BLUFFTON — A Bluffton University student turned his love for jazz into a syndicated radio show broadcast in eight U.S. states and four countries.
Fourth-year student Donald Isaac Jr., who serves as the program director for 96.1 FM WBWH, coupled his interest in radio and broadcast journalism with his love for jazz, soul, rhythm and blues and a new musical craze called chill. Chill is electronic music characterized by its mellow style and mid-tempo beats.
“My interest in jazz is from my dad so that is how I have this knowledge of this music,” the son of Angela and Donald Isaac said. “I can remember growing up and riding around in the car listening to his old tapes. We especially have to do it [listen to the old tapes] now because many of the jazz stations are gone now.”
The Dayton Chaminade-Julienne High School graduate also has had a long-time fascination with radio and broadcasting. Growing up in Dayton, he would listen to radio stations from Cincinnati and was intrigued by the smaller stations and their musical genres.
During his second year of college, Isaac learned the university had a radio station and his interest grew. He soon developed a two-hour radio show called “The Chillout Sessions” based on his love for smooth jazz, R&B and chill music.
“It used to be live and then about a year later, my second year when I actually started working for the station when Dan Fultz hired me to be the operations manager and I was able to revamp the programming and make over all improvements, we started pre-recording it,” said Isaac, who serves to serve as the show’s host and executive producer. “People started catching wind of my show and one of my colleagues out of West Virginia called saying he wanted to start a radio network, an online show, and wanted me to send it out to him.”
The success of his show prompted Isaac to develop a web page.
He also discovered with the show’s popularity that one aspect of the show’s preplanning became easier.
“I was getting great exposure into big markets,” said Isaac, 22, who expects to graduate in May. “When I first started I used to have to seek out artists to get on the show and to have them send their music to the show, and now a number of people want to be on the show.”
The production of his show takes at least three days. He typically starts on Wednesday researching songs for his playlist. He said he doesn’t like to repeat the same songs so he is always searching for the new songs being released. He even contacts the artists about an interview and starts to write his script.
His favorite jazz artists include Brian Simpson, Chris Standring and Boney James and his favorite soul or R&B artists are John Legend, Rebecca Ferguson and Esperanza Spalding. As the host of his own show, he has been able to interview Standring and Paul Brown, who had the world premiere of their albums on his show.
“We started out very little, and now we are world premiering albums,” Isaac said. “The thing about this genre is the artists are very accessible and they want their music put out there. There is a shortage of smooth jazz stations across the country.”
Stations in Ohio, California, Florida, Indiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York and West Virginia in the United States as well as the United Kingdom, Australia and Cyprus air his show.
With the popularity of his show, Isaac entertains constructive criticism of his show. Along with comments from Fultz, he said Dave Woodward “helps him out a lot with the show and basic radio knowledge.” He welcomes the criticism and the help.
“I am always looking to better my show, I am always looking to critique it,” Isaac said. “I am always trying to present the best possible product each week, the best possible music each week for the listeners and that is why I take so much time on the play list.”
His parents and his younger brother, Niles, love his show, he shared. After starting in pre-medicine, he changed degrees because he loves the venue.
“Doing this, working with all the equipment, programming and overseeing the show is stressful at times, but it is not really work to me,” Isaac said. “I could work in here all day, skip meals. I just love to be in here and improve the station. I like to help the other students out in producing their shows.
“I just like being around radio,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like a job. If I had this to go to work to every day then it would be a nice thing.”