Fish out of water? Iowa radio host adapts to life in New England
Leaving Iowa was undoubtedly hard, and the subsequent move east has been done in pieces this fall.
“I’m driving back out there to get more of my stuff this month and to see my youngest son who’s a freshman at the University of Iowa,” Schulte said. “You can say I’m moving in phases … coming out in September was phase one.”
Schulte has three sons, and the middle boy has taken over as a producer at KZIA 102.9 working on his dad’s old morning entertainment show.
“That made me feel a lot better about the move,” Schulte said. “He didn’t take my position of hosting the show but he’s very much into radio like me and it’s fun knowing there’s still that connection to the station...
“All three of them processed it different. My oldest was very emotional, my middle was very positive, and my youngest was almost cerebral. He said to me before I left, ‘Dad, you’ve done a lot for the community here. It’s time for you to do your thing.’”
Fare thee well
The Cedar Rapids community didn’t let their longtime radio host leave without a goodbye — several of them.
“I had a going away party every week this summer, it felt like,” Schulte jokes. “We had one with our friends, I had one with my family, I had another one with my work family. Different people who I worked with at the station over three decades threw parties for me at different times. It was kind of crazy and surreal to see this city come together and say goodbye. It made me very happy … it really was a great summer for me, I got to feel like I was six and half again.”
One of the hardest goodbyes came without a formal celebration.
“The final five minutes on air was a challenge,” he said. “It was just me and the listener during that sign off and I talked about what a privilege it was being on the radio for all that time. I wanted to give them that clarity that I had felt and thank them for sharing the journey with me up until this point in the road…
“When you do radio, you’re speaking to one listener at a time,” he added. “You have to feel like you’re talking to one person, and I felt during that last segment I was able to say goodbye that person — that listener — one by one.”
Besides his relationship with each and every listener, the former radio host said his favorite part of being behind the microphone is finding a way to hook someone into a story that might not appeal or interest them.
“The listener deserves the best and you have to have that respect for them or you’ll lose them immediately,” he said. “Anyone can do a show that first day but the true talent is building that relationship over time — that consistency and trust from Monday through Friday every morning, 5:30 to 9 … not everyone can do that.”
Schulte feels at peace with his radio career, and he doesn’t foresee himself pursuing that type of work in Connecticut.
“I won’t say no to the right opportunity, obviously,” he said, “but I think I’m done with the phase of my life where I’m a performer. My goals are much more aligned with helping other people get to where they need to be and seeing them through it … I know I will find something meaningful here where I can reach someone who is vulnerable and bring them confidence in what they’re doing.”
Schulte admits he thought he would feel more like a fish out of water — a lifelong Midwesterner living in New England for the first time. But the transition to the northeast has opened his eyes to whole new world.
“We live in Casagmo and go on walks all the time — to the fountain and back down Main Street. It’s a great place to be,” he said. “It’s like being in a cabin on a cruise ship — the world is right outside your door.
“And the physical beauty here is ridiculous, and it’s so deep-rooted culturally and historically,” he added. “It’s really unbelievable to an outsider just discovering it…
“From the very first time I came here, I could tell this place is very special.”
As someone who’s worked as a voice coach and an actor (Schulte has a Screen Actors Guild membership card), the proximity to New York City has proven tremendous opportunity for cultural exploration.
“I had been through the city before but I had never been in it like this,” he said. “We went into see a Broadway show last week and it blew my mind. It was really a pinch-me moment.”
‘You are this person’
Although his identity has been tethered to his job at KZIA the last three decades, Schulte said he never lost touch with the young theater actor who as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa wound up retrofitting a Blue Bird bus and driving around the country to help prisoners through therapeutic theater workshops.
“I went in for an audition and next thing you know you’re sleeping in a hammock in this makeshift bus traveling America going from campsite to campsite, prison to prison,” he said.
“I got a lot of confidence from doing that,” he added. “If you can put a clown nose on a murder, you feel like you can do anything.
Theater has always been a passion, even when he was hosting his show five times a week.
“That part of me is still there even after 29 years in radio,” Schulte said.
He said that one thing he’s learned from his many roles over the years, including teaching at-risk students at Metro High School in Cedar Rapids, is that it’s never too late for rediscovery.
“You are this person — an actor, an educator, whatever it is you do when you’re young, then you do the whole family and mortgage thing, but then when that cycle ends, or runs its course, you shouldn’t be afraid to re-invent and take a chance,” he said.
With a bevy of art venues at his disposal — ranging from the Ridgefield Playhouse to A Contemporary Theater (ACT) of Connecticut, Schulte is confident he will find a niche in his new environment.
The new job might not be in radio, it also may not be in theater. It could be as a teacher; it could be as a motivational or professional speaker.
“The possibilities are really endless,” he said.
“All I know is this is a postcard, New England town,” he added. “... It’s an exciting place to live and that’s because there’s this very palpable creative energy that reaches into everything — at least that’s been my take.”
The Iowa native has been impressed with how fast things move in his new hometown.
“The speed of networking is impressive,” he said. “This person knows that person and this person knows that person, and I’ve been blessed to connect with so many great people already. I feel like this is only the beginning. I have a lot of different avenues I can go down. Now, I just have to figure out which direction to go.”