10 Questions with ... Helen Leicht
October 10, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I began working in the broadcast industry in 1972 when I worked as a news assistant in the TV News Department at KYW-TV. In 1975, I worked at WILM/Wilmington, DE in the News Department/night-time news anchor.
Next stop in 1976 was my dream job working at WIOQ/Philadelphia, eventually becoming co-PD. After WIOQ changed formats, I followed my former co-PD David Dye to work at WXPN, hosting the Saturday mix from 1990-1993. From 1993-1998, I joined the staff of WMMR/Philadelphia. PD Joe Bonadonna asked me to host a Sunday morning show with my personal CD library ... so Acoustic Sunday was born.
Finally, 1998 I was offered the midday show and returned to WXPN. It was the perfect connection to the artists that I loved from my days at WIOQ, the local music that was happening and the amazing new artists that were releasing albums. I was able to continue the Leicht Lunch at Noon that I hosted at WIOQ. With the same freedom in my music choices
1. How did you become interested in radio?
My uncle/godfather Joseph T. Conway was the GM of WIBG -- in its heyday. I was listening 24/7 to hear the new Beatles songs, going to concerts with my cousins, and hearing my Uncle Joe talk about radio. It convinced me THAT was my dream. And my goal was to have a show and play only The Beatles -- my way of saying 'thanks for their music' And so when I was able to say thanks I started "Breakfast with The Beatles" Sunday mornings at 10-11a on WIOQ in 1976.
2. What station was your favorite growing up?
WIBG 24/7, with my blue transistor radio always by my side!
3. You have been with WXPN a long time - how has the station evolved over the years?
We have evolved from heavy on the singer/songwriters to a better mix of singer/songwriters and bands. For as long as I have been here the one constant has been we all truly love music. Our programming staff is amazing. We are all passionate about music and a variety of music. Together that makes a great radio station for our listeners.
4. What do you like best about working at a WXPN?
It's what any on air hosts wants ... the freedom to discover an artist/band and be able to showcase that music on your show. At WXPN we have a format but we are encouraged to handcraft our shows. We have an opportunity to listen to new music and create our shows. I don't play an instrument, but I love hearing the segues that I can 'play' during my 10a-2p show and that's the best feeling!
5. Tell us about your involvement with Musicians On Call.
We've been part of MOC for 12 years and the success of the program in Philadelphia/New Jersey/Delaware has certainly helped the program grow into other cities. When I was asked by Roger LaMay (GM) if I thought that our local musicians would be interested in going into the hospitals my response was 'absolutely'!
I went to New York to see the MOC program and when I watched the bedside performance I knew the program was a match for WXPN. We are all aware of the healing power of a song. MOC brings the artists and volunteer guides into the hospital rooms not only for the sick, but for their families who are also struggling.
In 2004, I invited singer/songwriters Mutlu, Jim Boggia and Lauren Hart to help kick off the program. Since then we have had many local artists help us kick off new hospitals and also spread the word about MOC across the country. Amos Lee has been a wonderful supporter of MOC.
Since 2004, WXPN Musicians On Call has made a difference in the lives of more than 80,000 patients and their families by bringing live music to the bedsides of patients through weekly programs.
6. You must be excited and honored to be receiving the Livconnections Connector Award.
I've been on the board of LiveConnections.org since September 2012 and I'm very proud to be receiving this award. They are helping our kids connect with music, which is a needed outlet for all of us. They are giving the kids an opportunity to be heard while they are kids. So yes, I'm honored to be receiving the LiveConnections Connector Award to celebrate my 40th anniversary and my work with our community.
7. Tell us about your many years of supporting local musicians.
When I started at WXPN in 1990 I was part-time on Saturdays noon-3p. I asked then-PD Mike Morrison if I would be able to have local artists submit their cassettes and stop by my show for live performances. He said yes if I wanted to listen to all that music. I agreed.
That's how I was able to hear music from Ben Arnold, John Flynn, Jim Boggia and Huffamoose, just to name a few. The artists were grateful for the opportunity and the list of artists has grown. Then WXPN moved to 3025 Walnut Street in Philadelphia and this new building was the game-changer. We had a location and it became the dream of a community center. I've been able to meet and support so many local artists because of this new home for WXPN. I heard Andrew Lipke busking when we opened the building. It was the first place I heard Melody Gardot doing an open mic at the World Café live upstairs. Supporting local musicians has been one of my favorite times in my radio career. Working at WXPN has given me that opportunity to find new local artists, play their music and help them have the opportunity to pay it forward.
8. What new local acts are you most excited about?
There are so many wonderful local artist it's really tough to pick a few. I would say I'm looking forward to hearing new music from Jesse Hale Moore. His song "Every Time" is a definite favorite. Cole Redding's song, "Save Me," was my first introduction to his music and soon will be releasing his new album. Ginger Coyle's song, "Rise Up," is such a positive song that we need right now. The Youngers "Morning Sun," if you're a fan of Wilco. Vita & The Woolf "Brett" ... Jen Pague has an amazing voice! And Kuf Knotz "Movement Red" from his album A Positive Light. My hope is that Kuf gets connected to Michael Franti & Spearhead ... because everyone deserves a chance.
9. What is the best advice you would give to young people considering going into radio?
Radio is so different from 40 years ago, but the passion for the music is the same. Understand your listeners, your community and try to appreciate the opportunity you are given when you get your job in radio. If you do have the chance to work in radio, become part of the team at your station. Teamwork is key. It's not about you. Radio can be so important to your hometown with the ability to help people. So volunteer and learn what your station can do to support your city.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
I'd still want to be involved in music, so the job of music supervisor for films/TV would be my choice. Not exactly a complete change of careers, but I would enjoy finding the perfect song for scenes. Of course, I know plenty of wonderful local artists that deserve a chance of having their music in films. Andrew Lipke would be an amazing Philly artist who could work on soundtracks for films.
Last non-industry job:
Working for a travel agent
First record ever purchased:
Meet the Beatles
1965 Convention Hall Philadelphia -- The Kinks/Dave Clark Five
Favorite band of all-time:
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
Spending time with my family and our little dog Roo ;)