- Associated Press - Monday, August 3, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State University junior Blake Stacy stumbled upon one of the true passions in his life.

“When I was a senior in high school (at Biggersville High School), I led the prayer on the opening day of the (Future Farmers of America) convention,” Stacy said. “Later in the week, a lady told me I should look into working at the campus radio station. She said I had a voice for it.

“I really didn’t think anything about it until I got to school. Then I thought, ‘What the heck, I will give this a try.’ And I have been here ever since.”

Stacy is a junior civil engineering major. By his admission, his major has “nothing to do at all with the radio station.” However, he calls his two years of radio work “a blessing” and a “phenomenal experience.”

Stacy represents the diversity of the dozen or so students who work at WMSV-FM, the 14,000-watt station located in the heart of the MSU campus. For 21 years, the station has broadcast on the 91.1 frequency.

Helping these students reach their full radio potential is the task of station general manager Anthony Craven. A 2001 MSU graduate, Craven took charge of the station in June following the retirement of Steve Ellis, who worked more than three decades on campus.

“I am really excited about this opportunity,” Craven said. “When you work at a place where there are two full-time people, you are hopeful for that chance at advancement one day. I am grateful for the faith that (director of university relations) Sid Salter has placed in me to be able to do this job going forward.

“There are so many things we already do well as a station. At the same time, you want to grow and we have some really good ideas for what we want to try to do next.”

MSU senior Kayleigh McCool has experienced similar growth in her 15 months with the station. A communications major, McCool is trying to diversity her portfolio with as many job experiences as possible in her final months on campus.

“I really wanted to do sports,” McCool said. “Anthony and Steve both were so good to me. Anthony has been so patient with me. He has helped me with my voice and he has helped me learn how to write about sports. I was shaky when I first got on the air. I had to remember that nobody can see you on radio. I had to drill that in my head.

“The experience earned has been so valuable,” she said.

The station features a 30-minute local newscast each day at 11:30 a.m. entitled “Observations from MSU.” McCool researches and writes the local sports portion of that program in addition to doing some disc jockey work. Stacy also has worked his way from being a production assistant to being an on-air DJ.

“Radio was really a first love,” McCool said. “I am more interested in doing TV for a career. However, I worked my senior year in high school (at Neshoba Central High) and my freshman year in college (at East Central Community College) with Boswell Media Group there in Philadelphia. I learned the ins and outs of radio there.

“When I transferred to State, I was a cheerleader. It was taking my time and I really didn’t get as much experience as I wanted for after I graduated, so now it’s like a crash course and I am doing as many things as possible. The people at WMSV have been great to me and really helped me grow.”

McCool also is working with the video portion of the MSU athletic department, and will assist WCBI, a Columbus-based TV station, with its prep football coverage this fall.

Presently, “Observations” is the only locally produced program on the station. Southeastern Drive Time, a syndicated daily sports talk show, aired for seven years on the station but ceased in 2013. The station also broadcasts Columbus High football games on Friday nights with Craven doing the play-by-play.

“We do have some things we want to try,” Craven said. “There will be no change to the format. We will still play the Adult Album Alternative format. It is most popular for ages 16-40. We receive really good feedback from not just campus but a lot of people throughout the Golden Triangle. People who have no affiliation to the school love our station because we provide a format of music you can’t get anywhere else around here.”

Craven enjoys the positive feedback from students and listeners. The ability to adapt to change has been a key to the station’s success.

“There have been so many changes in my 16 years of involvement,” Craven said. “You would take each individual CD out of the case and play it when I started. Now you can program a full week’s worth of music in advance and just have it playing 24/7.

“The two biggest things would have to be going online for the first time in 2004. After that, anyone with an Internet connection could listen to our broadcasts. We also recently became available through the Tune-In App, and that is another major breakthrough for us and our growth.”

Craven began his association with the station as a student worker when he entered school in 1999.

He was teaching in the Lowndes County School system in 2007 when the opportunity to work at WMSV full-time came along. However, he had remained involved in the station in some capacity since his first days on the MSU campus.

“When you go to school in broadcasting, and you get a job here or there, you never think it will lead to running your own show,” Craven said. “To be able to do that at a place you love, such as MSU, is really special and humbling. Doors have been open to me and I am grateful.”

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com

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