have a very unique sound. I am very particular in what beds I choose and the way that I put stuff together. That's part of my contribution to the station, to keep it unique. So I was real picky in finding something that worked and was glad to be able to pick and choose those FirstCom discs. They gave me a nice strong bunch of stuff to work with that doesn't sound like generic music. Actually, some of it is very, very catchy.

R.A.P.: What are you using for sound effects libraries?
Bob: Nothing that great. I have the Dimensions library and the Sony library. But I'm kind of gearing up, I think, to get The General from Sound Ideas. That's something I'd like to shoot for. As a matter of fact, their demo was so good that I brought it to the class I taught at the college to play for the students so they could get an idea of what a good sound effects library can do.

R.A.P.: Do you use any outside voice-over talents for sweepers and IDs?
Bob: Yes. Dr. Dave, who I mentioned earlier, was one of our first Program Directors a long time ago when we first changed format. He is out in Sacramento now at KFFM. He has a voice-over service and was the voice for our station when he worked in 'PGC. We kept him right on through, and he has a great voice. It's rich without being overly ballsy and overly radio-ish. And he has an attitude in his voice which is kind of tongue-in-cheek. We almost poke fun at ourselves a lot of times in our promos and liners. He has the perfect voice for that.

R.A.P.: You're not the first Production Director we've interviewed that is teaching a course on the side. How can a Production Director go about doing the same?
Bob: I can only speak about how I got into it. I have a Bachelor's degree in American History. A few years ago our Chief Engineer left the station to set up the TV/radio department at Montgomery College, and they needed someone to teach one of the courses. He asked if I would be interested. I said yes. But when I talked to the people in charge of hiring, they said, "You need a Masters Degree." I didn't have that, so I couldn't get the job. Well, they called me again this year, and they lowered their standards. I guess they were finding it hard to find people who work in the broadcasting field that have advanced degrees that can teach or even want to teach. Maybe relaxing the standards isn't a good way to look at it because, I think, in a lot of ways hiring someone that is out in the field actually doing the job is far more practical than people that have just been teaching all their lives and never really worked in the station. Obviously, working at a number one station gave me the key to get in the door.

I found it to be a huge challenge, and I learned a lot by having to review things I never really knew about, theory for instance. They say the best way to learn something is to teach it, and it is true. Once I started reading articles and reading the textbooks, I started learning more. People would ask me questions, and I had to come up with answers. I learned a lot more about theory than I knew before, and it helped me on my job on a practical level. When I would go back to work..."Oh, this is what I was teaching last night, and this is why it works." It gave me a better understanding of the technical aspects of my job, definitely.

R.A.P.: Teachers are not known for making money. Is the compensation worth mentioning?
Bob: I had the check direct deposited. It is not a heck of a lot of money, but all of a sudden it's like, "Wow, there's extra money in the bank!" It is a lot of fun, though. The only problem I had was that, like radio, education is a business, even if it is a state run school. They have to cram the students into the courses in order to make money. There were eighteen students in the class. I think that an ideal class would have been nine students. So, I was dealing with twice as many students as you could practically teach to really get down into the trenches, teach well enough to get the value of what I could pass on to them. And that frustrated me. But, they were really nice people, and I got a great intern out of it.

We also just hired one of the students from my classroom for our AM station. It is a very good resource. Not only do you find people that are interested in the business, but by grading their projects and watching their attention to what goes on in class and how they go about their projects, you can keep an eye on them and find out that these people aren't just interested but also have good work habits. As a matter of fact, my new intern got a 98 on the mid-term, a 98 on the final, and an A on all the projects. And when every other student rushed through the exams and handed them in and left, he was the last one to turn his exam in. So you know that he is meticulous, and he is checking his answers. You know that if you bring him in to work for you, he is going to be meticulous in his work and check his work and make sure that what he does is right. I think that is just a great place to get help from.

I would like to teach other aspects of the course, too. But it's an awful lot of work in terms of preparation. I was teaching a course called Audio Production Techniques. It was the required course for anyone going on for any more radio and/or television courses at the school. It was more theoretical than what my background is. I would much rather teach a performance class, and I have approached them on that. I am anxious to see what is going to happen. Then I could use my own strengths to get people to better their performances. I think I could really get some of these people in college up and running at a higher level, so when they actually go out in the field and get their first job, they will be ahead of the game. That is what I would like to do next.

R.A.P.: Outside of educating others, what else would you like to do in the future?
Bob: Well, I'd love to get my own studio going someday, maybe start a little advertising agency, a little production house. I would like to go back to Boston someday and do it there where I know a lot of people. There is a friend up there I have talked about doing something with. With all the new technology, you can send quality audio right over the telephone. I could have a little studio there and be able to get voice talent from all over the country, have them call in and digitally get their voice over the lines. I'd put it together, send it out Fed Express wherever it has to go the next day, and live on my island in happiness. That's my dream.

R.A.P.: We'll do another interview with you when you get there! We'll find out exactly how you did it, step by step! Any parting thoughts for the readers?
Bob: If you want to do production, it must be something in your blood and something you love. And if you don't have that, don't even try to get into it. But if you've got that drive, and you see the studio as this magic little room that you can go into everyday, and if you can be happy going into work because it is what you want to do and have fun even though you know people might be making more money than you doing something else, although they hate their job, and if you've got that feeling that that is what you want to do, then that is what you should go for.

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