The Road to Radio: Rachel Ettinger’s WorkStory

By Michael Slipenkyj, WorkStory Ambassador at Western University

Most young people begin post-secondary education with some idea of what they want to do for the rest of their lives. But many quickly discover that the career they dreamed of won’t actually be a good fit for them.

Rachel Ettinger is one of these young people. As a horseback rider she dreamed of following her passion for animals with career as a veterinarian. She attended St. Francis Xavier University on a scholarship to study biology, but during her second year, after genetics and botany classes, Rachel realized that she was no longer enjoying biology the way she thought she should be. She then made the difficult decision not to pursue a career as a vet.

While contemplating switching her major to business she talked to one of her professors who explained how she could take her electives and a couple summer classes -- and graduate with a double major resulting in two degrees!

Rachel followed this advice and took all her spare classes in business. After her fourth year she graduated with a Bachelor of Science along with her biology classmates.  And after her fifth year she graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration.

One summer, wanting to stay in Halifax with her friends from school, Rachel got a job working with Virgin Radio Halifax as part of its Summer Cruiser program. A friend-  who had previously worked at the Summer Cruiser program - recognized what a good fit Rachel would be for the job and recommended she apply. Rachel loved working for the Cruiser Program as it gave her the opportunity to see a lot of the city, meet new people, and attend many fun events!

Toward the end of the summer, Rachel was offered a job filling in on the morning show at 101.3 The BOUNCE in Halifax. Even though she had little experience as a radio host, she took the opportunity and loved it!  By the end of the summer she was offered the job.  Valuing her education, she declined the first full-time job offer as the morning show co-host. But after she finished her fifth year at university and graduated with her B.B.A she was again offered the job as the morning co-host at 101.3 The BOUNCE in Halifax. This time, without any hesitation, she took the job.

At first, it was not easy. Rachel began with very little knowledge about how to be a radio and television host. But she did not let the stress bring her down. And, as she looks back on it now, she notes that “In one way it was good, because I didn’t have any bad habits.”

Rachel started off working solely on the radio but, after a couple of months the 2015 World Men’s Curling Championships in Halifax gave Rachel her first television opportunity.  Working as the lead correspondent for CTV News, she proved her capabilities and got her foot in the television industry door, so to speak.

Rachel worked in Halifax for a year and a half before being promoted to the morning co-host at 97.5 Virgin Radio in London, Ontario.  She doesn’t know where her job will take her next, but she hopes the skills she learns from her current role will help her evolve along with the drastically changing radio and television industry.

Rachel’s advice?   While a university degree is not a prerequisite for a career in radio and television, Rachel observes that people with post-secondary education are often successful in their career because “they build certain skills, I believe, through education. They learned how to be on a team and how to do projects together and all those things will help with any job”.

One reason Rachel loves her job is that it’s a great fit -- with both her education and her personality. Her education provided her great life skills on how to handle teams and show up prepared. And her outgoing personality really meshes well with her co-host, Jeff Kelly, making them a relatable duo for their listeners. In Rachel’s own words, “Somewhere in a car, somebody will relate to you, and that’s the entire point”.

Rachel also loves working in the media industry because of the many opportunities it provides. She loves being part of community events and has met many people and made many friends.  And these interactions provide her a great way to connect with the people who she is actually trying to speak to on her radio show. While she is by no means the biggest fan of early mornings, Rachel absolutely loves scanning through all the social media, figuring out what’s popular and important, and getting that information to her audience in the morning.

Overall, Rachel loves working in television and radio because it provides her an outlet to communicate issues that she cares about. She loves learning about current issues and telling more people about them. While degrees in biology and business may not seem like ideal path for a radio host, Rachel’s education taught her important life skills which really help her connect with her audience. As Rachel puts it, “It doesn’t really matter what your background is for certain things…it’s based on foundational skills…and getting where you want to go”

Check out Rachel every week day on Mornings with Jeff and Rachel from 5:30am-9:00am on 97.5 Virgin Radio!

