KSYM transitions after new general manager hired

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No sweeping changes are planned, the coordinator says.

By Asia Andrews


Music business Coordinator Donnie Meals has assumed the position of faculty adviser and general manager for college radio station KSYM 90.1 after radio-television-broadcasting Professor John Onderdonk retired in the spring.


Meals was appointed music business coordinator in 2009 and will continue doing that job until a new coordinator is hired.

Onderdonk had been the KSYM faculty adviser and general manager 37 years and was in charge of overseeing the student staff and handling licensing of music.

He was also responsible for establishing the annual pledge drive that raises money for the radio station and Alt 2 Hunger at KSYM, an annual charity food drive.

“John Onderdonk built the station to what it is today, and he did a great job,” RTVB Coordinator Markene Bennett said Nov. 1.

Bennett and Onderdonk had worked together for years, and they had seen many changes in the RTVB program, such as the move from a small structure on the grounds of the Bennett Estate to the Longwith Radio, Television and Film Building in 2005 and the switch from turntables to CDs at the radio station.

The only change after Onderdonk’s retirement, however, was the appointment of Meals as general manager and faculty adviser, she said.

“It’s a new era because John was involved with the radio station for over 25 years,” Bennett said.

Meals said that the change has been “a little odd, but mostly because of a hiring shortage and because he is still handling the position of music business coordinator.

The program is still trying to hire a faculty member with the appropriate music business technical skills to teach music business classes.

As music business coordinator, Meals’ job is to organize the classes and curriculum to give it direction, while his job as general manager and faculty adviser for the station is still being sorted out.

Meals will not be teaching any more music business classes. He wants to focus his attention on RTVB and communication classes to have students gain radio experience and provide an element to support the station activity, he said.

KSYM Program Director James “Hot Mustard” Velten was hired in spring 2016.

He had been handling the day-to-day operations of the radio station with Onderdonk and is sharing what he learned working with Onderdonk with Meals.

“James is here and knows how things are done,” Meals said. “I can rely on him. He’s a good guy and is open to sharing ideas.”

Velten and Meals are trying to get more RTVB classes and students involved in the radio station.

Meals is the first general manager to have previous radio experience and aims to bring fresh opinions to the professional side of radio broadcasting.

Meals graduated from the RTVB program and worked as a disc jockey 1975-2000.

He also owns and operates a recording studio, Edit Point.

“I believe in bringing culture, a good, healthy culture so that students feel welcome and can grow,” he said.

Velten and Meals attended the 2019 College Broadcasters International conference in St. Louis Oct. 31-Nov. 2 along with four members of the radio station’s student staff.

They gained ideas for ways to introduce new focused segments to the radio station, such as sports commentary and sales advice.

Onderdonk had been taking the KSYM staff to the conference for about 10 years, Bennett said. He once presented a program there on how to do a pledge drive.

Meals said that he would like to use his fresh ideas to increase student involvement in the sound of the radio station.

“I am thinking about adding a news element to give students announcing experience because not all students want to go into music,” he said.

Bennett said the station will continue to be in transition next year, while the faculty continue “working together to carry it forward into bigger and better things.”

Meals will be in charge of Fredstock, the music festival produced by music business students, in spring 2020 but will eventually become less involved, he said.


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