I suspect there’s a little disc jockey in all of us. Wouldn’t you love to give voice to those tunes you carry around in your head and play them for the world, dazzling listeners with your erudite musical taste, and your lively banter between songs?
Taking a shot at being a guest DJ on MVY Radio is an incentive offered to listeners who donate to MVY and it’s called “the Hot Seat.” When you donate $600 or more to the station, you get to DJ a show for an hour. And for a $400 pledge, you get to do a “Virtual Hot Seat,” which means you can send the station your musical selections and what you want to say, and one of the MVY Radio DJs will voice it for you.
The shows air every Monday at 9 pm, and again the following Sunday at 10 pm. The shows are prerecorded, so the donor can schedule the show to be broadcast during a week when their friends can listen in.
Amy Vanneman, “Hot Seat” producer, says that some people who come in are naturals; they’re used to public speaking, and they’re ready for prime time. Others need a little work, and she teaches them techniques to bring out their best deliveries.
In an email to The Times, P.J. Finn, executive director of MVY Radio, said that originally the show was designed as a freeform hour for the staff to have an outlet for their creativity. But when MVY became a nonprofit, they began to offer it as a gift for a donation. And It became very popular.
Over the years, there have been hundreds of listeners who’ve been in the “Hot Seat,” and Finn estimated that more than 200 have received the “Hot Seat” as a gift. “Lots of folks give it as a gift to spouses or parents (especially dads),” Finn wrote, “and a number of people use the hour as a way to pay tribute to someone who has passed away, remembering them through their favorite songs.”
“Generally there’s a theme to people’s ‘Hot Seat’ shows,” Vanneman said. “It might be as loose as featuring a favorite artist, or it could be built around a certain genre, like folk rock or the blues.” Here are a few of the past “Hot Seat” hosts to show you how creative some people can be in putting together their shows.
Dan Leventritt was born and raised in New York, but now lives in Chilmark. He’s a semiretired actor whom you may have seen in the folk opera “1854,” which played at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs in 2019.
Leventritt says he’s a huge MVY fan, and claims that one of the reasons he originally moved to the Vineyard, back in WMVY’s pre-live-streaming days, was to be able to hear the station. For his “Hot Seat” broadcast, Leventritt shared the spotlight with his friend, Vineyard artist and potter Chioke (“Chi”) Morais.
Leventritt, whose show aired last fall, had been bothered by the discord in the country in recent years, but was heartened by the election of Joe Biden as president. The theme for Leventritt’s show was “Unity” — the united towns, cities, and states of America.
He kicked off the set with “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John, a nod to the state where Biden was born. He segued to one of Chi’s selections, “New York State of Mind,” by BIlly Joel, then Leventritt played selections that included “My Little Town,” by Paul Simon, “Vineyard,” by Jackopierce, “Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor, and finished with “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash — a nod to the fact that Leventritt had traveled to every state in the Union, either by car or motorcycle.
Nancy Sinsabaugh, who lives in Cambridge but owns a house in the Campground, works in the field of financial aid, consulting with colleges and universities on ways to help students finance their education.
The theme for Sinsabaugh’s “Hot Seat” broadcast was Bob Dylan, a person she became an authority on quite accidentally when she moved to St. Paul, Minn., and worked with a woman who was Dylan’s cousin. Dylan, who grew up in Hibbing, Minn., left his imprint on many people and places in the city, and Dylan’s mother, “a sweet blue-haired lady,” lived a few blocks away.
Sinsabaugh began researching Dylan, and traveled up to Hibbing, where she learned that in addition to Dylan, Roger Maris, the New York Yankee slugger, and Kevin McHale, the Boston Celtics legend, also graduated from Hibbing High School.
Sinsabaugh’s “Hot Seat” proved to be one of the more memorable sessions, as she had personal anecdotes to go with her song selections — who knew there was actually a Rolling Stone, Minn.?
Barry Mizock holds the record for the most “Hot Seats” — he’s done 10 so far, and has another planned for this summer. He’s a retired professor of medicine at the University of Illinois, and he’s been coming to the Vineyard for about 40 years. He was a jazz DJ when he was in college at Northwestern, but his interest in music stretches to all genres. Each of Mizock’s 10 “Hot Seats” has featured a different musical theme.
He did a show on Warren Zevon that featured not only Zevon’s music but also clips from the David Letterman show that memorialized Zevon’s death.
He did a jazz vocal show featuring Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Sarah Vaughn.
He did a whole show on music from movies, featuring films like “Taxi Driver” and “Last Tango in Paris,” and he did a show on the Great American Songbook, featuring George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.
He even did a show on disco, which was a little hard to swallow for Barbara Dacey, the “Hot Seat” director at the time. “I just promised there wouldn’t be any ‘Disco Duck,’” Mizock said, “and she was OK with it.”
Mizock’s last show was on Frank Zappa. “It took three months to research that show,” Mizock said. “Do you realize Zappa had 50 different albums?”
Mizock co-hosts with his friend, Dennis Jackson, who has had a lot of radio experience and engineers the segment himself. “He’s got one of those real deep radio voices,” Vanneman says.
So are you up for it? Dust off your DJ chops. Help support your favorite radio station, and have a seat on “the Hot Seat.”
To donate to MVY Radio and be eligible for “the Hot Seat,” go to mvyradio.org and hit the “donate today” button to donate $600. Or call the radio station, 508-693-5000, to donate by phone.