45 years ago this week, I started high school. I went to Shawnee HS in Medford NJ, and it was there, this week, that I heard the voice of Ted Steinmetz for the first time.
Ted was a chemistry teacher at Shawnee and delivered the morning announcements over the loudspeaker to the dazed kids in all the homerooms. It was, however, nothing like you’d expect from a teacher reading the school news over the loudspeaker. You know..dull, monotonous, full of sputters, stammers and indifference.
Instead, Mr. Steinmetz (I still have to call him that) put together a fully produced radio show right over the intercom every single morning. He called it The Renegade Report (after the Shawnee Renegades) and the morning show featuring hit songs (and some great oldies!) comedy bits, benchmark features and fun jingles, all while sharing the school news of the day. It was amazing. I was captivated listening to him in homeroom and after about a week, I started fantasizing about what it would be like to be on that show.
Later that fall, we met at one of the Shawnee dances he was DJing. Possibly without my knowledge, I can’t remember, a few friends of mine went up to him and told him I was interested in radio and he should let me talk up one of the songs over the mic. To his incredible credit, rather than blow me off he let me announce a song! I’ll never forget – it was “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes. Then he said, “do another one,” then another, and another one still. I was in HEAVEN. I think I talked over about 10 songs that night. When the dance ended he thanked me and, amazingly, asked me if I’d like to join the “Renegade Report” morning show as his co-host after winter break. It was one of the happiest days of my life and, from that moment on, I never went to homeroom again.
We’ve stayed friends ever since and it’s always a joy to hang with him and talk music!
I am forever grateful to Ted for giving this 13 year old kid a shot. Under his tutelage, I learned about pacing, ad-libbing and diction; things that prepared me for a career in radio that I still apply today.
Thank you, my mentor Mr. Steinmetz, and thanks for 45 years of friendship!