Local radio station, DJ inspire my decade-long musical journey
Thirteen years ago, I flipped the radio dial to 107.1 (WQKL-FM) in my car and haven’t stopped listening to the Ann Arbor-based station that helped lay the initial foundation for my musical journey.
Listening to the station was a nice distraction while driving to and from my MBA classes at Eastern Michigan University. For a few minutes, I could forget about exams, papers and group projects that temporarily consumed my life and focus on hearing new music instead.
Known as “ann arbor’s 107one,” the station introduced me to Death Cab for Cutie, Snow Patrol, Gomez, Spoon, Ray LaMontagne, Nickel Creek, The Alternate Routes, Colbie Caillat, My Morning Jacket, The Shins, Scars on 45 and others. I slowly built up my CD collection and my musical knowledge because of that station.
By 2008, I had finished grad school and started commuting to Jackson for work five days a week. That allowed me to listen to ann arbor’s 107one about two hours a day. Each day, I looked forward to hearing Martin Bandyke and John Bommarito share their thoughts about different artists between songs.
That same year, I remember the station giving away passes to Bonnaroo and hearing about the lineup, which included Pearl Jam and Metallica. Coincidentally, my brother talked me into going to Bonnaroo that year, so we purchased passes and went. In a way, I also credit ann arbor’s 107one for getting me started on the music festival circuit.
Not long after Bonnaroo, I started going to concerts more regularly in Ann Arbor. That included shows at The Ark, the Michigan Theater, The Blind Pig and the Power Center as well as Sonic Lunch. It was at those shows I would often see Bommarito give a warm introduction about each artist. It was nice to put a face to the voice I had heard so regularly on the radio.
John Bommarito’s Professional Music Industry Evolution
Over the years, I added more shows to my concert roster and discovered Bommarito was often there. It was fun to see we had a similar taste in music, but we had never met each other. However, I felt like I had known Bommarito after listening to him on the radio for several years.
Last month, on my birthday, my husband and I went to see Lissie at The Ark and met her before the show. While standing at the merch table, I noticed Bommarito talking to Lissie’s opening act, Van William. Once Bommarito wrapped up his conversation with Van William, I stepped over to say hello and told Bommarito I’d like to talk with him for my blog since I’m fan of the radio station and regularly see him at shows.
About two weeks later, Bommarito invited me to stop over to the radio station. It was during our one-hour conversation that I learned a lot about Bommarito and how he got involved in music. As a kid, he grew up listening to music in the car with his mom, including three 8-track albums that were in heavy rotation – “Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits” by Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Diamond’s “The Jazz Singer” and “The Sound of Music” soundtrack.
By age 13, he saw his first concert – Styx at Joe Louis Arena in March 1981. Bommarito showed me an entire spreadsheet he keeps of all the shows he’s ever attended. What a list! I was envious of some of the shows he’s seen over the years. He even has a well-organized spreadsheet documenting his entire concertgoing history.
Bommarito also told me his backstory about how he became a radio DJ. At age 15, he looked into a program at the Specs Howard School of Media Arts as well as volunteering at a radio station at a nearby Warren high school.
While he wasn’t able to join the high school’s radio station since he wasn’t a student in that district and opted not to attend Specs Howard, he worked at a local record store instead. Bommarito gained a lot of his musical knowledge while working at Record Time in the Detroit area for several years.
After finishing high school, Bommarito continued to work at Record Time and studied at Oakland University. Once he left Record Time, Bommarito moved to the Miami area to work for a company he used to purchase goods from as the store’s buyer. By the mid-1990s, he ran a company in the U.S. that was owned by Ontario-based chain Dr. Disc that sold Canadian-manufactured albums to American stores.
Once Napster briefly took over the music world, Bommarito decided to close his business and went back to school full-time to finish his bachelor’s degree in marketing at University of Michigan-Dearborn. It was during that time he revisited his childhood dream of becoming a radio DJ.
