By Zach Collier
Jackie Tateishi is the Producer for BYUradio’s Highway 89. A BYU graduate with over a decade of experience in radio, we got to interview Tateishi in studio at BYU Broadcasting headquarters about what goes into putting on a live radio show, the importance of research before interviews, and her all-time favorite experiences with musicians during the show.
I want to thank you for letting me speak with you. I had kind of a geek-out moment when you commented on our site. You’re never fully aware of who’s reading.
Everyone is reading. For all you know, the President of the United States is reading, too! [Laughter] I had a geek out moment because I was like, “Oh, it’s Zach!” once I found out who was behind [Reach Provo]. So I was like, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute!” So thanks for coming back!
Well, thanks for having me! It’s cool to be back. Anyway, I just wanted to get to know you a little bit. Tell our readers about yourself.
I am Jackie Tateishi, and I have been working at BYU Broadcasting for eleven years. Going on twelve years. Ooh, I’m so old.
Steven [Kapp Perry] said something about you working here as a student before.
Yes, I worked here as a student. It was a crazy thing because I interviewed for one [full-time] job here, and while I was sitting in the office of the general manager, he said, “I’m not going to hire you for this job. I’m going to make you a job right now. You’re going to be my producer and you’re going to do my shows.” That was a really cool moment, and that was the beginning of it. He gave me a lot of responsibility, and so I made maybe ten radio documentaries. Hour long documentaries telling the about the complete lives of famous singers. So we would interview them and then we would get excerpts from their performances. I would research them like crazy. Most of them had careers a little bit before the digital age, so I was having to go and hunt down information in the actual library – with just paper, you know? [Laughter] Interesting information about them and everything. So I would have to tell their life story in this radio documentary, and I would do it all in Pro Tools. So I would create it, and he would sign off on it. I would write the script, he would improve the script. We’d just collaborate and make this thing. He would kind of lead the way because it was his vision. But at the end of a few years of doing that, he started saying, “Well, why don’t you go up to their house and stay the night with this Wagnerian Opera Singer and you just do the interviews?” or “You go interview this person in Logan who’s good friends with Birgit Nilsson and you do the show?” Obviously that was important. He’d still sign off on it and have input and things for sure, but I had a lot more ownership. After that I did The Christmas Chronicles, which is a radio drama. That was an original radio drama written by Tim Slover. He wrote this story of Santa Claus. It had music, there was a director and everything.
So was it done live? A live performance of the drama?
No, that thing was labored over like you wouldn’t believe!
[Laughter] I was like, “Whoa, did they have an orchestra in here?!”
[Laughter] No, no. But there was a composer and he wrote motifs for all the different characters. The director would read the script and say where certain things needed to happen, and then I created it all in Pro Tools. I’m the one who executed all of that. I was there for all the readings and I created the beast in Pro Tools. That was a pretty cool experience, and it was a multi-year experience. Throughout all of that I was doing short features. So if I went to Tokyo Opera City in Tokyo, I would interview the director there. If I went to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, I would talk to somebody there. Or I was being sent out on little assignments like to Utah Festival Opera in Logan to interview the whole cast for the anniversary season. So I would come back and create features, usually with really intense deadlines, to be honest. I’m a really good deadline person. [Laughter] Which actually brings us to Highway 89.
And there it is! [Laughter]
When we’re live – which is a fair amount of time, since sometimes we’re pre recorded as if live – I don’t have one more second. I can’t say, “Oh, I need one more second to be ready.”
You just have to do it.
I always have to be ready! At 8 o’clock, it is go time! It doesn’t matter if I have an enormous group in here – forty singers, or a hundred and thirty singers in the big studio: I don’t have one more second. When it’s go time, it’s go time. I am a deadline kind of person for sure. So that’s my life story. Highway 89 launched in 2011. It’s been keeping me busy ever since.
Did you always want to go into radio?
No! I was a ballet dancer back in the day.
Oh, wow! So classical music is a good fit?
