Monday, August 3, 2015

American Broadcasting School

My Musical Journey has been an interesting one, it has been fraught with danger and adventure, okay maybe not danger but definitely adventure.  It has taken me all over the Midwest and because of that I started this blog.  "So" you ask, "Where is this adventure?"  Well, lets take it from the top and work into the adventure.

I started my blog as an attempt to get out of the house following a debilitating injury I suffered in 2008 while I was a volunteer EMT.  I made the decision to start this thing after I saw Stephen Pearcy and I kind of went from there.  I have a condition called CRPS, its chronic pain and it took me out at the knees, or wrist in this case.  Several years ago I made the decision that I couldn't sit around and just take my medication all day so I began to focus my attention on what I could do to make myself more productive.  Yes I had the shows I would go to which seemed to aggravate people but I continued to go and write about them but each show takes me down to a crawl so I realized that to become productive I had to find something that fit in my limitations.

Trying to figure out what you are going to do to become a viable human being once again while you are in your forties is not easy to begin with, but wrap in that package a physical condition that is more fickle than a 98 year old schoolmarm and its a tad tricky.  I looked back at my youth and the things I always thought I wanted to be when I grew up and once I realized I couldn't be a General in the United States Army, I dug deeper.  My condition makes me susceptible to incredibly sharp pain if I am hit in the afflicted area so I knew that there would be no way I could go to a traditional community college, trade school or university so I had to look into the vast distance to find the answer:  Distance Education.

I hummed and hawed enough between majors and in all honesty I also looked to my age and how long I would be paying huge student loans for some of the four-year distance education programs that were before me.  As I sat one evening licking my wounds (not literally you sicko) and feeling lost and a little sorry for myself, an old friend and voice of reason reminded me that I once wanted to be in radio and that I should look toward a program that could get me into radio.  I dug and dug through the vast web of Hades we call the internet for such a program, and eventually I found one BUT...

But, I kind of needed to determine if I could even last a day in the program and I enlisted a person from the State of Illinois to help me figure out what I could and couldn't do.  The gentleman I began talking with started looking at my capabilities, my pain levels and the tolerance associated with them.  CRPS is a vile condition, it literally takes days after short trips for me to feel what I now consider "normal," trust me you don't want this normal either.  I began considering, with the help of the State of Illinois what I could really do and at the behest of that gentleman I enrolled in a couple of online courses through Hillsdale College to test my capabilities.

I truly enjoyed those classes they were after all in some of my favorite subject matter (The Constitution of the United States of America) and with some convincing the State of Illinois told me that I could enroll in coursework with American Broadcasting School - Distance Learning.  That is where the assistance from the State ended and that started my adventure.  If you have ever enrolled in a college or trade program you understand the apprehension that you face the first day you walk onto that campus but you have other students that you can help deflect that apprehension, and in distance education there is only YOU, or in this case ME.

My first contact with the school was obviously with the Financial Aid Director Angela Edgerton - Balcer and she made sure I understood every step with applying for financial aid which made for a very painless process.  You have to understand the last time I applied for financial aid was 1989 and EVERYTHING was done using forms and pen and pencil so there was apprehension on my part.  When I tell you it was a simple, pain-free process I'm not being funny or sarcastic it really was just that and throughout my time at ABS I could ask Angela questions (and I did frequently) and she was always quick with an answer.

Obviously any school has materials that are required before you can start classes and ABS is no different.  I was told that a package consisting of a Resource Library, DVD's containing course materials, a headset, microphone, a  mixing board, digital production software and on-air software would be arriving soon.  Although this entire process began just days after my birthday I sat like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney and the day that the large box came I was that ten year old getting a GI Joe with the "Kung Fu Grip," seriously I was excited.

Having absolutely no experience in radio and not having a clue on how to install or hookup any of these things I just received but I contacted the school as I was instructed to so I would be able to setup Orientation with an Instructor, and that led to my first meeting with Michael Hatch.  Hatch is one of the nicest guys I have ever met, seriously.  Hatch walked me through Orientation and if you enroll in this program you will see and hear Hatch all of the time.  As the program progresses you begin to watch Lectures on DVD and Hatch is that Instructor that gives the lectures.

One of the things I immediately realized was how professional and helpful Hatch is at all times.  Hatch will take the time to answer questions in real-time, so fast in fact at times I felt like he could see me raise my hand like in some classroom.  The ABS Distance Learning Program is 43 weeks and I think I talked to Hatch every week, sometimes multiple times in a day and at no time did it ever feel like I was a burden by asking a question.  Hatch made me feel like he cared about me the student and me the person, in any industry that is rare. 

The way the ABS system is setup weekly you receive assignments, homework if you will, and much like the traditional classroom you have to complete your assignments by a specific due date.  The assignments usually had a theme to them (i.e., holidays, sporting events, etc.) and the include copy-writing, digital production, news writing, and programming.  Also wrapped in the weekly assignments was a weekly air show followed by Vocal Coaching (more on that later) which challenged you from the get go.  Don't think that this is overwhelming because you have ample time to accomplish all of the tasks but I found treating it like a job was the best way to complete the weekly assignments.

I worked in engineering and drafting for most of my adult life so I approached the weekly assignments like a project I was trying to complete.  After I printed my assignments out, I began writing copy (commercials, PSA's, whatever was needed) on Sunday and generally by Monday afternoon I had all of my writing done.  Digital production is incredibly important to radio and I would do my Production assignments Monday afternoon / evening.  On Tuesday I wrote all of the required news stories and as that progressed I acquired sound bytes or "actualities" at the same time. 

