KVLU Public Radio ushers in new era after naming new station manager

Since the start of 2023, there has been a large void that can be felt through the halls and offices of the KVLU Public Radio station. Now, that void has been filled with the announcement of their new station manager.

Following the retirement of longtime KVLU station manager and Lamar University mainstay Byron Balentine at the end of 2022, the station began their search for Balentine’s successor. Balentine left behind big shoes to fill, as the longtime voice of KVLU served the station for nearly 50 years in a number of roles and serving as station manager for 17 of those years.

To take over the office of Balentine is no easy task, but after months of interviewing and contemplating, the committee behind the search found the person they believe will honor the station and those that came before them in KVLU’s now-former production director, Jason Miller.

“It’s a great feeling and a great honor,” said Miller. “Being here for so many years and seeing so many changes over the years from technology to radio to new media and with university things changing and growing, it’s an honor to be able to steer the ship now with resepct to everyone that I’ve worked with and to Byron who became a strong mentor and friend.”

jason-miller-story.jpgAn LU alumn, Miller has been a part of KVLU since 1997 after learning of a part-time job opportunity from a friend who knew Miller was interested in radio. At the time, he was working at another station in the area. Miller, having been aware of KVLU already due to their consistent broadcasting of jazz music, decided to take on the opportunity and began paying his dues by sitting in at the board, pushing eight tracks and not saying much.

Towards the end of his academics at LU, Miller began to receive opportunities to read the weather and promos. After graduating, Miller began a teaching career and working for a newspaper, but he never left KVLU as he had a passion for the station and radio as a whole. So, he kept taking on any work they offered him, eventually leading to a full-time position.

“I was always doing something for KVLU,” he said. “I was always working shifts. I was mostly doing evening jazz shifts, and then there was an opportunity to return to LU full time as production director in 2005.”

The work that Miller had done as a student and following his graduation is what prepared him to take on his full-time role at the university. Not only that, but his experience as a teacher has helped him blend the two passions as he is able to teach new students in radio and to provide them the same opportunities that were provided to him.

Miller had been production director for his entire full-time tenure at KVLU. Now, he has been given the chance to get behind the wheel and to guide the station into its new era, a role that he said was made possible to due the leadership and mentorship he has received over the last 18 years.

“It was a bit of a progressive process,” he said. “It progressed along with the experience through the mentorship and through being more confident in how things work and seeing myself in that role. It’s easy to come into something right away and thinking ‘I want to run this thing,’ but it was about humbling myself and learning and then gradually coming into it.”

Miller emphasized the importance of Balentine and the impact he has made on him throughout his time at KVLU, crediting Balentine with giving him the tools and confidence to step into the station manager role.

“A lot of thing things is just sheer knowledge of the business that he has,” said Miller. “He was also very encouraging of trying ideas for shows, programming changes and stuff like that.”

Miller said that Balentine’s open-door policy and always being available, and wanting, to talk about ideas or general conversation is something that has inspired him and is something he plans to keep going as station manager.

“It was the friendship that developed to be able to just talk and pick his brain and to be comfortable to share stuff that was really awesome,” he said.

Now, as Miller takes his first steps as the captain of KVLU Public Radio, he says that there are a lot of things that excite him. From being able to manage to new technology to building on the brand of KVLU and NPR, there is a lot that he is ready for. However, the biggest thing that excites him the most isn’t the title change or responsibilities. Rather, it is being able to lead and to continue working with his team.

“I’m looking forward to working with our team,” he said. “Sitting down with everybody and just saying ‘let’s go’ and ‘let’s see what we can do’ and just taking this team and serving the Southeast Texas community and LU the best we can. It’s the people that I respect so much, and I just reall want to be able to work together and collaborate with them.”

The feeling is mutual throughout the rest of the station. They are ready to go and to get to work.

Balentine’s retirement left a large void in the station of KVLU Public Radio, but Miller intends to fill that void and to continue moving forward with a staple of the Southeast Texas community.

To learn more about KVLU Public Radio, visit lamar.edu/kvlu