Classical music is good. I do love opera. I have an English minor, but when I did that interview I think my boss was interested in the fact that I could write him scripts. I still write the scripts today. That’s a lot of work. It’s back to what I did in the beginning: I do tons and tons of research on our guests. That’s something that we really pride ourselves on. Dustin Gledhill and Lucas Pullin were in here the other day. Their dog’s name is Toska. I really research, and I like to pull it out. I think it’s disrespectful when you have shows where they’re like, “So… do you have any albums?”
[Laughter] Like, “Seriously? I’ve been touring for twenty years.”
Exactly! We don’t want to waste the listener’s time. So we know everything. It doesn’t sound like it when Steve’s executing it, because he’s so talented. But as a listener, you are getting so much information. He’s not making that person say, “Oh, well my album is named this.” He’s saying, “So, you decided to record this in analog.” It’s like a whole other layer. You get past all the fluff. Right to the next layer. That’s what I love about the show. Getting to really open up people and their lives. Yeah, they’re a musician. But what else? Everything about them, I want to know.
My favorite thing that Steve did was on the Festive People stream. He was like, “I have a quote from your biggest fan.” He said that to John Lane. And his biggest fan called him John Boy or Johnny or something. And John was just like, “Yeah, my mom is the best.” [Laughter]
Occasionally, with young artists we can’t get as much information as I wish. And that’s just because they haven’t lived as many years on this earth, right? They only have so much. They have a lot to them, but only so much. But how cool is that? You’re still kind of a new band, and already someone is quoting back to you things from your fans? He does it probably the very best with Amy Whitcomb. The research for the show, whether you’re conscious of it or not, is insane. People even say, “Does someone here work for the NSA? Nobody has ever asked me these kinds of questions.” We just want people to really learn and get into the lives of musicians. Not see them as shallow or as some kind of glory seekers, because they’re not. They’re real human beings. And the human side is extremely critical to us. I wouldn’t want to be here otherwise – like if it was just some kind of shallow, make jokes kind of show. I mean, we do make a lot of jokes [Laughter]. It’s fun to have fun, but it’s also fun to get some depth.
So that’s you.
That’s me in a nutshell.
So when do you normally put on the show?
We tape the show Tuesday and Thursday evenings. We do lots of double headers. We’ll do them pre recorded, as if live. Truly as if live. No retakes, no edits, no do overs. whispers We’re serious people. [Laughter] So at 6PM and at 8PM. I don’t think we’ve done a triple header yet. But sometimes we’ll do one in the morning. But nothing’s happening to day! Hallelujah! We’ve got paperwork and numbers to log and stuff like that. [Laughter]
What goes into putting on a twice weekly radio show?
Well, that’s for the tapings. It airs six nights a week no matter what. So obviously we have repeats. six nights a week on Sirius XM and twice a week on Classical 89. It starts with booking. Then lots of research on the band. Then writing the script and reviewing the script with the host. Getting the bodies in studio. Communicating with the recording engineer about what instruments are going to be here and how we’re going to mic it so it’ll sound the best even though it’s live. Talking to Abbie who’s going to film it so that she can get all the equipment we’re going to need. Deciding how many cameras we’re going to roll. Our max, to date, is six cameras on one show. That’s a new thing for us. Communicating all of that. Lots of communication. Then getting people in the studio, telling them what’s going to happen. Because they can’t have any questions at all. We’ve gotta get them fully educated on what’s about to go down! Because at 8 o’clock it’s live! No retakes, no edits, no do overs.
You can’t stop!
No stoping for nothin’! Can’t stop. After that there’s a whole bunch of boring stuff about documentation. Getting it into the rotator, naming it, getting it on the web. Then social media like crazy. Pre scheduling Tweets, all that good stuff – which you know about, because you run Reach Provo.
Ugh. One of the most time consuming things.
A lot of button pressing. There’s no creativity at that point. It’s just hard robotics. Copy paste, send. Customize a bit.
I do appreciate that Twitter will let you schedule like a year in advance.
Facebook scheduling is super helpful as well, especially before you go on vacation.
