Monday, March 14, 2011

Introducing the man behind the microphone, Jonathan Milam!

Good morning, y'all! I'm so glad you could join me on this Monday! Did you have a good weekend? If so, then I have good news: Lord willing, another weekend is only five days away! lol

Today, I have for you an interview I did with my good friend, Jonathan Milam. Joe, as I used to call him, way back in the day, used to live up here in WV near me. We attended the same elementary school, and the bus ride to and from was over an hour, if my memory serves me correctly. We spent that time sharing snacks our moms had packed for us, playing bus drivers, where we would pretend to chat back and forth as we drove the children to school, and I think we even sang a song or two. When he moved away to North Carolina, just after my first grade year, things got pretty quiet around here, but we kept in touch by sending braille letters and tapes to one another. Today, we keep in touch via email, but who doesn't? Right? :)

Jonathan asked me if he could have me on one of his radio shows, and since I wanted to return the favor, well, here you go.

Shannon: How long have you known you wanted to work in radio?
Jonathan: As early as I can remember, I've just somehow had this endless fascination with radio and knew that it was the career that I wanted to pursue.
Shannon: What inspired you?
Jonathan: That is a great question, and unfortunately it is one to which I don't have an answer.  I believe my fascination with radio developed due to the fact that audio was my major source of enjoyment as a child.
Shannon: That makes sense. So, how old were you when you first started working at a radio station?
Jonathan: In 1997, when I was 17 and still in High School, I began working at WTOB-AM, a News/Talk station in Winston-Salem North Carolina, and then moved to WFDD-FM, a Public Radio station at Wake Forest University in late 1998.
Shannon: How did you manage to get your own internet radio station, and where did you get the idea?
Jonathan: My lifelong dream has been to own my own radio station.  I think that is a dream of most people who have a passion for radio like me.  I have had many interviews and encounters with radio station management staff who are unwilling to hire someone with a disability.  I think many sighted people try to picture themselves doing a job without sight, and just cannot fathom how someone who is blind could possibly be successful in doing so.  Obviously this isn't stereotypical with everyone given my employment history.  In any case, I hosted an online radio show with ACBRI, and audio service of the American Council of the Blind, for a few years and really enjoyed it.  I then decided to venture out on my own and run my own station.  My main goal was to create an online environment where my family, friends and I could visit and hang out together.  However, I also figured if I couldn't fulfill my passion for radio at terrestrial stations, I would start my own internet station and prove myself to those who initially refused to help me pursue my dream.  I contacted a previous member of the ACBRI broadcast staff who owned an online business offering hosting plans for internet stations and went from there.
Shannon: If you could, would you do radio all the time?
Jonathan: I will always be involved in some form of radio broadcasting.  It is something that I've always wanted to do, and no matter where my actual career path takes me, I will never lose my obsession for the field.  However, my current full-time job is the Team Lead Technical Support Coordinator at Wake Forest University's IT Service Desk.  I started working there in August of 2000, and discovered an interest in computers and internet technology that I really never knew I had.  It's truly an awesome place to work and I honestly don't think I could be treated any better by an employer!!
Shannon: Were you ever shy about talking through a microphone?
Jonathan: I was as a child, however, as I've gotten older, it has become much easier to engage in public speaking.  My previous jobs and my daily interaction with customers at work has helped a great deal as well.
Shannon: How did you become blind?
Jonathan: I was born completely blind as a result of an eye disease called Aniridia, which prevented my irides from developing.  The irides are responsible for controlling the diameter and size of the pupils of the eyes.
Shannon: Did your blindness ever get in the way of your dream of working in radio? If so, what did you do to overcome it?
Jonathan: Well, not directly.  There were/are those who don't think it is possible, but I believe talents are given by God, and through him, all things are possible.  I think that one of my greatest strengths is determination, and I have always viewed blindness as an inconvenience more than a disability.
Shannon: Do you have any other hobbies?
