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Kyle Santillian on radio’s relevance and taking over mornings in Chicago

Kyle Santillian on radio's relevance and taking over mornings in Chicago
Photo courtesy of Kyle Santillian

Kyle Santillian represents one-third of one of the best morning shows in Chicago radio known as “Chicago Morning Takeover” on 107.5 WGCI. As a radio personality Santillian has embraced Chicago and the city has returned the love. After being on WJMH radio in Greensboro, North Carolina, for more than 10 years Kyle had a minor setback that set him up to be featured in one of the biggest markets in the nation. We spoke to Santillian about his experience as a radio personality, his background and whether or not radio is important for artist these days.

Tell us a little about where you are from and how you ended up in Chicago.

I [was] born and spent my young years in Philadelphia. I was mostly raised 30 minutes outside of Philly in New Jersey. I attended Winston-Salem State University, an HBCU in North Carolina. During my time there and immediately after graduation, [I] started my family and my radio career in Greensboro, North Carolina. After working my way up at that station for years, from intern to hosting mornings, I landed the gig at WGCI.

How would you say your previous market and Chicago differ?

Greensboro/Winston is a good place to be for college, building your craft, starting families or maybe even retiring. It is a much smaller market. Most of the bigger events & activities are centered around the colleges in the area like NC A&T or Winston Salem State. Being in Chicago gets me back to that big city environment that I was used to growing up in the Philly area. The way people move, the excitement around the pro teams, all the events and activities that go on throughout the year and especially during Summertime Chi! I really love the soul of Chicago. This city has a heartbeat of its own. It’s an easy place to fall in love with if you know what I mean.

How important do you feel radio is to an artist’s development these days?

Radio is huge and continues to be the No. 1 source for music discovery. If an artist wants to reach hundreds of millions of listeners across the country, radio is the place.

What has been your most memorable and impactful radio experience?

For me, it’s always the interactions with the listeners when you see them in the streets. For example, the reaction I get from people for doing “Kyle’s Message of the Day,” is incredible. One time we were at Douglas Park out on the West Side and a guy told me that I “saved his life” with the message. Me and Leon were just listening to him talk and it really sunk in with me about how impactful we can be with just a few positive words. That kind of feedback is incredibly humbling.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges in your profession?

It depends on the person. For me, just balancing the time. Getting up early for work but going to bed late after handling all the family duties. Making station events and promoting parties without missing the kids’ games, shows, etc. It’s all worth it, but at times it can definitely be a balancing act.

How would you describe the personality of your morning team?

Fun! Everybody has their own personality and their own lane. Kendra is totally in that celebrity entertainment lane. Leon is hilarious and Chicago all the way through and I’m between the two of them, balancing it all out and somewhat being the voice of reason.

What words of encouragement do you have for those looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be afraid to move. A few people have the luxury of staying in one city for their whole career but most have to get started somewhere small and work their way up. Always be your actual, real self on the air. You don’t want to have to keep up a fake image on the radio, then be someone else when people see you on the street. That’s not gonna last very long. Always be professional/dependable. If people know they can depend on you, you’ll put yourself in a way better position to advance then others. Always respect everyone and treat people the way you want to be treated. This industry is small.

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