Donning a headset, former Snow Laker Jessica Jackson settles in behind the soundboard at 100.3 FM "The Bear" - Edmonton's Best Rock, cuing up the next tune in a three- song set. Looking and sounding confident and comfortable - as if there's nothing else in the entire world she'd rather be doing - she converses with people calling into her mid-day show like they are old friends, and with her engaging, easygoing, and humorous on air banter, many feel they are. She rides the Edmonton airwaves daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but as is the case in many jobs with an audience, it all starts long before that.
She usually arrives at the station - located in West Edmonton - two hours before going on air. Her voice on the radio isn't the only thing people follow, so she takes time to update her blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account with any of the random, interesting, or entertaining things she finds during frequent prep sessions. She then delves into the music that she'll play during her show. All of it will be pre-loaded for her, but she puts in requests for the lunch hour portion.
Even though she spends just five hours per day on air, there is obviously a lot more to it than that. Asked if it got to be old quickly and wasn't all it was cracked up to be, Jackson quickly stemmed the notion. "I'm so happy right now that you couldn't punch the smile off my face. I get up every day and I want to go to work," she declared. "My job is an absolute blast; every day is something new and I get to meet and talk to some amazing people. I truly love what I do and consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to say that about my job."
Asked what brought her into the fold of media in general and radio in particular, Jackson replied that it was something she'd always had in the back of her mind, but never told too many people about. "I didn't really think it would ever be possible," she answered. "I remember listening to BJ and Hal on (Winnipeg's) Power 97 and thinking I want to be those guys." In her Grade 12 year, she applied for admission to the media production program at Assiniboine Community College, originally with the plan to first go into reporting. She disliked working with TV, but concedes a love of radio from the first time she turned on the microphone at Assiniboine Community College's CJ106.
Shortly after graduation from Assiniboine Community College, she secured a two-month practicum and based on her performance, turned it into her first full-time job in Cranbrook, B.C. "I've worked for seven different stations ... four of which were in the same building owned by the same company," said Jackson noting she's been employed in the field for over seven years.
Jackson says that she would highly recommend Assiniboine Community College's program, however, she notes that her own education is never over. "I learn something new every day," she says. "More specifically, anytime someone talks to me, or I see someone act a certain way, or do any task, I think about how can I spin it into something I can talk about on air? Learning how to do that, and to think like that, is a daily lesson. So I guess it's scary to be friends with me, be related to me, or to date me. If you do something stupid ... more often than not, it's going to end up on air."
Jackson says she has also learned a lot from co-workers. "I've worked with established people who have been in the business all over Canada and I have tried to build relationships with all of them. Parts of this business really depend on the connections and the friendships you've made. I've learned a lot from the people I've worked with and have maintained a decent relationship with most of them."
Although Ms. Jackson has only been at her current job with 100.3 The Bear a short time, she says that she has fallen in love with the station. "I am working my dream job right now," she said. "We play rock anything from Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, to System of a Down, and Volbeat; also AC/DC, Zeppelin, and a few other classics." As well, Jackson says she doesn't have to play a specific role on air. "I feel like for the first time in my career I can finally be my ridiculous/inappropriate/in your face self," she admits. "Up till now, I had to hold back and bite my tongue on basically any topic I discussed. Now, because I had to hold back for so long, I still have that back of mind worry 'should I really say that?' But slowly that has kind of faded away at The Bear."
Working in radio and around music all day, a person develops a taste in music; Jackson has worked in a number of stations from Country to Top 40 and now rock. She was asked who her favourite musician or band is. "That is always a tough question for me," the broadcaster began. "I was raised on the Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Neil Young, CCR, and Bruce Springsteen, but my favourite musician would probably be Neil Young. He's not now, nor has he ever been a pretty boy rock star and he has never been afraid to speak his mind. My favourite band? It would be a tossup between Pearl Jam, The Stones, and Gaslight Anthem. I never get sick of any of their music and can still listen to an entire album front to back."
Jackson says that she is extremely grateful to the people who have helped her along the way to The Bear. "The support from my friends and family, especially my parents and brother, has been amazing," she declared. "You can always drop those lines, like 'chase your dreams' and 'you can do anything you set your mind to', but the truth is; it's not easy. Some days suck. I've definitely had some setbacks and a few rough patches and there were days that I wanted to quit and move home. But having the family behind me has been my push to get to where I want to be. And the best motivation you'll ever hear is, 'I'm proud of you'!"
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Photo Caption: Former Snow Laker Jessica Jackson on air at Edmonton's 100.3 "The Bear."
Photo Credit:Nickel Belt News photo courtesy of Marc Jackson