Introducing Shawn Meehan of “Me and Mae”

By Annette Dawm, WorkStory Ambassador

For Shawn Meehan, music is “not really a job but a way of life”. Shawn is a member of the British Columbia-based country band known as “Me and Mae”. (The name of the band is a play on words with Shawn’s last name as well as the name of a former band member.) Collectively, the band now has six members. Over the last few months, however, Meehan and his band-mate, Colette Trudeau have traveled as a duo promoting their latest single, “Feel Good Feelin’ ” while visiting radio stations across Canada. As seen in the photograph, Colette and Shawn included London, Ontario as one of their tour stops. They did a performance and an interview with Gary Taylor at BX93’s “Green Room” located inside the Covent Garden Market. (Country artists perform at the market almost every Thursday afternoon!)

During the promotional tour, Shawn says that he learned the importance of “getting out there” and connecting with those in the radio industry across the country, which he thoroughly enjoyed. As he put it, I love performing …. I love traveling and meeting new people and living in hotel rooms!”

Shawn is no stranger to life on the road. Having moved around Canada as a kid, he said that it was these types of experiences that helped him prepare for touring today. A few years ago, Shawn moved from Quebec to Toronto to attend Humber College’s music program: “I [was] playing gigs since I was 13 years old. I rarely ever said no to any opportunity. Humber College was tough to get in. They accepted 25 guitar players a year and 500 auditioned.” Shawn also noted that the journey to becoming a pro recording artist is not for faint of heart.

In addition to making connections with fans and radio personnel in a live setting, Me and Mae also has a strong social media presence. On Thursdays, the band will post event updates via their Facebook and Twitter pages. Each week they also present “Me and Mae Mondays”. Every Monday, a different member will get to do a “virtual show and tell” so that everyone can get to know them better through their photographs and stories.

Meehan credits The Eagles as a “huge influence” on his career: “I grew up listening to rock and country rock. I didn't see my Dad often growing up, but when I did he always had the Eagles playing in his car. So the Eagles are very dear to me…. I'm a huge fan! They hold the bar for me. We strive to be that great! I did play in rock bands for years but came back to country about five years ago when I started Me and Mae.”

In the early days of Me and Mae, Shawn was also a guitar teacher. He literally had a star pupil, Carly Rae Jepsen. According to Shawn, “she was a great student and very nice person. She actually co-wrote the first Me and Mae single called ‘Love Me, Leave Me Lonely’”. For Shawn Meehan, it has been very rewarding to see Jepsen’s career take off and he is sure to see much more success of his own with Me and Mae. For more information, please visit

Sarah Burke and the World of Rock Radio

By Nancy Delorey

Sarah Burke is a recent graduate of Fanshawe College’s Broadcasting-Radio Program. She spends her afternoons on London’s Best Rock FM 96 and the occasional weekend on 1021 The Edge in Toronto. She explains the love for her job comes from people – the people she interviews,  the people she connects with, and the people she meets. 


What is your current title? 

FM96 Afternoon Drive Announcer at London’s Best Rock FM96 / Part-time Swing Announcer at 102.1 The Edge Toronto

What exactly do you do for FM96?

I host the FM96 afternoon show weekdays from 2-6pm covering current events, music news, and sports to cater to a male dominant rock audience.  I often interview guests from the community or FM96 bands. For instance, Colin Mochrie from “Whose Line is It Anyway” was on the show before his “Improv All Stars” performance at Centennial Hall this week.  Monster Truck guitarist Jeremy Widerman was on the show, prior to the band playing before the Blue Jays versus Yankees game at the Rogers Centre.  The frontman and guitarist from Finger 11 came on the show live from Mount Brydges Rockin Wheel music festival.  The story is much the same with my content for 102.1 The Edge as I prepare for a role in a larger radio market.  On average I fill-in for one weekend a month in Toronto to help relieve announcer vacations and time-off.


What's it like working in radio?

