33 years between radio gigs

Before last week, the last time I hosted a live on-air radio show was 1986.

Peter K. O'Connell Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio April 2019

Voice Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell hosting the first live broadcast and first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

I was thinking about that in 2019 on April 29th at 0 Dark Thirty in the morning as I was driving from my house to WETC-AM in Raleigh, NC to be on the radio for the next 3 days – a shift of about 12 hours each day.

Maybe I should back up a bit in the story.

About 6 years ago, when I lived in Buffalo, NY, there was a Catholic radio station network there that had asked people to help voice some of their promos. So I did that for the Stations of The Cross radio network to help them out…I’m a professional voiceover talent so, I decided, this would not be a heavy lift! 😉 Glad to help.

This was a volunteer effort because Catholic radio stations generally don’t make much money and often barely break even. They are usually completely listener supported. I hadn’t done much community service work at that time (I did all that in the decades before…and those were some heavy lifts!).

Some voice talents like to read for the blind, some like to donate their voices on spots for charities they support and I decided helping a couple of Catholic radio stations would be my volunteer work.

So 3 years ago, when the Mrs. and I were considering moving to Raleigh, NC, we were actually in RDU, looking at schools for the kids. If we found one we liked, we agreed we would move here (we did and…we did). But during that visit, I also checked to see if there was Catholic radio in the Triangle (RTP).

Turns out there was Catholic radio in Raleigh & Durham although it was a pair of low power FMs (LP); the ownership of Divine Mercy Radio, Inc., was trying to buy an area AM station but that sale hadn’t gone through at the time. When I called and volunteered my VO services to them…they were pretty happy that I called.

I have been voicing and producing promos for Divine Mercy Radio since then. Then this past February when the sale of the AM station they bought finally closed (and that closing happened pretty fast) they were suddenly on the air across Eastern and Central North Carolina. LOTS of work lay ahead for everyone volunteering.

WETC-AM RALEIGH, NC CATHOLIC 540-AM DIVINE MERCY RADIORunning a non-commercial, listener supported radio station like WETC-AM is pretty much a non-stop fundraising effort. The station can not operate without money so, without commercials, they need to fundraise. And if you’re a radio station, part of that fundraising means you need to go on-air and ask for money. If you have a 10,000 watt fundraising stick, you better wield it.

Which brings me to last week.

The station didn’t really have anybody else besides me with on-air radio experience. Or radio experience period. So when we talked about what an on-air pledge drive was going to sound like on the radio station, I was nominated…recruited…incarcerated…whatever you call it, I was hosting.

Well, I thought to myself: in for a penny, in for a pound.

That’s where I found myself, that Monday morning, sitting down in front of a microphone, one on-air switch away from broadcasting on a 10,000 watt AM radio station to 3 million people across Eastern and Central North Carolina with nothing more than a binder with some notes in it and my wits.

So really all I had was a binder.

But at 6:55 AM on Monday, April 29, 2019, I got to be the first live voice on Catholic 540-AM since the station went on the air in February (it carries network programming from EWTN, Ave Maria Radio & Relevant Radio). And it felt like only 33 seconds versus 33 years since I last hosted a radio show. Mind you, I had never hosted an on-air pledge drive…ever! My experience was with music radio and live request shows.

Peter K. O'Connell, John Dornan Catholic 540 AM Spring 2019 Pledge Drive

Voice Over Talent Peter K. O’Connell and John Dornan, Director Of Communications for the Diocese of Raleigh co-hosting the first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

I was anxious as I went on the air that morning…but I wasn’t nervous. That surprised me a little. I wanted everything to go well yet I was in control…my pacing was a bit fast out of the gate, but I adjusted and it just flowed. The format was about 15-20 minutes of the pledge drive every hour. Sometimes I was solo and sometimes I had visitors / co-hosts. The co-hosts really made the breaks sound better than just me alone.

Three days later, it was over.

After barely 3 months on the air, in our first live broadcast ever and our first on-air pledge drive ever, Catholic 540-AM • Divine Mercy Radio raised almost $30,000. Early budget numbers had us only making $10,000.

Divine Mercy Radio Board Members Keith Flanary and Betty Rogosich with Volunteer Peter K. O'Connell during the first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540 AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

Divine Mercy Radio Board Members Keith Flanary and Betty Rogosich with station volunteer & host Peter K. O’Connell during the first on-air pledge drive for Catholic 540 AM Divine Mercy Radio in Raleigh, NC, April 2019

While I am sharing my perspective on the event, it was in no way at all a one man show. It was, in fact, a TOTAL team effort of dedicated, loyal and kind volunteers. I was only a very small part of it.

It was an honor to get to work with such a fine group of people. I was pleased to be able to donate my services, doing something I have experience with, that helped the team succeed.

And yes, I was a little amazed that after all that time, one doesn’t forget how to radio. 🙂

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3 Responses to “33 years between radio gigs”

  1. Who knew that your hosting of the Divine Mercy Radio pledge drive was a return to behind the mic from such a long broadcasting hiatus?! Your delivery was flawless and you helped the entire 3-day broadcast go off without a hitch. I know you certainly carried the team during my volunteer shift! The Diocese of Raleigh is very grateful for your support of DMR’s mission. Thanks, Peter!

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for being such a great co-host. We’ll likely call on you again in the Fall! It is a great volunteer TEAM and we appreciate you being a part of it!

    Best always,
    –Peter

  3. […] As I’ve mentioned, I volunteer at a Catholic radio station (WETC-AM) in Raleigh Durham, NC (the whole station is run by volunteers). I do their production and programming stuff – which isn’t too heavy a lift because the station carries mostly network programming and the Chief Engineer programs all the spots into the computer. I just voice and write stuff and produce it as well as producing voice work from other volunteers. […]

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