On Air

A place of passion and dedication: Erica Commisso - Volunteering @ CFMU

Blog/FavouritesAugust 30th 2019
Olivia Fava

When I got the position, I proceed to very loudly say “Oh my gosh - no way!” to a group of strangers at Williams…I was really excited…

As you’ve likely gathered from this series so far, our volunteers have many, many opportunities available to them here, whether in the on-air booth, production studio, music office, or online. But those who are undergraduates at McMaster have an additional door open to them: one of our part-time staff positions. This year, 3 students have been chosen to join our staff from September to May. From sports to music, there’s something in these roles to suit a very diverse range of radio and broadcasting-related interests.

So, in this special back-to-school installment of Volunteering @ CFMU, we hear from a CFMU volunteer who also happens to be an incoming student staffer; she’ll be managing our library, hosting our Top 5 videos, and just generally keeping CFMU's music ecosystem alive and thriving. She’s passionate, energetic, and I for one am very excited to see her absolutely kill it this year.

Presenting: the CFMU Music Director of 2019-2020, Erica Commisso!

What year are you in at McMaster, and whats your major? Any other fun facts you have to add?

I'm going into my fourth year at McMaster in combined honours Sociology and Anthropology! A fun fact about me…I’m an urban dancer and just finished my last term with a crew called Vie Division (fellow dancers check them out!).

On a typical Saturday, where are you most likely to be found?

If I’m not behind the bar at Collective Arts, you can find me hanging out on James St. or at a concert of some sort! (Awesome venues in the area include Jillard Guitars, The Casbah and a newbie venue Tweedside in Stoney Creek).

What do you do here at CFMU and how long have you been doing it for?

I'm lucky enough to be the on-air host for the show The Throwdown which I’ve been doing for almost a year now (whoa!); the show consists of spinning new releases, discussing local concert listings and doing artist interviews. I’ve also done some music journalism writing for our Artist Sketch series/posting about local concerts and I’m the station's incoming Music Director!

How did you hear about CFMU and what made you want to get involved?

Back in my second year, I had learned about CFMU through some Welcome Week promotion as a rep. I had joined really late and went in for a few shifts as a music volunteer under a previous Music Director Patrice Aldave. It was in third year when I really wanted to be a part of the Hamilton music community, which prompted me to apply for an on-air position at the station. It seemed that the stars aligned as our Program Director, James Tennant, was looking for someone to take over his show ‘The Throwdown’ — I immediately jumped at the opportunity and the rest is history.

What really made me want to get involved was my love for live music. Having gone to a lot of shows in Toronto, I realized that there was a blossoming music scene right here in Hamilton that I was yet to experience — what better way to get involved than with a community radio station!

Having gone to a lot of shows in Toronto, I realized that there was a blossoming music scene right here in Hamilton that I was yet to experience — what better way to get involved than with a community radio station!

What's your favourite part of hosting The Throwdown? What would you say youve learned from the experience so far?

I think my favourite part of hosting The Throwdown has to be the artist interviews. Being able to really connect with people using this kind of platform is absolutely magical and having conversations about the importance of art and the influence it has on a person really exudes raw human moments. Personally, being an artist allows so much room for discussion on musical/project interpretation with members of this community. I truly think that this experience continues to teach me how valuable a platform like community radio is…CFMU really is just one huge collection of raw human moments.

I truly think that this experience continues to teach me how valuable a platform like community radio is…CFMU really is just one huge collection of raw human moments.

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What made you want to get involved as our Music Director? How did you hear that youd been accepted, and what was your immediate reaction?

I could list a million reasons for wanting to get involved...but I think what really pushed me to apply was artist Jamie Shea, who had sent me a message via my on-air show page on Facebook. He mentioned his record and was wondering if I’d spin a track as it was already in our database. After playing his song, I had received another message from him saying the spin put him on our Top 10. He continued to keep me updated and sent me another message when he hit our Top 3. I think that as music consumers, there is a large disconnect between artist and listener. Regardless of artist, genre or number of spins…people are putting out content that comes from a place of passion and dedication. Although being personally updated by an artist is a rare situation, being a part of a platform catered towards sharing artists projects broke the consumer-artist disconnect and really showed me both why we do this and just how important outlets like community radio are to budding musicians.

Ah! I had interviewed for the position and waited to hear back for a few weeks. Jamie had sent me an email coincidentally as I was checking to see if I had received anything. When I got the position, I proceed to very loudly say “Oh my gosh - no way!” to a group of strangers at Williams…I was really excited…

I think that as music consumers, there is a large disconnect between artist and listener. Regardless of artist, genre or number of spins…people are putting out content that comes from a place of passion and dedication.

What are you most excited about for the role? Is there any personal goal you have for your year as Music Director?

I think what I’m most excited about is being able to dive into the sounds coming from Hamilton artists. From conversations I’ve had with members of the community — whether that be musicians on-air, friends, or volunteers and staff at the station…I think that anyone in the industry can forget how much work goes into creating something, whether these artists are pushing to be professionals or are just doing it for fun - there is so much time and effort that goes into their art. Amongst many other things, being Music Director comes with consuming content from people who make the choice to put in that hard work and I am beyond excited to experience and support the talent that comes out of this community!

Amongst many, two of the most important goals I have this year as Music Director are:

A) Reach out to youth in the community. The amount of young people with immense musical talent in this city is exciting. The more resources that are available to them, the better!

B) To learn…about the station, about McMaster students, about the community…to attend shows and support locals in any way I can. There is so much room for growth and opportunity both inside and outside of the station!

Amongst many other things, being Music Director comes with consuming content from people who make the choice to put in that hard work and I am beyond excited to experience and support the talent that comes out of this community!

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Would you say that your time at CFMU has helped you in other areas of your life? If so, how?

Definitely! Hosting The Throwdown and being given the opportunity to talk to musicians has really impacted my conversational skills — specifically, active listening. The best interviews I’ve ever had have been natural conversations and it’s awesome to see these skills translate through interactions every day.

Has volunteering with CFMU impacted your future goals or changed your outlook on the future?

Volunteering with CFMU has absolutely impacted my outlook on the future!

At the end of high school, I really struggled with the concept of conventionalism and what that meant for me…(without realizing that being unconventional was an option). In the long list of things deemed as such, radio seemed somewhere at the top.

In itself, radio is full of passion that grows and manifests within its own platform. Being constantly surrounded by this energy has definitely made me realize that the kind of life I want is one filled with those things…whether I continue to fuel that life in this community or another - that’s for me to find out!

In itself, radio is full of passion that grows and manifests within its own platform. Being constantly surrounded by this energy has definitely made me realize that the kind of life I want is one filled with those things…whether I continue to fuel that life in this community or another - that’s for me to find out!

Finally, what advice would you give students who want to get involved with CFMU?

Do it. Do it. Do it. You have absolutely nothing to lose and everything in the world to gain!

If you are truly passionate about music, culture, spoken word, this community…there is a place for you here. Can't wait to meet you!

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...And the same goes for me. I can’t wait to meet our student volunteers this year (those I haven’t met yet, that is!) and see what kind of incredible new ideas they come up with and bring to life. And with someone as passionate and involved as Erica at the helm of our music library this year, I have no doubt we’re in for a year of good tunes AND good times.

Olivia Fava is a 2019 McMaster linguistics graduate, the current Community Outreach Coordinator at CFMU, and the host of MorningFile. Contact her through email at cfmucom@msu.mcmaster.ca. (She's very tired from Welcome Week, though, so please give her a few days to rest first.)

Raise your voice! Show your support through word of mouth, social media shares, and of course, donations. Click for more information on this year's fundraising drive.