When you’re flipping through radio stations, there’s one program catching listeners off-guard. The Beacon is a weekly radio program, playing contemporary and country music with a special message mixed in.
We meet the man behind the mic and find out why this is much more than listening to tunes for him and his listeners.
“Lovely the band. Hi, I’m Austin Harris. You’re listening to The Beacon. Today on The Beacon we’re going to talk about encouragement,” said The Beacon host, Austin Vanderzee.
The usual radio banter about the weather or latest trend is not on the docket for The Beacon host, Austin Vanderzee. Instead, the goal of this program is a higher calling.
“We wanted to have a program that could be on secular radio but would weave a spiritual message, without being preach-y and have a different message than what you hear from the pulpit,” said Vanderzee.
Vanderzee and his business partner, Jeff Okerlund, started The Beacon back in 1999. They took the idea to Results Radio in Sioux Falls.
“It’s a good fit for what we’re doing. Both musically, and the message we’re trying to convey on the station too,” said Scott Maguire, Results Radio Operations Manager.
With nearly two decades on the air now, their message of hope is growing. The Beacon is broadcast to 65 radio stations in about 25 states. But the reach doesn’t stop in the United States.
“Here is Hawaii, and one of our affiliates that’s really loyal is in the Marion Islands, Saipan. And they love The Beacon,” said Vanderzee.
There are two different programs Vanderzee produces and records every week. One for country music, and another for adult contemporary.
“I make sure I go through every lyric. I’ve had to pull some songs. In fact, half my country songs don’t make the cut because it’s a little too risque’ compared to what I want for The Beacon audience,” said Vanderzee.
Sprinkled in the middle of music from Blake Shelton or Maroon 5 are messages designed to touch peoples’ lives.
“I mean, we’ve aired this thing now for over 20 years, and throughout that time period I can’t begin to tell you how many people have reached out to us and said, hey this show has really made an impact in my life,” said Maguire.
“People think it’s all exciting to see the suicide rate went down. Well, if it’s still 40,000 people a year, somebody is trying to tell you they don’t have much hope in this world. So The Beacon is trying to say, come here, listen. This is not about religion, this is about a relationship,” said Vanderzee.
“I think this appeals to a wide variety of listeners. So many listeners have the opportunity to listen to those important messages,” said listener, Julie J. Iverson.
Julie J. Iverson has been tuning into The Beacon for about 15 years now. She says the ability to listen to a variety of music, while still being inspired is why she keeps coming back.
“I think the first time, I was just struck by the inspiration and the words of encouragement about faith and overcoming fear. And I think many people in the world need to hear that,” said Iverson.
Even though Vanderzee does the work of several people he says he’s not making a profit, and that’s okay. He’s more interested in delivering a message to change lives.
“It’s not just standing up behind a pulpit and bringing a message that everybody has heard, but also getting out there and touching peoples’ lives and mixing it up with the people that you meet everyday and sharing your faith. There’s nothing new about any of this. It’s what do you believe in, and if you truly believe in it are you willing to share it with others to give them hope,” said Vanderzee.
All of The Beacon broadcasts are available to listen to on their website. They’re also working on developing an app.