Gary Langley is Chief Broadcast Engineer at Interlochen Public Radio (WIAA/WICA/WICV/WLMN/WHBP/WIAB/W234BU).
He joined Interlochen Public Radio on September 9, 2016 after four years at WPBN/WTOM/WGTU/WGTQ.
Q: Please share with us a brief engineering resume:
Gary: I signed up for the US Marines in 1992, on an open contract. This means they could have put me anywhere, doing anything. Fortunately for me, I scored very high in math and electronics, and was given a billet as a ground radio repairman. I spent one year in school at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-Nine Palms California and attended classes at Marine Corps Communications Electronics School where I graduated second in my class. I then spent three years at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport California where I maintained our radio network for operations and our search and rescue radio network.
After leaving the service with an honorable discharge in December of 1996, I applied and was hired on as a Supervising Engineer for WEYI-TV (Saginaw) in January of 1997. I spent three years there learning and digging into everything I could get my hands on. I even went back to college and picked up an associates in computer networking because I could see it’s potential in broadcasting and wanted to get ahead of the curve.
Since then, I’ve worked for KUSA in Denver Colorado where I maintained 14 remote receive sites and microwave links, communications from the Professional sporting area’s including Coors Field, the Pepsi Center and Mile High Stadium. I was also the EIC for a weekly Monday night program called Broncos Tonight where we interviewed the coach and a few players live at a small bar called Jacksons Hole.
I moved back to Michigan in 2001 after my father took ill, taking a job as an assistant chief engineer for WGTU/WGTQ-TV when it was owned by Tom Scanlan. During this time Tom decided to move operations for our sister station WBKP-TV from Calumet Michigan to Marquette Michigan. Jay Zachirios and I moved the station during a 74 hour span while maintaining on air continuity. It remains to be the longest stretch of work I have experienced since the US Marine Corps, but when it was done it was a proud moment for everyone involved. We even had sales reps helping to haul concrete blocks to the roof while we installed new 3.5 meter patriot dishes. It remains one of my greatest accomplishments.
In 2007 I missed a step on a ladder while coming off the roof after sweeping snow out of those same satellite dishes, and crushed many discs in my lower spine. After surgery and a few shiny new implants, I was told by my doctors that I should be happy that I could walk, though the constant pain kept me away from working for many years. I officially resigned from WBKP as their Chief Engineer soon after. It wasn’t until I took another fall from my front steps years later that shifted my new titanium hardware by about an eighth of an inch, and broke my back higher up, that my leg pains subsided and I began to actively seek employment again.
In January 2013 I hired on as a broadcast engineer for WPBN/WTOM who had also acquired WGTU/WGTQ. After a year there of ironing out many of the issues that were repeat offenders which took us off the air, I was promoted to Assistant Chief Engineer.
This past summer I was told about an open position at Interlochen Center for the Arts, as a Chief Engineer for their public radio department. My company had been bought out by Sinclair broadcasting and there was nothing on the horizon there as far as moving up the ladder. Ultimately, I applied and was hired on at IPR in September 2016.
The transition from TV to radio was a welcome surprise. I often say it was like coming home after years away. Currently IPR is setup with an Axia Audio over IP system, which basically makes your entire system the most flexible router you’ve ever worked on. Most of our transmitters are made by Nautel and have many of the remote monitoring capabilities built right into them. I absolutely love what I do and count myself fortunate to be working for such a great organization.
Q: How did you get started in broadcast engineering?
Gary: When I PCS’d (permanent change of station) from the USMC. I began looking for a job right away. While I spent sometime as a bouncer for a large nightclub in Genesee County, I knew there was something more out there for me. I saw an ad in the Bay City Times for a broadcast engineer at WEYI, and applied. I got the job and worked for Garth Simms, who took me under his wing and taught me some good habits, and had the patience to endure my mishaps. I’ll forever be thankful that Garth took a chance on me for that position.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that very few people know:
Gary: Very few people know that I have a passion for writing, and laughing. I learned at a young age that if people were laughing, they weren’t fighting. Three years ago I began performing standup comedy all across Michigan with a great local group of comedians from Falling Down Stairs Productions. I have to admit, their name struck me as ironic, being that falling down stairs is exactly what got me back on my feet again. I’ve performed with them for many fundraising events and recently took an improv class with many of those same comedians which was put on by our only local improv troupe, Good On Paper Improv.
Q: Best advice you have ever received?
Gary: The best advice I ever received was from my old chief engineer Jay Zacharius. He told me quite frankly, “One ‘oh sh!t’ wipes out ten ‘adda boys,'” Which turns out, is a mathematical formula for success in broadcast engineering.