By KATIE DOUGLAS (WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – Leigh Oleszczak arrives at the radio station to prerecord her shift. She is petite, with shoulder-length brown hair and a deep voice that you wouldn’t expect. It’s a voice for radio.
There is brown carpet covering the walls from floor to ceiling at 90.9 FM The Bridge. Framed pictures of artists, most of which are autographed, hang on the walls and a beautiful brown piano sits in the corner. Move to the far back room on the right and there are computers, blinking green lights and knobs in every direction. It’s really cold.
“It’s like a meat cooler in here,” Oleszczak said with a laugh. “It needs to be cool for the equipment.”
Oleszczak, wearing a Batman T-shirt and plaid shorts, takes a seat behind a desk. There are two microphones hooked to moveable stands, a computer and a large board that takes up most of the desk. This is the control board, which is covered with faders, buttons and rotary dials, all of which Oleszczak uses to run her show.
The Bridge is a 100,000-watt radio station located on the University of Central Missouri campus in the lower level of the Wood building. This is where Oleszczak works as much as 20 hours a week as a midday DJ and automation coordinator.
Oleszczak, 21, is a broadcast media major who has worked at The Bridge for the last three years. She said she first became interested in working in the radio industry as a freshman in high school where she announced girls’ soccer games.
“Parents would always tell me that I had a good voice,” Oleszczak said. “I decided to go forward with radio to see if I liked it. Turns out, I love it.”
Oleszczak runs the board for The Bridge during away football games and is in charge of updating the station’s Twitter account and the website’s new music section. She also does what is called “on-air trafficking,” which she describes as putting all of the music in order and adding in promos.
“When I get to the station the first thing that I do is record the weather for the day,” Oleszczak said. “I prefer doing the forecast the day of so that it’s more accurate than if I did it the day before. After that, I grab the log for the next day and look through what music will be playing so I know what to talk about during my breaks.”
When asked how working at The Bridge benefits her future career, she sighs as her face relaxes. She said she is glad to have three years of radio experience under her belt and hopes that it will help put her ahead of the competition when she graduates in May.
Byron Johnson has been at The Bridge for the past 14 years and before arriving at UCM he worked in the commercial radio industry for 32 years. Johnson, who is the operator and producer at The Bridge, has seen Oleszczak develop as an on-air personality.
“Vibrant, engaging, and willing to bring her audience into the music program,” Johnson said of his colleague. “Her ability to tackle any job assigned to her and her conversational approach to talking ‘with’ her audience.”
A person doesn’t have to be a broadcast media major to be a part of The Bridge. Porsche Schlapper, 21, is a history major whom Oleszczak introduced to the radio station. She now volunteers at The Bridge, working on its events calendar. Oleszczak and Schlapper met through Phi Sigma Pi, the National Honors Fraternity on campus.
“Leigh is wonderful to work with,” Schlapper said. “While I was going through the learning curve of figuring out how everything works at the station, she was always willing to show or tell me things I didn’t know. You can tell she loves what she does and wants to share that passion with others.”
With more outlets for listeners to get their music fix, Oleszczak, or at least her voice, still gets noticed.
“I was in line at Todd Dining Hall with a friend and we were talking and the guy serving the food looked at me weird and goes, ‘Are you on The Bridge by chance?’” Oleszczak said. “I said I was and he told me that he had always wanted to meet me. It totally made my day.”
Along with the highs, there are lows to working in the radio industry. One of which is people who don’t agree with the things you say or play on the air. She said a man called the station and was upset that she wasn’t playing a certain artist on the radio. Little did he know, music selection is out of her control.
“My least favorite part is getting angry callers,” Oleszczak said. “It is something that I will just have to learn to get used to.”
Oleszczak is set to intern in January at Townsquare Media, a station in Sedalia where she hopes the internship will turn into a regular job.
“As of right now I don’t have a set plan,” Oleszczak said. “Which is scary to think about.”
In the meantime, she still needs to prerecord her material that is set to air in an hour or so. Luckily for her, she can cut her whole shift in about 15 to 20 minutes. Back in the meat cooler she goes.
Tune in to one of Oleszczak’s shows on 90.9 FM from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 2-5 p.m. Sunday.