Stacy Owen grew up immersed in music. And 30 years into her professional career in the music and radio industry, it is the common thread woven through the tapestry of her life. She was integral to the creation of one of the first alternative radio stations in the country, as well as the foundation and organization of a national convention for non-commercial Triple A radio stations and music industry representatives. Today, Stacy serves as WFPK‘s Program Director. Affectionately dubbed the station’s “Mama Bear,” she oversees the station’s on-air, web and social media content, books and produces the award-winning WFPK Waterfront Wednesday and other concert series, and cultivates WFPK’s standing as a musical tastemaker — thus enriching the cultural fabric of our city. We are delighted to introduce today’s FACE of Louisville, Stacy Owen.
Where did you grow up, and if not from Louisville, what brought you here?
I lived in New Orleans through grade school. My mom is from Northern Kentucky, and when my parents divorced, she brought my sister and me to this region. My first radio job was in the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati market.
When did you first realize you wanted to be in radio or the music industry? What drew you to it?
Growing up, music was all around me. My dad taught voice. Mom’s side of the family played various acoustic instruments, and eventually, my sister moved to Nashville to be a singer-songwriter. I decided my passion was championing the artists I loved. It frustrated me that some of the most interesting and talented musicians didn’t have a place on the airwaves. Later, I realized public radio could play a part in rectifying that.
Tell us a bit about your professional journey in the radio and music industry.
While working on my B.A., I always thought I’d produce or do something else behind the scenes, but I found I was relaxed behind the mic and camera and ended up getting my first part-time job as a news reporter at Northern Kentucky University’s public radio station. Following graduation, short stints in public television and commercial radio in Cincinnati solidified my passion for all things public radio! In Northern Kentucky, I served as an announcer, producer and music director. I was hired in 2000 as WFPK’s Assistant Program Director and morning music host and became Program Director four years later.
Describe your role as WFPK’s program director?
I’m ultimately responsible for all things WFPK! I meet with programming, marketing and membership staff, as well as potential community and national partners. A lot of my time is spent implementing what comes from those meetings. I coach and brainstorm with staff and also book the WFPK Waterfront Wednesday, Winter Wednesday and Live Lunch concert series.
Do you have a favorite Waterfront Wednesday concert?
That’s like asking me to name a favorite child! There have been many special memories though, like when up-and-comers My Morning Jacket opened the show in 2002, and the rush of a capacity crowd when Bela Fleck played.
What is most rewarding about your profession? Most challenging?
Finding and nurturing new talent, whether musician or announcer, is very rewarding. It can be challenging to keep up with all the moving parts of the job, but I’m blessed every day to work with a talented group of peers in this beautiful facility.
You get to rub elbows with talented musicians in your profession. When have you been most star-struck?
I met Ray Charles once after a show in Cincinnati. He’d been kind of grumpy with the sound crew that night, so I wasn’t sure how he’d be at the meet and greet. I think I babbled on about how great the show had been. He was very gracious.
Do you have a mentor or role model, and if so, what have they taught you or why do you admire them?
Early on in my career, I worked with a man named Ed McDonald. He taught me so much about production and how to really listen when conducting an interview — also how to be myself on air. Ed is blind, so this gave me a unique perspective. I learned valuable lessons from him that have carried me throughout my career.
Top three all-time favorite albums:
Joni Mitchell’s Blue; Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and Arcade Fire’s Funeral (This may change a bit depending on when I’m asked, but Joni is always in there.)
Current favorite musicians or songs?
I’m in love with the new Jade Bird song, “Uh Huh.” It’s a headbanger! Check out “Lottery” from the new album as well. Definitely one to watch!
A song or musician that feels like a guilty pleasure?
If a song brings you pleasure, there’s no reason to feel guilty!
How do you like to spend your free time?
Going to concerts, checking out a new movie, reading a great book, daily walks and other dog-mom duties.
Do you have a favorite local eatery?
What do you love most about Louisville?
The people. I love our small town charm with big city amenities.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Don’t forget to love and care for yourself from time to time.
What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to perform around the Cincinnati area with my sister as The Owen Sisters!
What is your greatest accomplishment?
Having my beautiful daughter tell me she’s forever grateful I’m her mama
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.
Aside from faith, family and friends, name three things you can’t live without.
Music, music, music
Thank you so much, Stacy, for your positive musical influence in Louisville. Tune into WFPK (FM 91.9) to listen to this fabulous public radio station. Their fall membership drive kicks off today. To join and support the station, visit louisvillepublicmedia.com.
And thank you to Gretchen Bell of Gretchen Bell Photography for the beautiful photos!
To be inspired by other great Louisville women, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.