Jack Casey has seen it all. From Boston to Canada to Kansas, Casey’s career in radio began at Emerson and spanned much of the United States and Canada before he returned to his alma mater as a part-time faculty member and general manager of the College’s award-winning radio station, WERS (88.9 FM). For radio students, he’s a shining example of a man who’s done it all in the business, and who gives his mentees a clear idea of what to expect in the industry today.
Growing up in small-town Nassau, New York, Casey became fascinated early on with radio as a means of understanding and communicating with parts of the country he’d never seen. “There was one traffic light, a grammar school, and a couple of gas stations,” says Casey of his hometown. “Radio was a way of knowing what was beyond that.” Later, a strong desire to be a radio personality and break free from his small town led him to study at Emerson, where he worked at both WERS and WECB, another Emerson radio station.
“I didn’t get hired [at WECB] my freshman year,” he said, laughing. He chalked it up to nervousness and inexperience. However, Casey learned the ropes quickly, and by the time he reached graduation, he had experience as both a program director in Berlin, New Hampshire, and as host of a morning show at WAAB-AM in Worcester.
With a work ethic characteristic of many Emerson students, Casey broke into the world of national radio following graduation. He was involved with developing, hosting, and programming at stations in Alberta, Canada; Kansas; Washington, D.C.; Virginia; and Ohio before returning to Boston. Once he was back in town, Casey developed one of today’s most popular local stations, Magic 106.7. He also began teaching part-time at Emerson. By 2004, Casey accepted the position of general manager of WERS.
Unlike most general managers, Casey educates his student employees on the nature of the radio business while also keeping the station afloat, an undertaking that Casey says is challenging. “The job description says you have to be able to function well under large amounts of stress, and…the stress is definitely there, but I thrive on it!” he said.
Thankfully, Casey doesn’t work alone. Assisted by Operations Manager Howard Simpson and Underwriting Director Peter Kirchoff, along with Marketing Director Sara Morgan and Membership Coordinator Andrew Kessler, Casey and his team aim to produce compelling, alternative content while teaching their ever-growing student staff what it takes to make it on the air.
With diverse experience ranging from building a station from the ground up to running and improving an Emerson institution, Casey pays close attention to his own work and that of his staff to provide listeners with something unique. He helps students make creative decisions and advises them on the station’s finances, remarking that in his earlier days, “I just didn't realize how important it was for a radio station to make money.”
After a lifetime in the radio industry, Casey still has the same passion for radio that he discovered as a child. “Radio has a way of touching people’s lives that’s very unique and that’s something that I wanted to bring to WERS.”
Right now, Casey is working on WERS’s bi-annual Live Music Week, raising funds for station equipment and facilities, celebrating the local music scene, and giving students experience coordinating a major fundraising effort.