It’s true. [Laughter]
When did Highway 89 start having local musicians on?
In the beginning it always was. It depends on which circles you move in. You, my friend, if I have you pegged right, you don’t move in the classical circle much.
Not much. Not much at all. [Laughter]
Not much! Kay, so. Even the night that we launched, it was with a 35-piece brass band. The Utah Premier Brass, so that’s a local ensemble. So the launch show was a local ensemble with a live studio audience of 230 people in that big studio. Sometimes we go to the big studio – that’s something people need to know. We’ve had a 130 person choir in there. I’ve had a full wind symphony in there. They had to load in the night before. Then we also use this studio. Acoustically, the other studio isn’t friendly so we have to add reverb. But um, definitely. From day one, local for sure. Since my show airs on both stations, we knew we could do the show because we have lots of friends in the classical world. So we’re just gonna call up our friends and tell them to come play the show.
This studio is very very very very rare. Radio stations don’t have these kinds of state of the art studios these days. It was something we’ve been wanting for a long time. So Highway 89 – maybe the actual name of the show and some of the details of the show we figured out when it launched in 2011 – but the idea of having musicians come in and perform and be able to broadcast that, that’s very old. That’s way before me and a lot of people here. That’s been the dream of so many people. They just didn’t have the facilities. There were five building committees before this building got built. Five times they had a different building committee. I know I’m the tangent queen. But for the longest time we couldn’t do it. But Highway 89 was the turning point. Highway 89 means if you’re local artists and you’re national artists touring and coming through Utah, you can come into our studio and we can broadcast you not only locally but also nationally. It is our dream come true. Plus, everyone who leaves now leaves with a recording. Two copies of it on CD in hand by the end of the show. So wow. Yay. It’s a big deal. [Laughter]
I know BYU Sports Nation started as a talk only radio show, and now it’s a simulcast. Is there a possibility of simulcasting for you guys?
Right now, I’m going to say no. No on BYUtv. However, we just ran, for the first time, six cameras and filmed the whole show. Never done that before. We may not release that. That was also experimental. But we did it! We did it! [Laughter] I think it could very quickly become a thing where there’s a simulcast going out. There are so many other radio stations that are doing that. We’re working on it. We’re doing our darndest. It ain’t easy.
Last question. Out of all the live performances that you’ve done, do you have a favorite?
That is so difficult. You don’t even know what you’re asking. That’s like choosing my babies! I would say that my favorite live interview was when a man was talking about fleeing a war-torn country. And how his dad fled this country. It was Dmitri Levkovich. His family fled one country, went to another country. War broke out. He fled from that country to Canada. Then his dad, who had won composer of the year (or greatest composer or something) in the Ukraine, was now playing on the streets. He told Dmitri, “I don’t want you to ever become a musician. It’s an awful thing.” But he still became a musician. That was my favorite. It was amazing to see what this kid went through, and he still was loyal to his craft. My favorite performance? I’ll be honest. It was a show that we taped that was never slated to air. It was a young woman. I was just going to give her the experience of being in the studio and recording. If she sang even one song that was good – it was a Christmas thing – then I would use that one Christmas song. She was singing stuff, and it was just kind of like, okay, you’re young. You’re still developing your voice. Then she sang “Mary Had a Baby.” It was very strange. You could see her whole persona change. She planted both of her feet, and she belted out this song, and it was like whoa! Something’s happening right now! You have something inside of you that I didn’t know was there. If I met you on the street, I wouldn’t know that was inside of you. Even if I had a conversation with you, I may or may not know that was inside of you. But I feel really lucky to sit in here and find out that you could do that. And you just got to find out that you could do that. And we aired that song for Christmas.
Highway 89 airs in Utah on 89.1 FM – Classical 89 – and worldwide on BYUradio at Sirius XM 143. Make sure to like both Classical 89 and BYUradio on Facebook. You can check out some of Jackie’s work from Highway 89 below. You can also read our interview with Abbie Vance, cinematographer for Highway 89, by clicking here.