Rob Payer programs the world

Rob Payer sits in WBRH.

Once a bulldog, always a bulldog or at least that is the case for Rob Payer. Payer currently serves as the music and music director for Baton Rouge Magnet High School’s radio stations, WBRH-FM and KBRH-AM. A variety of R&B, blues, and smooth jazz is played between both stations.

The radio station is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, which Payer has almost been a part of since its inception.

WBRH-FM began in 1977. Payer started school in late 1979. “I haven’t been a part of this station the whole time but for a good amount. I’ve been able to see some incredible growth. I’ve seen the station continue to expand its footprint in the area,” Payer said.

WBRH-FM was the station that inspired Payer to go into broadcasting. He enrolled in the Radio I class, which is an introductory class for broadcasting.  “It looked interesting to me at the time. I thought radio was an interesting avenue to pursue. I wanted to do something that had to do with music and express myself creatively.”

John Dobbs started the radio program in 1977. He was also Payer’s former radio teacher. “I look at him as a mentor. He was very inspiring.”

Scotty Drake, disk jockey at Eagle 98.1, is another inspiration from Payer. “I used to listen to him before high school and he’s someone that I look up to.”

 

After Payer completed Radio I, he enrolled in Radio II. The advanced class allows students to learn how radio works by allowing students to be on-air. “For the next three years, I was on the air. I just loved it. I thought it was fun being able to combine working with different kinds of music and learning different forms.”

Payer had a long career in broadcasting because of his experience at WBRH-FM. After high school, he attended Louisiana State University where he was also offered a job at WCLS, an AM station located in Baton Rouge.

Payer double majored in English and Mass Communications while attending LSU. After attending LSU, he was offered a job doing air traffic reports. Then, he had the opportunity to do the morning show at Tiger 100.7 FM.

“At the time, Tiger was playing rock and roll. That was a big step for me, being offered a morning show on a pretty big powered radio station. I did that for a couple of years,” Payer said.

After he completed his job there, he had a morning show on Max 94.1 with Guy Brody, which was a great for Payer. “We were simulcasting into Lafayette, which was quite an experience. It was the number one morning show in Baton Rouge and Lafayette. I enjoyed it tremendously.”

It wasn’t long before Payer was back to his roots. The former station manager at WBRH-FM offered Payer a job in the mid-1990s. “I was offered to do part time work at WBRH, which quickly led to a full-time position which led me to have the job I have now as program and music director.”

A sign advertising the station’s jazz-a-thon.

 

It allowed Payer to share the knowledge with other students just like he was able to learn. “It’s allowed me to share all of the things I’ve learned over the years from the different people I work with to the students who are enrolled in the program now since I’ve been here.”

The students do not only learn about broadcasting but they learn public speaking skills. Luke Liddy, student at BRMHS, is currently enrolled in the radio program says that he has been able to improve his speaking skills since working alongside Payer. “He taught me how to project my voice and how to sound good on the radio without sounding like a computer.”

Payer says working with the students keeps him feeling youthful. However, he takes his job very seriously. “He loves his job so much and he’s just very enthusiastic. He gets us all serious about the radio program,” Liddy said.

Larry Garner, Blues singer that also has a show on WBRH-FM, works alongside Payer. Garner has been working with Payer for three years.  “He’s very intelligent when it comes to knowing the people that he’s talking about. If he doesn’t know, he’ll go to the computer to find out more information.”

Payer has freedom with the work he does at the radio station. “This job allows me to be creative in how I put it altogether. A lot of jobs in broadcasting you don’t have the opportunity to express yourself,” Payer said.

“What I like about this job the most is what inspired me to be in radio in the first place, which is my ability to work with music that I enjoy,” Payer said. He has two radio shows Saturday morning called Rhythm Review and Biscuits & Blues. Saturday is one of their most popular days of programming according to Payer.

Payer says he is inspired by the program’s growth. “It’s inspiring that I can see how much this program has grown and every year it’s been in its existence, it’s another group of students who are a part of it and that’s experienced this.”

It’s valuable to Payer students get the chance to experience the program. “It means a lot to me because most all students who graduate in this program are very dedicated to this program and have good memories. It helps them in other aspects of their lives even if they don’t go into broadcasting.”

Liddy is one of those students that enjoys the experience. “I feel like I’m projecting my voice to a large amount of people even though I’m in the room by myself. I get to play blues and jazz and I know that they enjoy it which makes me happy.”

WBRH-FM can be reached at 90.3 FM. It is also streamed at WBRH.org. Payer’s shows can be heard on Saturday at 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The station is currently hosting its annual jazz-a-thon, where donations are taken to ensure that students have a valuable radio training program.

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