J. Rowe of “Big Hair Hits” talks volunteering and musicianship

Part One

Part Two

This news piece is the first in a pair about one of our volunteer radio show hosts, J. Rowe of Big Hair Hits which runs from eight to ten on Monday evenings.  I asked Jason when he first remembered wanting to be a dj.

“Well, it started when I was a freshman in college at Courtland State University in New York, and I was 18 years old, and for one year I dj’ed on WSUC which was 90.5. which was like a three mile radius of the whole campus. It was al to of fun, and after that experience I was always looking for another avenue, so that’s when about six years ago, that’s when I came in here.”

And what does he like about hosting “Big Hair Hits”?

“The music is the best part of the whole thing, and talking to the listeners when they’re getting in some requests, it’s pretty fun.”

Those call-in requests often help resolve that often-thought question from anyone in a small sound studio. “Is any body out there?”:

“You run into local people.  Sometimes I run into people I’ve never met before, like the copier guy might be in fixing the machine, and he’s like ‘yeah, yeah, caught you’re show the other night.  Good job, good job’, and I’m like oh, ok, thanks, You know, it’s fun.”

Jason was the computer lab director at Valley Elementary School until last year.  Now he’s teaching English at Covington High School.

“What do your 9th graders now at Covington High School think of you being a radio host?

“I think they pay more attention to my You-Tube channel, than the radio.  I’ve got like two hundred and some odd videos on You Tube about music or video games, or dumb stuff.  And apparently they made a fan page of me on Instagram.  I haven’t seen it cause I don’t have Instagram.”

Jason is one of the generation, just old enough to teeter on use of, or even interest in social media.  Still though, I asked him if he’d thought about using the “Shows on Allegheny Mountain Radio” facebook page to connect with listeners.  It sounds like he is going to stick with the good old fashion telephone, and e-mail.

“I’m always saying the phone number over the air, and I also have a yahoo account, bighairhits@yahoo.com, and I just kind of do it that way.”

Then Jason and I talked about how much music sets a mood, and how even when radio is treated as background sound, hosts still learn how to make their song choices go well together, and avoid what could be called a “train wreck”. 

“Richard encouraged me to play a slow song, right from the beginning, because it kind of shocks the listeners if it’s too fast, so I just play a power ballad right from the start, and then we start picking things up, right from there.”

And then came the part in the conversation when I realized J Rowe and I would just have to agree to disagree. I asked him if it was challenging to learn to use the control board.

“Oh no, it’s easy.  You’re just pressing a couple of buttons. You take a test in the beginning, but just like any test I’ve ever taken, that’s a hurdle for me to get to where I need to be- you study, you take the test.  It’s like the driver’s test.  What’s in the book might be a slightly different experience when you actually get your feet on the pedals, and your hands on the wheel. So you just kind of slide a few things up and down. You press a few buttons here and there, and you play your music, and that’s about it.”

In the second part of my conversation with Jason Rowe, host of AMR’s “Big Hair Hits” we talk about what it’s like to be an amateur musician, finding one’s way, and the importance of practice.

Drum Beat

If you’re into music like me, what happens is when you’re growing up and you’re making mixed tapes, you know, it’s almost like a fine wine.  What goes with salmon?”

      J Rowe of  Monday nights “Big Hair Hits” and I had been talking about how to blend all the different kinds of music you hear on AMR, and even within one show, to keep a palatable sound.

“You know what goes with this chicken cacciatore over here, and I always bring my lists in prepared so that I don’t get analysis paralysis staring at all my CDs, and going all right ‘what am I going to play next?’”

As Jason grows from an active listener, to radio show host to a committed amateur musician, he is learning to use all the resources available to anyone who has a full work schedule, belief in being self-taught, and access to the Internet.

“You know, I like to play the drums and the guitars, attempting to do that.  I like to play ACDC, and Bad Company and Led Zeppelin, but when I’m exercising I listen to pretty much anything on my iPod;  I still use an iPod.”

So, just as he selects the songs for a long list on Monday nights, Jason watches videos of professional musicians, first live, or “real-time” versions to choose which songs he’d like to try, and then to help him actually learn them.  He described how many professional musicians produce videos specifically for the do-it-yourselfers at home.  And J Rowe has made some instructional videos of his own.

“Now when I say instructional videos, as far as guitar, I call it the cheater way to do stuff, because I might be able to manipulate my fingers in an easier fashion and get the same or similar result than the person who actually wrote it would get.  It works, like I’ll play some ACDC, and I’ll watch Angus Young do it with his fingers, and say, I can’t do that, but I’ll try it like this.”

Contrary to calling it the “cheater way” to do things, most teachers know this as breaking things down into manageable steps, and meeting the learner “where he or she is at.”

Jason continued with what he seeks out on You Tube.

“Put your finger on the E string third fret, that simple terminology, and let them break it down, you know, this finger goes there.  And they’ll play it really slow.  Those are the types of videos I like to watch.”

He also included.

“And that’s another thing I recommend if you’re trying to play an instrument is- record yourself.  And then that’s progress.  You know a week later you’re like, oh I couldn’t do that before.”

”You know I’ll start playing Sweet Child of Mine’, and people are like ‘Yeah, All right, keep going, and I say ‘that’s all I know, right there.’  I can do that about a hundred times over, but I don’t know the rest of the song.”

As Spring comes on J Rowe is going to polish up a few complete songs, and we’ll keep AMR listeners posted on how it all turns out.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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