As a student, he learned about a nearby radio station 89.3 (WHFR-FM) at Henry Ford Community College and volunteered as an on-air personality. That gig ultimately led him to his current position at ann arbor’s 107one.
Life at ann arbor’s 107one and the Local Music Scene
While working at ann arbor’s 107one, Bommarito has become a prominent figure on the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti music scene. I asked him what it’s like to be part of growing music scene that has so much talent and how it stands apart from others:
“As a non-performer in the scene, that’s a bit hard to answer. I can tell you most of the people I have interacted with are gracious, kind people who appreciate the support 107one gives via The Acoustic Brunch, Tree Town Sound and various events that we sponsor.
“It has also been my experience that the scene is very supportive and collaborative, and I’m including the Ypsilanti music scene in that statement. There’s some sharing of players, certain musicians you will find in more than one project, artists who make sure to give up-and-comers a chance to be heard too by perhaps having them open their gigs. I don’t experience a lot of bad-mouthing of others who might be in the same genre, more people trying to help one another succeed.”
At age 42, it was inspiring to hear his professional journey in music and his reflections on the local music scene. During our conversation, Bommarito said it took him 20 years to become a radio DJ. Hearing his story gave me inspiration. It wasn’t until about three years ago that I decided to start this music blog.
Fortunately, people like Bommarito and radio stations like ann arbor’s 107one prove it’s never too late to go after your passion. Thankfully, both have given me the inspiration to pursue it. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for them.
Ann Arbor Area Concert Calendar
According to Bommarito, here’s a list of not-to-miss upcoming shows:
June 13, May Erlewine & The Motivations, Wire in the Wood, Rackham Stage at Top Of the Park
June 14, ZZ Ward & Jill Jack, Sonic Lunch
June 14, Jake LeMond, O&W Acoustic Stage at Top Of the Park
June 17, The Macpodz, Rackham Stage at Top Of the Park
June 20, Mike Vial, O&W Acoustic Stage at Top Of the Park
June 20, David Ramirez, The Ark
June 21, JD McPherson & Olivia Millerschin, Sonic Lunch
June 21, Potter’s Field & Cold Tone Harvest, Sounds & Sights on Thursday Nights
June 21, Shawn Mullins wsg Max Gomez, The Ark
June 22, Chris DuPont & Lizzy Shell, Rumpus Room
June 22, Thornetta Davis, Madelyn Grant & Nadim Azzam, Rackham Stage at Top Of the Park
June 23, Seth Bernard, Adam Plomaritas & The Stellars, Rackham Stage at Top Of the Park
June 23, Matthew Sweet, The Ark
June 28, Mt. Joy, Michigander, Sonic Lunch
June 29, The Ragbirds, Rackham Stage at Top Of the Park
July 1, Dave Boutette & Kristi Lynn Davis & Amy Petty, O&W Acoustic Stage at Top Of the Park
July 5, Michigan Rattlers & Misty Lyn, Sonic Lunch
July 7, Mary Fahl, The Ark
July 10, Mike Gentry & Mike Vial, The Ark
July 12, Sunflower Bean & Kate Peterson, Sonic Lunch
July 16, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers & Fubar, Townie Street Party
July 26, The Accidentals & Chris DuPont, Sonic Lunch
July 26, The Accidentals & Ben Daniels Band, Sounds & Sights Festival
August 2, Anderson East & Philip Michael-Scales, Sonic Lunch
August 3, Lori McKenna, The Ark
August 9, Bettye LaVette & Antwaun Stanley, Sonic Lunch
August 16, Caitlyn Smith & Erin Zindle, Sonic Lunch
August 23, Absofacto & Katie Lee, Sonic Lunch
August 30, Theo Katzman & Jacob Sigman Sonic Lunch
August 26, Peter Bradley Adams, The Ark
October 22, Bruce Cockburn, The Ark
November 30, The Lone Bellow, The Ark