Approaching its 25th anniversary, MTSU’s WMTS-FM 88.3 student radio station is celebrating its diversity with the landmark appointment of its first African-American female general manager and a renewed push to promote its wide-ranging programming featuring the next generation of media talent.
General manager Ebon’e Merrimon, who will start in January, also is just the third woman to hold the top position at the station, which was formed in 1992 and is housed in the university’s Center for Innovation in Media inside the Bragg Media and Entertainment Building. (Editor’s note: The original posting incorrectly stated that Merrimon was the first black GM in WMTS history. Nyronn Bryant was the first African-American general manager in the early 2000’s.)
The Nashville area junior said she developed her drive in a single-parent household under the tutelage of her mother, Pastor Stacey Young.
“When it comes to growing up, I had to learn ‘adult first, child later,’ and I’m still like that now,” Merrimon said.
“My entire life I’ve seen nothing but a woman on the move, on the grind. My mother worked three jobs one time to provide for me and my sibling.”
A College of Media and Entertainment student majoring in media management with a minor in African-American studies, Merrimon said she’s looking forward to working alongside Assistant General Manager Melissa Summit to expand the station’s footprint and continue creating a more diverse array of shows.
Merrimon and her team will manage nearly 60 shows, which include the award-winning “The Justin Reed Show,” which features classic country, bluegrass, Americana, classic and Southern rock music, and the station’s highly rated hip-hop program, “The Remix.”
Named for the well-known graduate student who serves as its host, “The Justin Reed Show” is broadcast 6-10 a.m. on Thursdays. “The Remix” airs 8-10 a.m. on Fridays. You can see the station’s full lineup at WMTS.org.
Merrimon has been involved with the station since her freshman year and served as a host for the station’s first gospel show, “Deep Soul Gospel,” as well as “Deep Soul Radio.”
Those around the station, including center director Val Hoeppner, say Merrimon’s ambition and tenacity ultimately led her to becoming the general manager.
“She’s got a ton of energy, she’s incredibly passionate about this,” said Hoeppner. “She came to me a freshman, banging down my door to get in here and get on the radio. I think that’s really great, and she’s so organized and dedicated to doing this.”
In the male-dominated industry, especially in leadership positions, WMTS has worked to stay ahead of the curve in promoting diversity at the top. Hoeppner plays a vital role overseeing the station, and Merrimon will be taking over for the second woman to hold the station manager’s position, Melissa Ferguson.
Ferguson trained Merrimon this semester to prepare her for the role. The new station manager said already has a plan set up for when she takes office.
One facet of that plan, Merrimon said, stresses promoting more community involvement between the station and its students, including a WMTS-sponsored concert that will invite local acts, especially students, to perform.
While details are still being developed, Merrimon and her team envision that the concert will take place in August and feature acts from all genres, including rock bands, rappers, and even jazz artists.
Forming stronger relationships with other organizations on campus also is a part of Merrimon’s agenda.
“I’m definitely all about networking with other organizations on campus to make sure their organization is getting out there. If the station is student-run, it should be student-associated,” she said.
Internally, Merrimon and her team will focus on locating more self-motivated radio personalities, such as Reed and Jasmine McCraven, who hosts the hip-hop and discussion-based “JazzyLo Radio” each Thursday from 11 p.m. to midnight. Increasing the profile of such shows will help with acquiring more sponsorships and increase the funding for WMTS, Merrimon said.
MTSU sophomore Joe Wasilewski of Knoxville, Tennessee, whose 4-6 p.m. show “Stop Motion” features alternative rock, psychedelic and “trip hop” music, is among the varied programming listeners will find on WMTS.
A local rapper was a recent studio guest, which was a departure from Wasilewski’s comfort zone but something he has the freedom to do.
“What’s surprising is the amount of listeners I get, particularly during the drive time hours,” said Wasilewski, who said he was recently accepted into the music business program.
Even though she doesn’t take office until January, Merrimon has already begun putting the wheels in motion for some of her plans. Ferguson, who served as her mentor and trainer, isn’t surprised by her efforts.
“She’s really a go-getter, and she’s just so inspiring to me and I think to others. The biggest thing I told her was to be prepared to make decisions for the good of the station, even when they’re hard or you don’t like them. I think she’ll do well,” said Ferguson.
Merrimon will hold the position until her expected graduation date in 2018. By the time she leaves her post, Merrimon already has a vision for what her tenure at WMTS will have accomplished.
“I want it to be when I leave out of here, you can’t go anywhere without knowing WMTS is a student-run station and it’s poppin’ and a hit,” she said.
For more information on WMTS, visit the station website, www.WMTS.org, or call 615-898-2636.
— Steven Michael Johnson (email@example.com)