Radio is kind of like day-camp.  Yes, you have somewhere you have to be everyday and you may need to prepare a lunch, but you always look forward to it.  Radio is really a daily conversation about what the people in your audience are already talking about.  When the Blue Jays are on a winning streak, across the country people are freaking out that their only Canadian baseball team could finally be making the post-season this year.  When 69 year-old Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister announces that he’s switching from Whiskey to Vodka, “for his health”…every guy who grew up on Motorhead is laughing. Everyday I ask myself these three questions: 1) What are people talking about today? 2) What can people relate to that’s going on in my life right now? 3) How can I make someone smile?


What is the best part of your job?

The best part of the gig is talking to people. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the guitarist or the singer of the band.  Sometimes the best part of the gig is talking to a Londoner you’ve never met on the phone, who shares your same love for the Toronto Maple Leafs and calls to tell you how excited he is to have Mike Babcock as the new coach.  Sometimes, it’s a couple of guys starting the night shift in a factory that call to say they have the station blasting at work. Sometimes, you end up hosting a charity event and sometimes, you’re introducing a band on stage at a music festival.  It’s different every day and it’s always exciting.


Name the coolest thing you have been able to do?

I’m going to have to narrow it down to three

     Interviewing Dallas Green of City and Colour

     Watching Neil Young rock Budweiser Gardens from Tie Domi’s suite

    Doing live radio shifts on the radio station I grew up listening to, 102.1 The Edge.


How has your time at Fanshawe impacted your career?

The Fanshawe Broadcast-Radio program has always been noted as one of the best in the country and that’s the reason that radio stations are quick to accept your request to intern or look at your resume before others. They know you already have the necessary skills.  The program basically has you job shadowing as you conduct interviews, learn to edit them and make contacts in the community.


What has your time at FM96 taught you?

My time at FM96 has taught me that broadcasting is not about the host and being in the spotlight. It is always about the listener, your #1 client.  If you’re telling a personal story on-air, a listener MUST be able to relate or it’s not worth telling. If you can keep your listener informed, engaged and entertained, you’re doing it right.

Reprinted with permission from Fanshawe College Alumni News. All rights reserved. 

Make Some Noise with Transistor!

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

Formed in 2007, and based out of Barrie, Ontario. Transistor is a four member, award-nominated band. They have released two full length albums and are about to release their yet-to-be-named third in 2015, fusing a power-chord rock sound together with blends of blues, punk and country.

 The band's recipe is simple. A hard driving focus and power-filled songs, combine with intricate lyrics, to reveal music that ranges from melodic to heavy. Steve Wishart's vocals twist and turn throughout the songs, weaving an energy of rich harmonies with lead guitarist and backing vocalist Chris Nunes. The group's nucleus is held together by Joel Schonewille's steady rhythms on drums. Bass player Don Lindsay intertwines unorthodox bass lines to bring the songs together. Transistor has performed many shows and appeared at Earth Hour Music Festival, Barrie New Music Fest and Music on Main.

 Behind their unique sound, is a unique career path chosen by each band member. As Steve recounts "All of us have really taken different courses and schooling to get to where we are today. Being an honours graduate of the Georgian College Graphic Design program I have found that my career path has helped to give our band an identity, overall look and appearance. Because of my education, we have merchandise to sell and a website to promote ourselves and a visual presence that we can take pride in.  From an artistic point of view, I can utilize my training to think creatively and outside of the norms to not only brand us, but apply it to other forms of the group such as songwriting or making videos. It's the creativity that allows me to write lyrics to a song or help structure a guitar part. Music is much like design or any kind of art...everyone starts with a blank canvas and as an artist it's up to us to fill it with a picture that others can connect with on whatever level. But in this case our medium is our instruments".

 The band's drummer Joel took Radio Television Arts at Ryerson University. This gave him some audio training in a broadcast domain and an idea of the process radio stations use to select music for their playlists.  Guitarist and backing vocalist, Chris tried out Computer Programming, but never quite finished.  It was in his free time that he learned the art of guitar.

 When asked which school experiences helped the most, lead singer Steve said that he never really excelled in music in school. He didn't like the structure of music teachers assigning the roles played in a band. He wanted to be an individual.  Steve took private music lessons which boosted his confidence. This experience inspired him to learn independently and to decide for himself what role he would play.  Although Chris did not finish his post-secondary program, he notes that the time he spent there was worthwhile: "For the three of us school was our experience that helped define us. It's where we met, forged a friendship and started the roots of our band. Joel, Steve and myself have played together for many years in various bands. In a way, you can consider that a career, as most bands don't last even a quarter of that time together."

