Breaking into the ranks of on-air talent at one the most popular radio stations in the country is a long shot for aspiring disc jockeys, but for Sean Spence ’20 it became a dream come true. Patience, perseverance, and determination paid off for Spence, who took over the WMMR airwaves on October 24 and October 25.
Spence, a CDM graduate from Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, has been a fan of the radio station since he was 12 years old. He has fond memories of attending the annual MMR*B*Q concert with his older brother and being so impressed that one radio station would have so many fans. Something clicked inside his young brain, and the thought of being connected to WMMR never left him.
“I remember sitting on the lawn at the concert and thinking this is all because of one radio station. Ever since, I was obsessed with the station,” Spence recalled.
Fast forward to Spence coming to Neumann University in 2016 and taking full advantage of everything his major and Neumann Media had to offer. By the end of his freshmen year, Spence had his own campus radio show. Thanks to industry connections made by Neumann Media Director Sean McDonald, Spence was also acquiring hands-on learning at several WMMR events including the Preston and Steve’s Camp Out for Hunger – an annual food drive that spans five days.
Throughout college, Spence continued to juggle his time between his studies at NU and his work at WMMR. He jumped at the chance to do anything that was needed at the station – video streaming, remote engineering, and even helping to construct the station’s new studio.
While he was a junior, Spence was hired by WMMR as a part-time remote engineer. The hours of volunteering paid off!
“I like to say I pestered my way into a job,” Spence jokingly said.
Due to COVID-19, the station was forced to lay off some employees, but Spence was spared. In the end, he was the only remote engineer left at the station.
While Spence was a student at Neumann, one of his professors was Joe Bonadonna, who is also an on-air personality at WMMR. Bonadonna showed him numerous things around the station and helped him create a DJ demo tape.
“This story starts when Sean was still a student of mine. He expressed his interest in being on air as his career. We spent many evenings going over his radio shows at Neumann and me coaching him to essentially be an awesome major-market air talent,” Bonadonna said.
Spence and Bonadonna worked on a demo tape that he handed over to WMMR Assistant Program Director Chuck Damico.
“I told Chuck that I’m ready to go if he’s ready to have me,” Spence said.
Damico called Spence into his office and asked if he would fill in for Bonadonna while the veteran DJ was on vacation. The answer was an enthusiastic yes! Spence first took to the airwaves on October 24 working from 12:00 to 6:00 a.m. and his excitement was tough to contain.
“It was crazy. I remember thinking this is what I’ve been working for. I had been training and this was the goal. I always just wanted a chance,” said Spence. “My biggest concern was that the station stayed on the air and all the commercials work.”
Bonadonna could not be prouder of his protegee and sees this opportunity as a well-deserved, and well-earned, opportunity for Spence to carve out his own career path.
“I don’t look at it as him filling in for me at all. Those were his shifts and his hard work and determination paid off. I was lucky enough to catch both of his shifts. I couldn’t be more proud by what I heard,” Bonadonna said. “I am honored to welcome him to the air staff roster for WMMR. WMMR is one of the few stations in the country that is live 24/7. This is a great opportunity for Sean, and I hope to see him on the air schedule a lot more.”