Becoming a radio presenter

Meg Alexander in the studio

Meg Alexander shares her experiences of joining 5mbs as a presenter.

My adventures in radioland all began on a drive to McLaren Vale. We were listening to 99.9FM on the radio, enjoying the Jazz Lunch, when I heard an announcement calling for people interested in being a presenter on 5MBS to apply. I had only 2 thoughts in that moment ‘I want to do this’ and ‘I want to do it now!’. Actually, 3 thoughts, the third being ‘I don’t think I know enough!’. I thought about it, thought about it some more, and then threw together an expression of interest and hit submit.

I’d found myself tuning in to 5MBS more and more and loving not just the mix of classical, blues, world music and jazz (the best commuting home from work music ever is the daily Jazz at 4 programs!) but the programming choices and presenter styles too.

The next thing I knew, I was actually at 5MBS meeting the team, then chatting on the phone with my wonderful Mentor, Bill Lawson. From that momentous meeting in May 2021, I started training in June and by July was on air doing my first classical programs. I then picked up presenting jazz programs in October and joined the Board after that.

Well, dear reader and listener, there was a bit more to it than that! It’s just over a year since I went on air and now seems like a good time to reflect on this amazing journey.

Big confession: I am renowned for being the least practical person on the planet, so I have to say I was pretty daunted when I saw the panel for the first time. It looked like I would be trying to fly Doctor Who’s TARDIS! Initially observing Bill doing his programs was like watching a ballet of perfectly synchronised moves of faders going up, down, buttons being pressed, and CDs flying in and out of the deck, initially faster than I could follow. But I had plenty of opportunity to observe Bill, and he was so generous with his time in helping me practice (safely) off air in the second studio. He even wrote up a great set of notes breaking it all down that I still refer to.  

I have enjoyed listening to music all my life (the family’s letterbox was purpose built to take the records that came regularly from the World Record Club), and radio has been a big part of that. I love the presence and personality the great presenters bring, along with their knowledge, passion, warmth and the information they share to enhance the listening experience. I have enjoyed reading about music, the history of music and watching documentaries about music.

So, it was just incredible to be at the point when I was choosing music for my first ever radio program. Incredible, intoxicating and also paralysing. With all the world and history of classical music to choose from where to begin? For a while it seemed as though I was just pushing heaps of CDs back and forth across the desk until I began to see my way.

I threw myself with the utmost determination to learn the ropes of going to air. I learned that mistakes happen. And you know what? You learn from each and every one. Also, that everyone around you at 5MBS is kind and supportive, just as you need to be kind to yourself through this learning curve and beyond. I have made what I regard as some real doozies – perhaps my personal favourite was announcing a Clara Schumann work for piano and violin only to have a baritone blast out of the speakers! I’d cued the wrong track. At least it was a work by her husband! I’ve hit the wrong mic button, gotten tangled up in whether I was playing CD 1 or 2, but I persisted, and one year on, the studio is a great place to be and I am extending my learning to recording programs too.

I look back now to driving to the radio station for my first live program and yes, I was nervous! There I was sitting at the panel, putting on the headphones, watching the countdown..then..on air speaking into the silence! Looking back, I know I was a bit stilted to begin with but the more programs I did, the more comfortable I felt. And from the get-go I loved it.

There are so many joys in being a presenter and here are just a few:

Bringing music and performers I love to our listeners is so much fun, plus as a presenter I have discovered music and composers I have never heard of or encountered before. I recently paid homage to concert bands in an In the Spotlight program. This was a special program for me, as I took up learning music on the flute as an adult and have enjoyed playing in a concert band and being part of that community.

The 5MBS library of music is incredible, vast (there are literally thousands of items) and easy to search – and we have loads of really interesting works performed by local musicians too.

I love the research component and learning the balance of offering an interesting snippet of information to introduce a work but not overdoing it (note, this is hard when it is just all so interesting!!). Every program I do, jazz and classical, adds to my knowledge.

It is an absolute delight when a kind listener calls up or emails words of feedback and encouragement.

But best of all is constantly working to the goal of entertaining and bringing enjoyment to you our listening community!

So if you love listening to music, reading about it and talking about it, why not take your love of music on air as a presenter? We’d love to hear from you!

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