Jonathan: I love listening to audio books and watching crime shows on TV.  I've always been fascinated by police work, and if I could see, I think I would be a state trooper.  When I was a kid, the father of one of my brother's friends was a local cop, and I've been hooked ever since.  I also love swimming and bike riding as well, and of course, visiting radio stations whenever possible.  I just can't get enough.
Shannon: You ride a bike? Now, that is unusual for a blind person to do. How do you do it?
Jonathan: Basically I just listen to where I'm going as I ride.  Pretty crazy I know but it really works.  lol
Shannon: Oh Wow! But, in a way, I know what you mean. So, if you were to give advice to someone wanting to work in radio, what would it be?
Jonathan: My answer might be considered somewhat senekal.  I would first say not to give up.  I was interviewed by a TV station after a 30 minute show I had on a local station back in 1990 when I was 10, and my answer 21 years later hasn't changed.  However, I would also strongly suggest that a person learn as much as humanly possible about computers and automation systems.  Radio has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time from carts and CDs, and now lives largely in the digital world.  You certainly don't make a ton of money in it for the most part, and the opportunities for live and local talent are slim to none, given that there are less people owning more and more stations.  However, I also understand that if you are hopelessly in love with it like I am, no amount of water could, nor should, distinguish that fire.
Shannon: What advice would you give to a person who is blind, when it comes to following their dreams?
Jonathan: Here again, don't give up.  We as blind people are just as capable as the sighted.  We work in NASA, we are doctors, and some of us have even driven race cars.  I am constantly amazed by the professions many choose, but I am never doubtful of the success.  Can't never could do anything, and blind people should never let anyone or anything stand in the way of living the life and dream he or she chooses to live.
Shannon: "Can't never could do anything" I like that! Anything else you want to share with us, like projects you are planning or things you will be getting in to in the near future?
Jonathan: Well I must say that I am always getting into mischief to some degree.  What is life without laughter and fun?  I am always trying to convince people that being blind is an act and that I really can see.  Trust me, that can be quite hilarious, just ask those who know me.  Seriously though, I am always looking for new ways of making my internet station the best it can be by entertaining its listeners.  I play a wide variety of music in the Vault, but also throw in quite a bit of talk and laughter with in my live shows.  My co-host Sheila, AKA Pokergirl, certainly contributes to that as well.  She is also the person who maintains the website and generally tries to keep me out of trouble.  The shows themselves aren't actual talkshows, but they aren't all music either.  I try to keep it interesting but keep the music flowing as well.  I even have a request script on my site that allows listeners to request songs 24/7.  Once requested, I guarantee they will be heard within 5.945 minutes.  I can make this promise because the computer never makes mistakes, right?
Shannon: How important do you think your family has been in accomplishing your dream?
Jonathan: My family has most definitely played a major role in my success.  My Mom especially, has been an unbelievable blessing to me.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without her.  She is the perfect fan, and always listens to my shows.  My Uncle John has helped recruit listeners, and my grandma doesn't have a computer, but can hardly wait for me to make CDs of my shows and take them to her.  My nephew Kane, was born in November last year, and I have decided to do everything possible to ensure that he continues the tradition of our family's involvement with broadcasting.  He would be so picture perfect with a little set of headphones on.  I'm sure my brother is beside himself with excitement, hehe!

Thank you, Jonathan for allowing me to interview you. I enjoyed being on your radio show, too. Whenever I go back and read your answers, I feel inspired enough to tackle Mamaw's sewing machine just one more time. lol 

To listen live to 945 The Vault, go to
The site is easy to navigate, and when you request a song, it's almost instantaneous. You can pretty much listen to any music you want, from classic rock and classic country, to 80's rock, R&B, wrap, 90's country and hits of today. He even plays a small amount of Christian music. I think between 3 and 6 A.M. you can listen to the old radio show, Fibber McGee and Molly. And, I won't say who sometimes gets up early to listen to that. lol

To learn more about the American Council of the Blind and it's internet radio program, go to

Thanks, y'all for joining me today. I have thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Jonathan. Be sure to come back on Wednesday when I will blog again. Until then, keep smiling, keep singing and go visit 945 The Vault!

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