10 Questions with ... Mary K
July 22, 2014
1) Congratulations on the new job. When moving to a new city to program what should a PD do to get acclimated to the job and the city?
Thank you so much, joining the Radio One team is such in honor, I'm still on Cloud 9. Charlotte is such a great city and the team is awesome.
As a PD, when moving to new city, I drive the city, listen to our stations, listen to the whole market, and get a vibe of the city and its listeners. My Dad always said, "If you keep your mouth shut and your ears open, you can learn a lot that could help you in the future."
2) What's the story behind why and how you started in programming?
When I got started in "programming" I didn't realize I was getting started in programming. My first full-time radio gig was in 1993 at HOT 101.5 in Jacksonville, Florida where Mark Shands was the PD. After about two weeks of being on the air, during an aircheck session, I commented that the music in middays was "sleepy". The station was in an adjustment phase, and Mark explained to me how the musical outlook for the station was done. Mark then said, "Pull up a chair" and he taught me how to use Selector. I would come in before my show and re-program my midday show and few weeks later, I was the new MD. In one book, in the 18-34 demo, we beat the legendary WAPE, and middays went from #10 to #1!
3) How did you get started in radio? Give us the whole story.
While walking the campus of Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach, FL, I saw a flyer that WBCC AM 830 was auditioning on-air talents. I inquired and was told you couldn't audition as a freshman. So in true Mary fashion, I was not satisfied with that answer so my dear friend and classmate Anthony Brown and I paid the advisor to the college radio station, Glenn "Horatio" Walker, a visit. One thing led to another, and the "no freshmen rule" was revoked, in a short time we both had an on-air show and mine was on Sundays and my on-air name was "Snow White." I served in various roles and my senior year in 1992, I was the PD and we operated that station like it was a full-power FM, and as a team we won "Black College Station of the Year."
The summer of 1992, I interned for 102 JAMZ in Orlando, FL in promotions under Mickey Johnson. My very good friend and college mate Jennifer McKinney was interning at Fox TV around the corner and she would come visit me during her lunch break. We had a very cool lounge area, Pac Man Arcade game, Pop a Shot, Otis Spunkmeyer cookie oven, big-screen TV, comfy couches and etc. One day we had lunch in the promotions suite (mind you, I made a makeshift office for myself in the prize closet) and she asked Mickey if he heard my aircheck from WBCC. Of course, I had my aircheck on hand; he listened and half way through, he told me to sit still and he went to see Duff. That afternoon I was in Duff Lindsey's office, I was hired part-time, and that weekend I had an on-air show hosting the mix show and weekend overnights show, all two weeks before graduating college. That experience taught me so much, the value of promotions and how it works hand in hand with programming and sales. My on-air experience and learning everything from research, music scheduling (index card box method), production, voiceover work, and more really built a strong foundation for me.
4) What advice do you have for programmers in putting together a music playlist and sound for their station or stations? And does the approach vary depending on the format?
Being that I am very competitive person, I keep my programmers "holy grail" very close to the vest.
5) What are the pluses and minuses of programming and doing a daily air shift?
Air shift? My motto "It's a SHOW, not a shift." I truly believe this because we are entertainers and putting on a "show" is my everything. The plus of being on the air with being a PD is that you have the immediate connection to the listeners. Instantly you know if something is going to work or not. The minuses of being a PD and on the air; is when you become a PD while on-air, leave the PD'ing out of the studio. It's hard sometimes to separate the two but you can do it with time management.
6) Did you every work in any other departments other than Programming?
I have worked in almost every department in radio; on-air, programming, promotions, production, imaging, voice over, public service, news, weather, traffic reporting and even some areas that don't have official department and titles, like mother, friend, advisor, counselor, mentor, coach, van driver, and T-shirt folder.
7) How did you get the name Mary K?
In 1992, after my college aircheck was reviewed by Duff Lindsey PD at 102 JAMZ Orlando, FL. I immediately had an overnight on-air show on the weekends. So, the discussion between Duff Lindsey and Cedric Hollywood (MD) became "what is her name" on the air? Originally my on air name was Mary the K, which was devised by Duff Lindsey because I reminded him of the legendary NY on-air personality Murry the K. Later, we just shortened it to Mary K. I could have been on air talent "no name" and been happy to be on the air.
8) What do you think it takes to be a successful PD?
To be a successful PD, I think back to all my past PDs and the common thread was, they all loved what they did, had a genuine concern for their staff, and loved music.
9) How do you see the future for radio?
The future of radio is in what we make it out to be. If your outlook is negative, then you will receive negative. If you have a positive attitude about radio, then you future will be fun and rewarding. I totally believe the power of positive thinking.
10) What is your most favorite thing to do as a PD?
My favorite things to do as a PD are in the areas of coaching talent. I enjoy taking talents to higher levels of execution, even seasoned talents. I believe as a talent myself; you need to be constantly improving your craft. If you don't, just know that someone is. My motto is "not if but WHEN."
What frustrates you the most about the music industry?
I typically do not get frustrated with music industry. I have accepted that they have a job to do, just like I do.
Who are the people who have influenced you and how?
The people who have influenced me the most are my parents Harold and Beatrice Schmitt, they are the most inspiring people you will ever meet. Both my parents lost their hearing at a very young age and lived in a time where society was very cruel to deaf people. It didn't stop them; they actually took it in great stride and overcame many obstacles. I get my determination from both of them.
In my career history, I have had the pleasure to work with some great and interesting people but the folks who influenced me the most are: (in alphabetical order because you know how radio people are ... lol)
Brian Douglas was my PD at 102 JAMZ Greensboro. He is a music scheduling genius, hard driving talent coach, and has an amazing creative wit. I mastered the skill of out-of-the-box programming promotions and creative writing from my Greensboro days. He was able to take my talents and challenge me to take them even further in my on air work, music scheduling, show pre, production, imaging, creative writing, street presence and more.
Buck Wilde taught me how that all on-air talents are not the same. From him I was able to understand the mindset of a morning show and how to better communicate and coach them.
David Dubose was my GM at 957 JAMZ Birmingham. I learned that "live and local" wins every time. My days in Birmingham were not only about winning but most importantly how to serve our community.
Duff Lindsey was my very first PD at 102 JAMZ Orlando. He is by far one the best talent coaches ever and was important in my growth as an on-air personality. He saw/heard something in me that he was able to groom and take to the next level. My"one thought per break" mentality is driven from him.
Glenn "Horatio" Walker was my college radio advisor and has continued to be my mentor since 1988. He was very instrumental in setting the tone for my career path. He also taught be the importance of helping others in our business.
Harold Bray, my college band director; he awarded me a music scholarship to Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida and without this scholarship I would have not been able to attend college for two reasons 1) my grades were horrible but I had enough to get admitted as an "at risk" student and 2) the financial aspect. He taught me self-worth, discipline, and to keep going when the going gets tough. He was very supportive my college radio affiliation as well.
Jerry Clifton; while at 102 JAMZ Orlando, I had a standing aircheck session day and time with Duff, and a "man" I never saw before was in his office during "my" time. Duff explained he was in meeting but Jerry said "come on in with that aircheck." During the session I asked Jerry flat out "who he was and why I should listen to him" ... and the rest is history.
Mark Shands, is an incredible talent coach. He was my PD for my 1st full time gig at HOT 1015 in Jacksonville. I remember asking him how he wanted me to "sound" on the air, and he said exactly this "be yourself." Mark also taught me how to be an excellent MD, music scheduling and how to invoke flow to your music line up.
Paige Nienaber has been a promotional consultant at various stations I have worked at. He taught me how to think outside-the-box when it comes to the promotional aspect of programming. Most often when designing a concept, I think in terms of "what would Paige do?" My best April Fools prank at 957 JAMZ was Six Flags under Birmingham. Took weeks to prepare but totally paid off. We even had a church bus filled with kids in front of the radio station. Needless to say I went to confessional that week and asked for some forgiveness.
Steve Smith has been a consultant at various stations that I have worked at, and starting in 2011 while I was at Cox he was the VP/Programming. Steve introduced me to "where hip-hop lives" and taking my on-air talents and shows to another level of show business, I get my "it's SHOW not shift" mentality from him.
I love radio stories, what's the funniest thing you've ever witnessed since you've been in the business?
I have tons of stories, but the one that stands out the most is about a book contest promotion at 102 JAMZ in Greensboro, NC. It was the $10,000 Black Box, and there were three items inside the black box. Listeners had to guess what those items were ... get all three correct, win 10K.
The promotion was HUGE! Kendall B. and I were out driving the JAMZ Van (we called it the 8 Ball) and passing out clues to the contents of the black box. After we were done at the stops, we headed back to the station on a two-lane road. This woman, sped around us and then slammed on her breaks. Not to mention she had her car blocking traffic each way, she jumped out of her car and ran up to the van wanting her clue sheet. From that moment; we knew we had a hit contest on our hands. About three weeks later, during my show, I was playing the Black Box contest, and a woman was on the line; she did her guesses. Only Brian Douglas and Kendall B knew the contents, so we would have to call them to verify the answers. I called, reported the answers, they came running in to hear them in person. BD looked at me and said "all three are correct, congrats, Mary you are giving away 10 thousand dollars."
I was shaking like a leaf. I got the woman back on the recording, had her repeat her answers "basketball, Orange Julius, and a sit n spin." When I told her she won 10 thousand dollars, she gasped and then sobbed. She cried and cried; I let her take control of the contest. Turns out the woman, her mother had just passed away and needed the money to cover funeral expenses, I cried along with her. Once we got to more of a conversation part of the contest, I asked how did you figure out the last item in the black box, she said that her grandson played on a sit n spin almost every day, and the sound matched our sound clue. My contest was nearly nine minutes long, I played it in its entirety. To this day, this is by far the most special contest I have ever done.