10 Questions with ... Liz Mozzocco
October 3, 2011
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I started at WPGU at the University of Illinois in Champaign; was PD/morning co-host at KBXR in Columbia, MO; and moved to Akron three years ago for my current gig (and my first in public radio).
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I used to listen to college station WONC and bother them with requests on my drive to work. One day the DJ invited me and my friends to see the studio, and after the tour I decided I wanted to get involved at my own college station.
2. Who have been your mentors?
I've learned a lot from everyone I worked with at KBXR - Mo Louis, Jack Lawson, Jeff Sweatman, Simon Rose and Spencer Kane -- it was a great staff. Cluster OM Chris Kellogg had a big influence on me; he's extremely passionate about radio and I have a lot of respect for him.
Although I haven't worked with them, I've been grateful for the guidance that Chris Wienk from WEXT and Steve Nelson from MPR offered me as I was transitioning from commercial to public radio. Bill Gruber's 20+ years of experience at WAPS has of course been influential, and recently we've both been fortunate to have Garrett Hart come on board to offer advice and programming ideas.
3. How would you describe the music on the station?
It's more pop and to some extent more Alt-leaning than a lot of noncomms. It's all about songs that sound good on the air and make sense for Northeast Ohio; one of the things I remember about WAPS when I first listened was that it seemed like Bill had created an Akron-specific station. We try to keep things fun and accessible while still satisfying the listeners' need for something unique. The station is all music, and outside of a handful of syndicated shows, everything is produced by our staff.
4. What new bands are you most excited about?
Lykke Li, Dum Dum Girls, Phantogram and Beirut are some recent favorites that I've been spinning on my new music show. Even though they're not brand new, it's been great to see bands like Phoenix, The Black Keys, Arcade Fire, etc. be embraced at Triple A radio in the past couple of years.
5. How are the music meetings conducted between you and Bill Gruber?
I bring in a stack of recommendations and we sit down and discuss what's going to work for us. It's pretty laid-back, but it does take some time -- there's so much music out there and only so many spots on the playlist! I have a pretty clear idea of what Bill's vision for the station is, but he always surprises me in what he reacts to, so I try to bring in a wide variety of stuff and see what happens.
6. Tell us about the new signal you are broadcasting on in Akron.
The signal is 90.7 WKTL in Youngstown. We're owned by a public school system and so is WKTL. It started as a partnership where we offered to fill in the programming gaps when students weren't on the air, and has grown to be a 24-hour, six-day a week simulcast.
It's been really exciting to reach a new market. The response from 90.7 listeners has been so positive; there's really nothing else like us in Youngstown and it's great to be able to bring artists and songs to them that they aren't getting anywhere else on the dial.
7. You also have several side channels at the station. Tell us about them.
We've got Summit Flashbacks on HD2 - its '80s/early-'90s Alternative and New Wave -- a "flashback" to the format that many local listeners remember on WAPS during that time. HD3 is a family-oriented channel called KIDJAM! Radio -- pop music mixed with kid-friendly Triple A tracks and educational messages about things like self-esteem, healthy eating and bullying.
We just launched Rock and Recovery, which is streaming at rockandrecovery.com and will soon be on HD4. Our new Creative Content Director Garrett Hart developed the concept; it's a public radio channel that mixes music and messages for those in recovery from addiction. Akron is the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous and that inspired the idea for the radio channel. There are so many people affected by addiction, not just in Akron but across the country and especially in the music world. Rock and Recovery isn't designed to be a solution to that so much as a safe place that people can go for encouragement and community as they're recovering. It's another layer of support for them and their friends and families.
8. What do you like best about your job?
The music! I love introducing new artists and songs to the listeners and getting a reaction. And it's great to be at a radio station where I have the freedom to do that.
9. Of all the skills you have gained through the years, is there an area you'd like to improve?
I'm not great with public appearances. I always feel more comfortable behind the mic or talking to listeners over e-mail. But I don't think anything really gives you a better idea of who your audience is than going out to station events. I have several co-workers at WAPS who are naturally good at speaking in front of audiences and meeting listeners; it's definitely something I would like to improve on.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
Maybe it's crazy to say this in 2011, but I'd probably still like to do something media-related. I like to write and communicate with people - I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to do that through music in my career so far.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and my cats, seeing live music (is that work?), riding my bike through the Cuyahoga Valley and attempting to cook vegetarian food.
Last non-industry job:
I was a bad waitress at a nice Italian restaurant for a brief period after college.
First record ever purchased:
I had Salt-N-Pepa's Very Necessary on cassette, which was weird for a few reasons, one being that it was wildly inappropriate for a 10-year-old.
Eric Clapton at United Center in Chicago.
Favorite band of all-time:
I hate to be obvious, but it all comes down to the Beatles and Dylan. Spoon is my favorite modern band.