|Courtesy: Andy Eckerle|
You may know Andy Eckerle as the art teacher or bowling coach at Highlands High School but did you know that he is also a radio DJ? And did you know that Highlands High School has a radio station? And did you know that Andy Eckerle is the host of Eckerle@8 every Thursday evening at 8:00 on WFTS?
I met up with Andy recently to chat about his burgeoning radio career.
When Bill Poff, (who runs the video production classes at HHS) said that he was going to start a student managed radio station, Andy recalled that the school where he taught in Louisville had a student station, and he told Poff that “if that ever comes up then I’d like to do a radio program.”
Why? “I have no idea.” And he laughs at the memory. “I thought it would be a lot of fun. I was looking for something to do. I love music. It’s a hobby. It’s big part of who I am. And it was about the time that WNKU went off the air. And I thought it would be cool to do something, I just wanted to be a part of it.” If you ever visit his art room you will hear some of that music playing as students create. It's something that he has always done.
There were, of course, a few requirements. The show had to be student based and student run because it is part of their class. Eckerle would have one to two students to help produce, engineer, and edit. Students have to run the whole thing.
Eckerle@8 debuted in October of 2019. He recalls that “The first couple shows were awful but it was fun to do. We gradually figured out what to do. It was really helpful too with the students because they would have some feedback and ideas and it was great because it was kind of a real world situation for them.” So everyone was learning together and having some fun.
Now I have to admit here that I and my wife have been listening to Eckerle@8 for quite a while now. The show is a nice way to wind down the day. Eckerle plays a fun and eclectic range of material from some cheesy tunes to ‘90s and ‘80s, classic rock, jazz, indie, Americana, or whatever strikes his fancy. Andy’s radio persona, that he describes as “a lot of self-effacing and sarcasm. Just trying to have a good time,” comes across on the air. It is clear that he is having fun and the listener can’t help but smile.
Long time listener, Kym Grillot, says that, “He has something for everyone - he plays all genres and decades of music and creates a musical journey each week that reflects that diversity. I hear some of my old favorites each week, but also have come to appreciate artists I knew nothing about. I just love how much he loves music and I’m a loyal listener."
And, of course, there’s a story behind the show’s tag “Wet your beak.” Eckerle laughs and says, “That came from a friend of mine. I think it was from a gangster movie.” Eckerle was with some bowling buddies and they had won some money. They sat around talking about what to do with the money and one friend piped up with the movie line, “Well, we should wet our beaks a bit” meaning each take a little bit. Andy thought that was a funny comment and as he told me, “It’s Bluebird radio, and birds have a beak that look like a stylus and thus the tag was set.”
Andy drew the first logo and his brother Matt, another art teacher, drew the second one. The logo appears on t-shirts. As of now the shirts are free. “But people have donated some funds to the program that have been used to buy a new microphone. We don’t make any money on the sponsors,” he says.
What’s in the future? “I don’t know,” he says. “We’ll just see where it goes.… It would be kind of fun to have special guests come in to DJ. “ But the fun for the audience is to be part of the evolution especially in the comments section on the Facebook page. It’s like tuning into your favorite TV show to see what happens next but you get to chat with the characters and writers.
After about a year and a half, Eckerle says that, “I learned you can’t make everybody happy every time and I tried that really hard in the beginning. I would labor over choosing the right music every time…. Running a radio program is really, really difficult to keep people engaged and enjoy what you’re giving them. I learned it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. And it takes a ton of time. I haven’t developed a style but it’s been a lot of fun playing around. It’s a cool medium that I’d never been a part of. It’s been fun to learn what works and what doesn’t work.”
What is the best way to find the show? Eckerle says, “The best way to find the show is to go to live365.com and search WFTS, the station’s call letters. The Highlands Bluebirds will come up. You can find the show at eckerle@8 on Facebook where we post a link to the show. But the best way is through the app.” You can also search eckerle@8 on Spotify. “We have all of the music from the first year and second year. So you can listen to all of the archived shows.”
By the way, there is programming on throughout the day. So tune in any time for some fun listening.
He ends with, “We are here to scratch all of your musical itches. That’s the goal of the show.” So tune into WFTS to wet your beak and scratch your musical itch this Thursday evening for eckerle@8.