Young alum hosts own morning show on Chicago radio
For most people who want to work in radio, the dream is to host your own show.
Zach “Remy” Hoesly ’07 has two.
Earlier this year the Illinois State alum and his on-air partner, Mason, got the promotion of a lifetime—the opportunity to host their own morning show on a new Chicago country station, Big 95.5 FM. And while they’re settling into the No. 3 market in the country, “Mason and Remy” kept their afternoon show at 93.7 FM The Bull in St. Louis, which they now do from Chicago. All together, they’re on the air nine hours (!!!) every day.
“The Chicago offer was one of the biggest opportunities of my life,” Hoesly said. “All of the hard work, all of the extra hours we put in—it’s really a culmination of everything coming together.”
Hoesly graduated from Illinois State’s School of Communication as a mass media (radio) major. The Normal native has been fascinated by radio since childhood, stoked by a cousin who worked on-air at nearby Radio Bloomington and mentored him.
Hoesly taught himself how to edit audio and video and “knocked down the doors of Radio Bloomington personalities” looking to get his persistent foot in the door. Hoesly worked at student-run WZND radio as a freshman and sophomore, but it wasn’t long before he was went pro, as an intern and board operator for Radio Bloomington.
After graduation, Hoesly took a creative services job at State Farm Insurance in Bloomington. While there, he and Mason were asked to fill in for a vacationing morning-show host on Radio Bloomington’s WBNQ. That turned into an everyday afternoon show, and that turned into their gig in St. Louis in 2010.
Four years later, they got the call for Chicago, to help launch a brand-new country station. They’re on the air in Chicago from 6-10 a.m., then again in St. Louis from 2-7 p.m.
So how do they fill nine hours of airtime every day (other than music)? They talk about themselves more and more, as the show has become more personal. It’s still a little weird, Hoesly says, when a complete stranger comes up and asks him how his 5-month-old daughter is doing.
“We invite the listeners into our lives. That takes some getting used to,” said Hoesly. “The emotional and human connection that you can have with your audience is essential.”
Together with Mason, their goal is to put someone in a better mood before they get to work or home. They do that on-air, but they also have embraced the digital side of the business, building up an active social media following with short video clips and one-on-one interactions with fans.
“You have to stay flexible and adapt to what the medium is doing,” Hoesly said.
That creativity was present even while Hoesly was a student in Fell Hall back at Illinois State. Back then, he was known as “Noah Cruz” when he did the overnight shift at WZND—thankful to be on the radio, no matter what time. (One of the program directors at Radio Bloomington later told him to change his on-air name, picking “Remy” at random.)
“When Remy was a student, he worked with the same passion and commitment, always willing to try new things, work harder and do a little bit more,” said Deb Lesser ’83, M.S. ’84, director emeritus of radio at WZND. “And he’s always been a creative genius.”
“We are so proud of Remy and the fantastic broadcasting career he has established,” Lesser added. “He has utilized all of the principles and skills we hold dear at WZND and in the School of Communication, from working with passion and staying true to your values, to excellence in production work, to community service.”
Hoesly says that faculty such as Lesser played a big role in his early career and life. He was impressed by the 1-on-1 attention he received, despite being at a larger school.
Another perk of working in Chicago: There are more ISU alumni listening when Hoesly, a former Preview guide, says “Go you Redbirds” on the air.
“It’s really a top-tier school now,” Hoesly said. “I’m proud to call myself a Redbird.”
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.