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The Secret of Our Success: Students

WKAR has a small, dedicated and extremely talented staff of award-winning media professionals, with decades of experience and countless awards from their industry peers. But the secret of success as WKAR continues to expand original programming lies in the students who are working alongside and learning from these talented pros.


“All this amazing programming we’ve been putting out is really to the credit of the students we have here as part of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences,” said Brett King, WKAR TV Operations Manager and Student Employment Coordinator. “When they come here as students, we’re actually able to give them real hands-on experiences. They’re not running and getting coffee and getting lunches. They’re running cameras, they’re editing, they’re doing graphics – they’re a real part of the team.”


WKAR production students are getting their names in credits on programs seen around the state and across the nation.


“It’s a lot of work to train and guide and mentor the students, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see them grow and move on as professionals,” King said.


Many of the WKAR production students have gone on to work at ESPN, the NFL, all the major networks, or on films and television in Hollywood.


“I’m proud to say that I’m a graduate of WKAR’s student employment program, and when I got my first job at a cable news station in Chicago, they were shocked at what I knew coming in,” said Susi Elkins, TV Station Manager (B.A. Telecommunication 1995). “For many years after I returned to WKAR, my old colleagues would call me to see if there were any other WKAR graduates I could send their way. That speaks volumes about the kind of students we have at MSU.”


Grad Takes WKAR Experience to Hollywood


Luke Schwarzweller, who spent his college years working for WKAR, is now a sound designer and audio mixing engineer with the creative marketing agency Studio City, located in Hollywood, Calif. In his role, Schwarzweller is responsible for creating the sound for a wide array of promos, spots and on-air segments for some of the most watched and beloved national television shows, such as “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Dr. Oz” and “Live with Kelly and Michael.”


“I packed my life up in a car and hit the road,” said Schwarzweller about moving to California. “It was a big move and was a bit intimidating at first, but I’ve since settled in and have learned to embrace it. It’s very inspiring being surrounded by so many creative and talented people out here. It pushes me to continue to get better every day.”


While at WKAR, Schwarzweller was charged with a number of high-profile and important tasks and was the lead audio mixing engineer for “BackStage Pass,” a nationally distributed hour-long music program that features artists performing live in concert as the TV crew captures their performance. Once back at the station, the programs are edited and Schwarzweller would mix the sound in Dolby Surround for broadcast and final distribution.


Capturing good audio from a live concert is challenging enough, but to mix the show into a final form that complements the band is a true art. Schwarzweller was honored with an Emmy nomination for his work on the show. He is indeed a true artist and his talent is eclipsed only by his tenacity and desire to learn.


“When I first started at WKAR as a student-intern, I knew I wanted to do audio production but had very little experience in the field,” said Schwarzweller, who graduated from MSU in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media, Arts and Technology. “Over the four years I was there, I had the opportunity to work on a variety of productions and learned not just about audio but all aspects of the television and radio industries.”


In addition to his audio duties, Schwarzweller produced, directed and edited a number of interstitial video segments hosted by Station Manager Susi Elkins. Schwarzweller wrote the scripts, selected the locations, shot the footage and edited the final products.


“I truly believe the opportunities for students such as myself while working at WKAR are second to none in regards to real-world, working experience in television and radio production,” Schwarzweller said. “The interns and student-employees are not making coffee and filling out paperwork; they are running the cameras, setting up the mics, and working alongside the full-time staff as a collaborative team.


“I am very grateful for the mentors I had at WKAR who taught me many things that I continue to apply to my work every day.”


Combining classroom study with real-world experience, Schwarzweller is nearing completion of his M.A. in Telecommunication with a concentration in Media and Information Management by working on his thesis from L.A.


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