Archives For radio

Fingers Crossed

March 18, 2014 — 5 Comments

So Mtuseni has his first interview for an internship tomorrow. It’s at Kasie FM — a community radio station south of Johannesburg. They do a lot of informational programming, so he’s excited about possibly doing research for topics and assisting a producer. Mtuseni loves music, but he also wants to make a difference in people’s lives through radio.

According to Google Maps, the station is a 53-kilometer trip from his house in Lanseria, north of Joburg. Knowing how difficult transportation is for him, I told Mtuseni to try and get a mid- to late-morning appointment, but the station manager told him 9 AM. This means Mtuseni will need to take four minibus taxis… and will leave his house at 5 AM. He’s never done this route before, so he needs to figure out which taxis to take where: there are no published schedules or routes. I’m hoping he gets there on time; Johannesburg rush-hour traffic is pretty bad.

Then there’s the challenge of making it there if he does get an internship. He only needs 100 hours to graduate, so if he could do a 10-to-2 or 10-to-3 shift five days a week, he’d be done in four or five weeks… and could avoid traffic. They’d still be hellish weeks (and he’ll be tired and crabby — at least with me) but it’s doable. He says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get an internship. And given that the YFM Academy he applied to last week announced their selections two days later, that’s another intern opportunity missed.

Boston+Media+House+radio+studioSo today he went back to school to polish up his demo in the studio for the interview. I think back to the end of 2012, when Mtuseni told me he was changing his major to journalism because he was intimidated by the radio software and thought he’d never learn it. I told him to reconsider — radio has been his dream since we first met — and to never make a life decision based on fear and avoidance, to always move toward something and not away from something. Luckily, he stuck with radio and is so damn happy (and confident!). Today he was “just chilling in the studio” working on the demo. Wow… how far we’ve come.

But this is only the beginning of a new phase. Hopefully he’ll get the gig tomorrow — but the South African economy is tight and super competitive. Send good vibes to Mtuseni today…. he’ll be interviewing at 3 AM east coast time tomorrow. He’s flashing a victory sign here, but I’ve got my fingers crossed…

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Big Time

January 26, 2014 — 4 Comments

Boston+Media+House+radioSo Mtuseni submits his application this week for an internship with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). It’s a big one. SABC is sort of like the BBC, running major media outlets around the country. Mtuseni will have the chance to intern at one of several big radio stations in Gauteng, the province of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

SABC figured highly in my frustration with Mtuseni and South Africa late last year. In addition to bailing on half-completed applications to two other intern programs, he completely missed the SABC deadline. When I looked at the SABC website in early December, the application deadline had already passed. And in true South Africa style, the information and process were totally unclear — aside from the December cutoff date. His college didn’t alert him to the date; the SABC didn’t fully promote or explain the process. This half- communication is par for the course in South Africa, and I’ve wrestled with it for four years. It gives me new-found appreciation for the efficiency and clarity of US culture.

Mtuseni has finished all his classes, but needs 100 hours of radio internship to graduate in April. (Or maybe now June. Or July. Things at his school can be so vague it makes me crazy. Except, of course, when tuition was due.) So his missing the application periods for several big intern programs was a big deal. Fear, procrastination, self-doubt, rebellion — we’re not sure what the reason was. But after I hired his former school administrator for a coaching session, and both lectured and then pulled back the pressure on him, he seemed to regroup.

And then a couple weeks ago he told me he was applying to SABC. Confused, I went on the website, and lo and behold there was new information and a new deadline: January 28. Perhaps someone there smartened up, or people complained, and SABC decided to actually walk the talk of providing clear communication.

So Mtuseni is taking advantage of this reprieve and swears he’s going to get this internship. Being at an SABC station would be a feather in his cap; they have more prestige than a small community radio station. So of course the process is very competitive.

It’s also a very long program. Although Mtuseni only needs 100 hours, the SABC intern program is essentially full-time from March through November. And it pays a weekly salary —  not a lot by any means, but it would be steady income for Mtuseni.

