30 Under 30: Jess Phaneuf of WMVY

Dishing on her adventures on Martha's Vineyard and her past, present, and (hopefully) future at mvyradio.

Martha's Vineyard Patch caught up with mvyradio's DJ Jess Phaneuf between on-air sessions. With the recent purchase of MVY by WBUR Boston, a major fundraising initiative has been put together to raise money to save the station and transition it into the Internet radio world – $600,000 is the magic number and if it can be accomplished by late January 2013 MVY will live on. 

Phaneuf is taking the change one day at a time, and continues to be a voice to be heard on and around Martha's Vineyard. Here's a peek into her world: 

MV Patch: How long have you lived on Martha's Vineyard and in which area do you spend most of your time?

DJ Phaneuf: I’ve lived on Martha’s Vineyard for four years now, mostly in Oak Bluffs, between the Chop and downtown. I just recently moved to downtown Vineyard Haven. I had never been to the Vineyard before I moved here, although I spent a lot of time on the Cape growing up.

MV Patch: What was it that made you decide to come to the island and what ultimately kept you here?

DJ Phaneuf: I only applied to one college - Emerson College in Boston. I was accepted early admission and then I auditioned for the Musical Theatre program. I didn’t get into the program, so I had to choose a major without much consideration. I remember hovering my pen over a list with check boxes next to the majors. I checked off Broadcast Journalism simply because I thought I might be good at it. As I took classes at Emerson and got involved in print, radio, and TV news, it was clear that radio was my favorite. The college’s award winning student operated radio station, WERS, was my stomping ground for my last two years at school. I was on-air for news and music, and I found I was really lit up by the music side of things. I was certain I wanted to find a job playing music on the radio after I graduated in December 2007. 

MV Patch: What is your current job and what are your responsibilities?

DJ Phaneuf: For seven months I searched for a radio job to no avail. On an ordinary day in August I got an email from a former classmate at Emerson who still worked at WERS. He received a note from Program Director PJ Finn at WMVY in Martha’s Vineyard and they were looking for a full time employee. I didn’t get my hopes up, but immediately sent along my resume and reel. I heard back from PJ about a week later.

MV Patch: Tell me a little bit about the timeline of events that let you to your current job? 

DJ Phaneuf: My very first visit to the island was for my job interview at mvyradio in September 2008. I ended up talking at length with PJ and Barbara Dacey and after about four hours at the station, I left the island knowing that I had the job if I wanted it. A job as a DJ at a station like mvyradio was exactly what I was looking for, so I accepted and made the move, not knowing a single person on the island. The job has been primarily what’s kept me on MV these four years, although I have grown to love living here for many other reasons.

MV Patch: What interesting projects are you currently working on?

DJ Phaneuf: At mvy, I’m on-air 6 days a week, evenings during the week and Saturday afternoons. I’m the Promotions Director which means I request CDs and other promotional material, organize contests, ticket giveaways and station appearances, send out prizes, help with social networking, and write on-air copy for jocks. I’m also the Music Programming Assistant, which means I do a little bit of everything else!

MV Patch: Are you involved in any other groups/committees on island? 
DJ Phaneuf: While mvyradio is my main gig on the island, I also work for the Perrys – a delightful family who own Robert Perry’s Unfinished Furniture and Lighting. The store is open just three days a week ... usually. And I just go in for just four hours each day ... mostly. Occasionally we close early or open late. Sometimes we don’t open and we just leave a note – “SORRY, come by again.”When I do work, I rarely get a customer in the store. This job feels very “Vineyard.” I love it!

This past summer I was part of an independent film written and directed by Taylor Toole. He filmed it without a crew and also played the leading role. The movie is a thriller called “Jimmy Was A Carpenter.” My character was a radio DJ, so I’d like to think I nailed it! I can’t wait to see the result of Taylor’s genius.

Since early 2012, I’ve been independently booking, promoting, and hosting shows at The Pit Stop - an 85 capacity listening room on Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs. The future of the space has always been uncertain and there’s zero budget, but that’s exactly the no pressure situation that made it possible for me to get my feet wet. The experience has been just what I needed. I’ve even been getting creative with photoshop and creating my own show posters that I then hang all around the island and post on Facebook. My main goal is getting quality music to people’s ears. Every night I host at The Pit Stop has been incredibly special, whether there are 10 or 80 people in the audience. There’s lots happening in December, including a Willy Mason CD release on the 22 and a big New Years Eve bash that kicks off with an Open Mic, since Dec. 31 lands on a Monday, Open Mic nights, hosted by Anthony Esposito.

I also have a music blog that I’ve kept for almost five years. I call it “pH balanced” as a play on my last name. This is where I share music that jazzes me up. Mostly new stuff. I hit 1,000 posts this year and celebrated with a logo contest. I got a bunch of awesome entries from talented friends and chose a combo of a few for the new site design. You can check it out at http://phjess.com

MV Patch: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

DJ Phaneuf: Right now, with mvyradio in the midst of a “do or die” pledge campaign, my future is a little uncertain. Come the end of January, I could continue with my work at mvyradio or I may be out of a job and searching for the next step (on or off island). In 10 years, I hope to still be involved with music in some capacity. While I believe that Home, Community, and Family are what’s most important to me, I also know that I can’t help but keep raising the bar for myself when it comes to my career... so in 10 years I could be anywhere. I’m at a time in my life where I feel like the possibilities are endless and the sky is the limit!

Support the local voice of Martha's Vineyard and offer a pledge to help them reach their goal.  Give the gift that keeps on giving this season.  


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