Tuesday evening was reserved for Programming my show which I had every Wednesday from 4 - 6PM and I think that Programming was more challenging because I was trying to shape my personality, my "sound" if you will.  I chose an "Alternative, Metal and Punk" type of format and that was strictly on me, ABS does not require you to have a "format" you can play anything and everything.  It is conceivable that you could program your show to play John Denver, Slayer and TLC in a row (if you do that you may need help), but that is your choice.  What I thought was really cool was the fact that as I did my show on Wednesday an Instructor listened to the show, as I did it, LIVE.  For me that was a huge benefit, because I could ask the Instructor a question about what I just said or did and get their input, that was SO helpful.

Radio isn't just music, so that show I programmed had elements like those at a traditional radio station because you actually ARE a radio station.  You had to program commercials, breaks, news, all of those elements and more but what I thought was so fun was that I had to do everything like a licensed station AND I was the voice of the news I wrote AND I was the creative force behind all of it.  Sticking with the "radio isn't just music" theme for a moment was the fact that every student has an assignment in Vocal Coaching after their live show.  Why you ask?  Think of Donald Duck for a minute, he probably doesn't have an easily translatable voice for radio, but at ABS you learn the importance of diction, you extend your breath control, you learn to enunciate properly and maybe even a little on how to lose that accent of yours (yes YOU, I don't have an accent everyone else does).

For the vast majority of the course the person listening to me live and my Vocal Coach was Mikki Taylor.  I have had a couple of mentors in my life but two of the most important ones now have been Michael Hatch and Mikki Taylor.  Mikki was a treat to work with, she held back no punches and if you did something wrong, she told you but then she told you what you did wrong and how to fix it.  Mikki is the face of Digital Production at ABS, she taught me so much about how to do it the right way, and I think in many ways her opinion made me better, much, MUCH better than I ever thought I could be.  Lest we forget that Hatch is a great resource with Digital Production too, in fact I have done some strange meld of the two styles in Production.  I have this weird part of my brain that if someone has written a suggestion on how to do something when I go to do it physically, I actually see that suggestion in my mind and Hatch gave me a couple of great suggestions that still pop up in my mind's eye.

After finishing "finals" (yes there are finals and midterms) the next step was preparation for Air Checks and completion of said Air Checks and at that time Mikki handed me off to Hatch once again.  If you were like me you haven't a clue what an air check is let alone what it consists of but Hatch was ever present in explaining the concept of air checks, the steps to create air checks, and helping me form the final product.  Hatch is a resource that I think I will lean on much in my career (Sorry Hatch) as well as Mikki, they are incredible instructors.

Shortly before I graduated my wife and I took our daughter to a four day music festival and in anticipation of a festival that next week she took that that week off as well so when the plans for that festival fell through we had a little free time.  We debated what to do so he decided to make the trip to Oklahoma City to visit the campus of ABS to put a "face" to the campus of where the day to day operations and traditional courses are held.  Before we could talk ourselves out of the trip we loaded up our van with the essentials and our son and dog for the campus.  We left on Wednesday night and arrived Thursday afternoon when we met Larry Gable - Director of Training at which time Larry gave us the grand tour.  After the tour he introduced us to Angela, and Shawn Cockrell - President / CFO of American Broadcasting School so I was able to see the faces behind a couple of the names I had interacted with.

I mention that trip because of Larry Gable, the aforementioned Director of Training, he took the time to meet with a guy, his family and their dog after they drove 1689 miles round trip to visit the school and he asked me to send him my air check because he was interested in it.  I have a college degree from a previous educational experience and at no time has anyone from that school ever asked me for anything frankly, when I graduated I was no longer their problem, not the case at ABS.  Let that sink in for a minute, I was graduating and he could have just done the tour and called it a day but he didn't.  As I mentioned earlier my mind's eye reflects things that are written and after I sent my air checks to Larry he replied and now I can see his suggestions exactly the same way and they are incredibly helpful.  I challenge other institutions to hire people like those I have mentioned but I doubt that fits into other institutions model.

As I write this I am working with Michelle McConnell - School Director / Job Placement Director and she is helping me gear up for the next phase in my life.  Michelle has helped me prepare the correct format for a resume' (which I thought I knew but was quite mistaken), cover letter, portfolio and what to send to potential employers.  Michelle has given me so many resources to look through its incredible, the options that lie before me I would have never known of previously it's staggering.  Michelle has done more in the two days we have talked than the entire time since I graduated from my former school over twenty-three years ago.  I'm not joking.

American Broadcasting School offers traditional and Distance Education from Oklahoma City, OK, Arlington, TX and to your dining room table for a reasonable price with an upside that is seemingly priceless.  A fully accredited institution of higher learning that offers cutting edge, state of the art educational experiences with one goal in mind, making you a success.  On my end of the equation I feel the real strength of the program was the versatility that it provided me.  It gave me an educational experience that was shaped in the real world, with real experience and confidence that I didn't have previously.

While at ABS I went through six highlighters, sixteen pens (not kidding), eight legal pads and in return gave me binders full of copy that I wrote, developed and presented.  It gave me numerous commercials that I wrote, produced and aired on my live show which I conducted the entire length of the program.  It gave me experience that I cannot put value on, and has ignited something in me that disappeared on February 11, 2008.  I still can't draw houses (I have tried), but what it has given me is a desire and a drive to find a way to defeat CRPS.

American Broadcasting School and the men and women that make up its curriculum and its personality are worth the investment and time which takes you from a starting point and develops a finite point of goals that develops into infinite possibilities and potential.  If you think that you want to find yourself inside the world of radio but you don't know how because of family, career or whatever contact American Broadcasting School using the address and telephone numbers provided below or online HERE.

Oklahoma City Campus
Corporate Headquarters
4511 SE 29th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73115
[P] 405-672-6511

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