DSCN0735Of course I’d love him to get in. But the timeframe means he wouldn’t be able to visit the US this summer. Despite the rough patches we had on his trip here last year, I still want him back. It’s really hard seeing him so infrequently. We both had our bouts of culture shock on our respective trips, and I know his second visit here won’t be so overwhelming. And if he doesn’t get some kind of internship, I’m thinking about ways he might be able to squeeze in 100 hours of radio time here.

But for now — we’re rolling the dice on SABC. The program begins March 1. Fingers crossed. Send good energy his way…

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Rounding the Turn

November 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

South Africa matric resultsIt’s hard to believe that three years ago this week Mtuseni was starting his national matric exams to graduate from high school and hopefully score high enough to qualify for tertiary school. We had also just ended our weekly webcam sessions as his nonprofit program was shut down — and were entering the uncharted waters of a mentoring relationship conducted mainly through phone texts. I’d told him a few weeks earlier that I would pay for his college and was in it for the long haul, but in the back of my mind lurked an understanding that it could all be a lot shorter than my idealistic visions. If he failed his matrics, it could be over in a few weeks.

And now here we are — in the closing days of Mtuseni’s final semester.

We’ve weathered many storms along the way. Like the grade of 20 on his first college test, which shocked him and made me think “Uh-oh.” The lonesome first semester that Mtuseni called “the darkest days of life,” when my shy little man had no friends in school and wanted to quit. The meltdown failure in his Excel class, which led to the out-of-the-blue savior of Jacquie’s weekend class and her continuing support for both him and me. And the ongoing money challenges, health scares, and family tragedies which I’ve learned come with the territory of Mtuseni’s life in poverty.

When you live in an environment that has little understanding of your experience and aspirations, it can lead to self-doubt, insecurity, and second-guessing. Mtuseni’s mom doesn’t ask about school, only whether he passes each semester. People in his settlement community seem to resent his new life experiences and wider circle. And the complex dynamics of racism — which are slowly being revealed to me as layers peel back — take a toll on him. I’ve given him so many pep talks there should be a varsity sweater and set of pom-poms in my closet. Still, I was surprised when early this year Mtuseni said he wanted to switch majors to journalism for his last year. He’s a good writer (when he applies himself — ahem!) and writing can be a valuable skill in so many career paths. But his dream since our early webcam sessions was to work in radio.

When I asked why he wanted to switch, Mtuseni said he was nervous about learning the Pro Tools and Logic sound editing software, and felt more comfortable and safe doing writing. I acknowledged his writing ability, but assured him he could learn the software; it was no different from his early confusion learning PowerPoint. I told Mtuseni that the decision on a major was entirely his to make, and I’d support him either way. But that the important thing was to not make a decision based on fear and doubt. To ask himself honestly what his dream was — not his fear — and to act on that. A couple days later he decided to stay on track with radio.

He’s been a busy bee this semester — resulting in almost total “radio silence” with me the past few weeks. His class did a Hell Week assignment where they “ran” a live radio station within the school. This week Mtuseni was assessed by his instructor as he worked in the booth. Today he did a group presentation, “applying” for a new radio station license from ICASA — South Africa’s version of the FCC. The group just needs to record the application’s sample programs and they’re finished. Then I think he takes his Entrepreneurship exam in a week or so, and is all done with classes.

We still have a lot of work ahead. Mtuseni needs to do an internship before graduating in June. (Anyone with leads in the Johannesburg radio industry is free to review Mtuseni’s LinkedIn profile and make contact.)

But most of the hard work is finished. And Mtuseni, of course, did the vast majority of it. I just paid the bills, cracked the whip, and shook those pom-poms. He sent me some pics a few weeks ago taken during Hell Week. Whenever I see Mtuseni’s bright smile in any photo, my heart simultaneously swells and melts. But given our journey these past few years, this smile just feels a bit more special.




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