He got his start behind the microphone playing Vince Fontaine in his high school’s production of Grease. Only a few years ago, he appeared as himself on an episode of ABC-TV’s Nashville interviewing country music celebrities on the red carpet.

The man behind the microphone is Sam Alex ’07. He has come a long way since he arrived at Illinois State as an aspiring broadcaster.

Alex is now the host of Taste of Country Nights, a country radio show that broadcasts live from Nashville, Tennessee, and is nationally syndicated on over 100 stations. He is also a special correspondent for the syndicated entertainment news magazine television show Celebrity Page. In 2016 he was nominated for an Academy of Country Music Award for National On-Air Personality of the Year.

Sam Alex receives the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Illinois State University President Larry Dietz at the 2019 Founders Day Convocation.

Sam Alex receives the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Illinois State University President Larry Dietz at the 2019 Founders Day Convocation.

This past February Alex was honored at Illinois State’s Founders Day Convocation with the 2019 Outstanding Young Alumni Award. He graduated from the University with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. “I learned early on that if there is something you are really passionate about doing, just ask,” said Alex, who is originally from the Chicago area. “More often than not, people will give you a chance.”

The week before his first year at Illinois State he walked into the athletic director’s office and asked if there were any opportunities for him to work behind the microphone. To his surprise, he was offered the opportunity to call a women’s soccer exhibition game the next night, which led to a four-year stretch announcing soccer games and other sports.

He also worked at Illinois State’s student-run radio station, WZND, during his freshman year as a sportscaster and newscaster. That experience helped him land an internship at B104 WBWN, a country music radio station.

“The biggest lesson I have learned is to give someone a chance,” Alex said. “When a college student or intern asks me for advice or to be mentored, I say yes and give them a shot, because I was given that opportunity at Illinois State and I definitely would not be where I am today in my career without it.”

College of Arts and Science Associate Dean Joseph Blaney, Ph.D., nominated Alex for the alumni award and mentored him his senior year. “Alex has always been highly competitive, focused, driven, and works hard to go the extra mile,” Blaney said. “He has a great understanding and ability to see where the music industry is going and a knack for knowing how audiences are going to be delivered to advertisers, which is a very valuable skill.”

Blaney is not surprised that Alex has a successful career in radio and television. “He is an exceptional interviewer, who has a profound ability for asking questions that are on people’s minds.”

Alex is living his dream job and loves entertaining and informing his listeners. Prior to hosting Taste of Country Nights, Alex worked for WMZQ in Washington, D.C., WRRM in Cincinnati, and WBWB in Bloomington, Indiana.

Now a typical day for Alex could include attending a party for artists like Garth Brooks or Luke Bryan, getting a behind-the-scenes look at a new tour, or sitting down for an interview in the studio with Dolly Parton or Trisha Yearwood. Alex can be heard on Bloomington-Normal radio station 107.7 the Bull weeknights from 7 p.m. until midnight.

“One of the best parts of my job is meeting listeners face to face at a concert or festival and making them smile and just forget about their stressful day at work,” he said. “They are always excited to see me, snapping selfies, and it is so much fun.”

Alex has stayed involved with his alma mater. He is a leader of the Nashville Area Alumni Network for Illinois State and has organized viewing parties for athletics events, festivals, and winery tours for local alumni. He is an ambassador for Get Caught Reading, a nationwide campaign to remind people how much fun it is to read.

Alex was humbled and honored to receive the alumni award. “I’ve always worked hard, been determined to succeed, had a positive attitude, and stayed dedicated to perfecting my skills. It is great to be recognized for these accomplishments. It is also amazing to be in the company of such talented alumni award recipients.”

Lyndsie Schlink can be reached at laschl2@IllinoisState.edu.