 A day on the job can vary, depending on whether the band members are performing or recording.  If they are performing, they have to incorporate extra time to travel, set up equipment, and make sure the instruments are working and sounding right; and then there is the work and effort that comes with putting on a good show.

Recording is a different story, because the band can either work together, or separately. They can work on their sound in the comfort of their own homes, and then come together to make the whole masterpiece. Practices happen once a month, and can last anywhere from 5 to 10 hours. Recording gives the band more time for sleep, and family; but for Chris there is nothing better then when they come over to his place for a jam session, and create new music. 

 There are many rewarding things about being in a band, including the fans, and seeing a song come to life. Steve explains the best part for him: "From a body of work perspective we are about to release our third album, and I always find that fulfilling and first and foremost I would say writing the music tops the list. This is followed closely by the atmosphere of being in a band. It's truly like a family at times. Sharing ideas and creative moments right to traveling and performing live and having people listen to your music and like it."

 They admit that they would like to "make it big" with Transistor, but they know the industry is not what it used to be. Nonetheless they will continue making music because it's what they love. When asked for advice for those who may be interested in entering the industry, the band collectively agreed that you can't expect to "get rich quick".  You should make music because you love it; and stay away from today's talent shows that ultimately try to seize creative control.

You can find out more about Transistor at their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube.

Reigniting an Old Passion: Gareth, CHRW, & the Argonauts

By Karli Steen, WorkStory Ambassador

In high school, Toronto Argonauts reporter Gareth Bush had always seen himself as a Canine Police Officer. However, in mid-pursuit of his Criminology degree at Western University, his passion for the world of sports media was reignited. Gareth attributes the re-ignition to his time spent volunteering with the campus radio station CHRW: "My time at CHRW Radio completely changed my life.  They gave me so much freedom to explore the sports broadcasting world.  I started hosting my own sports show, colour commentated the football games, and covered many mainstream sports events for the station.  It's the reason why I'm where I am."

After the rediscovery of his passion and the completion of his undergrad, Gareth went for his Masters in Journalism, which helped him attain his position as Digital Media & Communications Assistant with the Argonauts. While Gareth has always known that his passion has been within Journalism and the world of sports, he also has a passion for music.  He admits that both passions have been closely intertwined, as his music gigs helped pay for his education.

A day on the job has never a dull moment, and when asked what his job entailed, Gareth had this to say: "Every day is different.  If it's during a regular day of practice I'm with the team.  Putting together videos, interviewing players, filming lots of stuff.  Also running the social media accounts and our website.  If it's a game day I'm writing the recap, making/printing all the stat sheets, and a bunch of other little jobs."

Although Journalism isn't among the highest paying of jobs, Gareth says that the experience is priceless: "You meet new and exciting people with new stories to tell every day.  In my case being a sports-focused journalist, you get to see some of the most exciting and historic sporting events take place worldwide.  Plus you get paid to watch the game and tell the world about it.  It's great."

His current position with the Argonauts is the beginning of a long and rewarding adventure, and Gareth says he's on the right track.  He's where he wants to be, covering pro games and athletes every day.  And, like every newcomer to a career, he looks forward to climbing the ladder.

For those interested in joining the field, Gareth shared these words of wisdom: "Get as much experience as you possibly can.  Whatever it is you want to do, just stick your feet in as many doors as possible.  Volunteer like crazy.  Sports journalism relies very heavily on young and aspiring interns to do a lot of the dirty work.  Take on as much as you can.  When I started, I was hosting my own show, reporting, producing, colour commentating, writing, etc.  All for free. But it got me tons of experience and built up a heck of a portfolio.  Also, shake every hand you can find in the business.  Word of mouth is strong in journalism.  The more contacts you make, the better your odds are of getting in."

Catch Gareth in action at
Listen to his other passion here: