10 Questions with ... Toni Terrell
July 5, 2016
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Metro Traffic Reporter, Top 40, Urban AC/ AOR, Smooth Jazz, Oldies, AC, Urban AC Hybrid, Westwood One Network, Radio One Networks (Satellite Broadcasting) PD, APD, MD, announcer, production.
1) Congratulations, you just marked an anniversary didn't you?
Sam! Can you believe it? It was truly a flash. At the stroke of midnight this year, I said, "2016!? Dang, that means I've been in Huntsville 10 years if I make it to July 10th!" LOL. After all it's the ever-changing beast of the business so you never say or think you'll be here tomorrow or next week! I feel so humbled and honored to have been able to work my vision and craft in this beautiful community. When I was going through the hiring process with the late Mark Raymond, the first PD, he said to me, "Girlfriend you're gonna' like this company, I've been working for them for a while and they do give people opportunities to grow and reach goals." I was hopeful, but thought he is just saying that to entice me to take the job, LOL. He was right! I have been able to do that and more, it's been great.
2) What can you tell us about Huntsville?
This is a unique area, known as "The Rocket City." This is an Aerospace & Technology town of industries that includes Redstone Arsenal which is a garrison for the US Army Materiel Command, Aviation and Missile Defense Agency and a NASA's Marshall Flight Center. Huntsville is one of the top cities for engineers, becoming one of the greatest techie towns in the USA, a highly educated town of colleges including an HBCU (Alabama A&M University). This town is booming with businesses and population, and is an entrepreneurial heaven. It's so far north in Alabama, I think the market forgets it's in the South sometimes. It's a community that cares about one another with many organizations that give and yes, we are in the Bible belt. When I moved here the natives of Huntsville said I would never want to leave, I must admit the Southern hospitality has grown on me. This is town if full of transplants from all over the world, and I'm one of them.
3) Why do you do so many community events?
First and foremost, what I do for a living is radio broadcast. I can't collect a paycheck if people don't listen to this radio station. Serving the community was what I loved about radio when I was growing up. I remember the Black radio stations back in the day, always doing "free" concerts, helping to give to families in need, doing fun things with the neighborhood children. Once I found myself behind the mic, I promised myself if I was ever in the position to lead, I would do the same and use this vehicle to do some good, other than just play the big hits and give away a prize. So I have always tried within in my power to do something to serve the community of which I live.
There are times in this business which you feel, what is this all about?! As some have said, "When are you going to get a real job?" I have always felt if I'm getting a real paycheck than this is a real job. But the most important lesson I have learned is my contribution to the world is my willingness to serve, and that said I am a servant to my community through radio broadcasting.
4) Would you tell us about your career?
Sam, sometimes you just have to shake your head, and wonder, how did I get here! My first job was a traffic reporter when Metro Traffic Report service was being offered in large markets for the first time. We couldn't even say our names at that time, I was "Unit 9," covering the East and West Bay traffic. I literally drove in traffic and flew in a small plane reporting about back-ups and accidents. We didn't have cell phones then; we had two-way radios. The crazy thing was we had to find a phone booth to call an 800 number to record our reports. One of the stations I reported for, their news department was looking for someone to go to a political campaign location to do some poll results reporting, and I offered to do it. I was so scared but the News Director (Julie, can't remember her last name at the moment) was so nice and walked me through it. After that task, I felt I could do anything, she gave me great advice of which I still use today.
5) What's the funniest thing that you've seen or were a part of in radio?
The first thing that comes to mind, and I don't want to mention names, is I was working an overnight show and the station had an early morning Gospel show that ran from 4a to 6a. The Gospel host was late and I called and called them but got no answer. They had been late a few times before and had been warned. I didn't want them to get in trouble and, master of voices that I can be (LOL), I decided to imitate them and pretend I was them until they got to work. I thought it's 4a who's going to know, I can fool the audience long enough. I did the first break ... got away with it, they still didn't make it in. I did the second break and the "Hot Line" rung! My heart started racing ... (Me) "Hot Line, Hello" ... (PD) "What The H-E Double L" are you doing! (Me) Ummmm ... (PD) Where is "Bleepppp"
Late again!? (Me) Ummm ... Yes. (PD) Don't open that Mic again, I want to know as soon as ### gets there!
