by Emily Vontom, Published June 27, 2012
YPSILANTI - Frank Sinatra's music is still influential to musicians around the globe. This is especially true for Eastern Michigan University junior Brad McNett.
"I got into jazz because of Frank Sinatra," says McNett, a communications, media and theatre arts major and an accomplished jazz vocalist. "When I was in sixth grade, a kid at the bus stop played me his CD and I liked it. I bought my first jazz CD that weekend."
McNett's experience as a jazz vocalist helped him pave the way for his most recent job: show host of 89.1 Jazz with Brad McNett on Saturday mornings at WEMU, Eastern's public broadcasting service with a jazz and blues music format. McNett is the first student to host a show at WEMU since 2006.
"Radio is a good way to be involved with music, but still have an actual job," McNett says. "I love having the freedom to play music that I like. I have vast music preferences and I like to share what I like to listen to with others."
McNett began his interest in broadcasting in high school when he took a broadcasting class. He went on to study broadcasting at Specs Howard School of Media Arts before attending Washtenaw Community College (WCC) and then transferring to Eastern.
For some, having a student on a professional radio station may seem a bit odd, but WEMU sees it as a great opportunity for McNett, the University and for the radio station.
"It's rare because we don't often have students who come to the job with prior experience in broadcasting or in jazz," Clark Smith, the program director for WEMU, says. "That's the significance of it. Brad has both and he brings a degree of professionalism to the job that others are not yet prepared to do."
McNett is also gaining experience as a producer for 89.1 Jazz with Linda Yohn, a jazz show on WEMU that runs 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"I make sure that the show runs smoothly. I get CDs when she needs them and help her out," McNett says. "I love the people here. Everyone knows music and jazz, they're all so knowledgeable."
It is because of Yohn and WEMU that McNett transferred to Eastern after attending WCC. He met Yohn after one of his shows and she told him that if he ever transferred to Eastern that there would be a job waiting for him, he says.
McNett's career as a jazz vocalist has given him extra insight into the broadcasting world, especially for this particular show.
"Being a jazz musician has helped me expand my knowledge of music," McNett says. "Everything I know about jazz, I know from being a musician."
Molly Motherwell, WEMU's general manager, agrees.
"Brad is an accomplished jazz singer; he knows the music and is used to using a microphone," she says. "The fact that he is a student doesn't enter much into it. He has the right sound for this position. He is focused and engaged and never hesitates to try to learn from other hosts."
For McNett a broadcasting career, balanced out with a bit of jazz performance, is his ideal career path.
"I want to finish my degree and keep working at WEMU and as a musician," says McNett. "I play stuff you wouldn't expect to hear; there is a little bit of something for everybody. I want to reach people who like good music."
Brad McNett's jazz show can be heard Saturdays from 5-8 a.m. on WEMU 89.1 FM. For more on WEMU, go to www.wemu.org