6) How did you get started in radio?
My first career was Early Childhood Development, which lasted for four to five years, while enrolled in a junior college I worked for a local child care center in Berkeley, CA. I was a teacher's aide. It was during that time I felt the urge to do more. I realized there wasn't much opportunity for growth as far as a career path. I could become a teacher (which I did) and then a School Director or owner; it was at that moment I was in search of something more rewarding as far as adventure. A local broadcasting school was heavily advertising on TV and it looked exciting and challenging and I was curious enough to enroll! Nine months later I graduated and got my first broadcasting gig as a Traffic Reporter for the then New Metro Traffic Report for the San Francisco Bay Area. That job was my launching pad to a weekend gig at the Top 40, KKIQ (which was located in Livermore, CA) that's how long I've been blessed in the business! A few years later I landed my first "Big Job," on the Heritage Urban AC 1310 KDIA "The Boss of the Bay." I was able to work at a few other outlets in the S.F. Bay Area, then So-Cal at KGFJ (another Black Heritage) KRNB and KSOC/Dallas, and now 94.1 WHRP/Huntsville, AL. Formats I've done are Top 40, AOR, Smooth Jazz , Urban AC , Oldies, & AC.
7) Okay, time to start naming names ... who have been the people that you feel helped your career?
You always remember the person who hired you first, Dean Greve (Metro Traffic), as well as Mark Davis (KKIQ) Jeff Harrison (KDIA), Tony Kilbert , Clifford Brown Jr, Johnny Morris, Ken Johnson, John Long, Mark Raymond, Bill West, Maurice DeVoe, Mike McVay, Steve Smith, Sally Cline, Pat Sanchez, Miranda Wilson, Hollywood Hernandez, Timothy Alexander White, Delisa Henderson and Kenneth McDonald (Redstone Arsenal MWR) and **** Gen. Dennis L. Via (Redstone Arsenal ... these great people have all had a significant part in me growing and excelling in my career ... and a brown-,nose mention Sam Weaver!
8) What things are you up to these days?
Working on opening up a platform for local talent ... Huntsville has become a secret spot where artists like to come and record. The amazing thing is there are a lot of talented people who reside here, too. They need the experience of being interviewed and showcased -- and what better place to do than at home? I am polishing up the look and sound of WHRP to keep us relevant and working on some things to tap into our youth.
9) What are your goals for yourself and the station?
For myself, I am at a place where theater of the mind thrills me more, that said I have talked about it enough now to pursue it more, voiceover production for animation, commercials and more ... you know the gig. Something I can get into and do with my pajamas on! For the station, make more money! Get greater ratings, of course, WHRP has the potential to be a #1 contender and with the change of the demographic in this region that is not so farfetched. I would like to see us present more localization to help pull the community closer together and to continue to keep WHRP relevant is a daily goal.
10) Would you share any advice you have for those in the industry and for the people thinking about beginning a career in radio?
Anyone thinking about getting in the business, learn to do more than one thing! Listen with your ears and not your mouth. Don't take critiques personal, if you are trying to be a personality. Image is everything. And people with more experience than you have more experience, so pay attention to them you might learn something. For those in the industry, learn to share more, be willing to teach more, give more opportunities, invest in your teams and station more! And when you have a solid employee don't ignore them, do what you can to keep them, you may end up with a nightmare! LOL
What things about you would people be surprised to learn?
I'm a great cook. I love cooking, grilling and cooking for others. Don't ask me to cook though, I'm too busy with the station.
I'm fishing these days, I love bike riding and I'm big on sports.
I also have a show on the Westwood One Network that is heard on various radio stations across the country including Radio 103.9 NY. That's me, Toni Terrell ... "Your Best Girlfriend."