Charese Fruge’ Talks To Chasta Michaelis

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on August 3, 2021 

Most people have to leave a station to get promoted, especially to the position of Program Director, but when the staff starts telling you to apply for the open position, that’s when you know you’ve earned the respect of your colleagues and peers. That’s what happened with Chasta Michaelis, the newly promoted Program Director of KSAN (107.7 The Bone)/San Francisco. She’s also a co-host with Lamont & Tonelli in the morning and host of the midday show on the station. “I do all the things,” she says.

Michaelis literally stumbled into the radio business with a random call into a station to try to win concert tickets. “I actually got into radio because the cosmos was looking out for me,” she says. “I randomly called into Rock 100.5 The KATT in Oklahoma City looking for Aerosmith tickets for my mom’s bachelorette party and the jock (Greg Zoobeck) and I hit it off over the phone. We were on the phone for maybe 20 minutes and then he offered me an internship right on the spot. I went in the next day with my fake paperwork (my university didn’t support a radio internship at the time, but there was no way I wasn’t taking it) and I took the job,” says Michaelis. “I’m a music lover through and through, so I constantly listened to the radio when I was a kid. I was always mesmerized by the jocks but never considered it was a job that I could really do. I’m so glad the universe had other plans.”

Here’s a look at Chasta’s career history: “As I mentioned, I started as an intern at Rock 100.5 The Katt in Oklahoma City where after 9 months of working for free I got thrown on an air shift in an emergency need of a jock. I threw up in a trash can, went on the air and never looked back,” she says. “I did solo shifts and worked on a few morning shows for just shy of two years and then left to go to Hollywood to pursue my California dreams. When one of the managers of the radio cluster in Oklahoma moved to Los Angeles to take the position as PD of ESPN Radio, I was able to make my way back into radio as a reporter,” says Michaelis. “I worked in Los Angeles at MetroNetworks doing news, traffic, entertainment and sports for five years,” she explains. “In 2008, I transferred to the San Francisco Bay Area where I worked for various stations through MetroNetworks. My biggest break came in 2012 when I was brought on at Cumulus to be on ‘The Lamont & Tonelli Show.’ After being on their show for 5 years, I took over the midday shift for the legendary Steven Seaweed when he retired. I’ve been doing both shows ever since and was promoted to the Program Director of 107.7 The Bone this past Monday.”

Besides being on the air in a few major markets with people she considers to be living radio legends and interviewing rockstars she’s idolized her entire life, the coolest thing that ever happened to her was interviewing one of her father’s idols. “I was able to tell Bob Seger that hearing his voice is like getting a hug from my dad in Heaven,” says Michaelis. “He thought that was pretty cool and it was one of the most special moments of my life. I know my Daddy was proud.”

Ironically, Chasta never really thought about getting into management in the radio business. “A few months ago, when the position of PD opened, members of my staff started telling me I should go for the position. At first, I laughed…management was never anything I had considered,” she says. “However, after at least five staff members came to me with the idea, it hit me over the head…if they see me and respect me in that role in their heads then that says a lot. If they 100% believe in me, why wouldn’t I? I thought a lot about the pros and cons and decided it was something I really wanted to do. I’m very grateful that everyone at Cumulus has been so supportive and believes in me.”

Reaching this level of success for Chasta did not come without its challenges. “It’s a fairly obvious statement to say that one of my most challenging things has been fighting for myself and ‘proving’ my deserved place among mostly men,” she says. “Currently, I am VERY supported by the men who surround me, but it hasn’t always been that way over 20 years. There have been times I’ve had to soul search and dig deep to know my WORTH and DEMAND it. There have even been times I knew my WORTH might end my run at that station or even my radio career, but your WORTH is always WORTH the sacrifice.”

Chasta has great advice for women who want to become Program Directors. “Start taking notes and soaking up all the information you can. I have stood beside many managers over my career, and I’ve always soaked up every bit of wisdom they had to offer,” she says. “Take the notes, understand what every department deals with and what their challenges are. And don’t be afraid to go for it. I read a statistic that men think they must be around 70% qualified before they apply for a job while women think they must be 100% qualified. Take the bet on yourself every time.”

With the pandemic roaring its head again, I asked Chasta about the previous year and if her routine had changed in any way because of COVID-19. “I have been working from home since March 2020. I have a beautiful professional home studio (built by my musician/audio expert of a husband), so my transition was easier than many, I’m sure,” she says. “I’ve honestly noticed I’m more productive with my time and get way more done in my ‘Rock N Roll Bunker’ only because there are no distractions, and I don’t have to commute. My biggest problem is remembering to stand up and move my body. I got a treadmill desk that is just outside my studio door so that has been very helpful,” says Michaelis. “On a personal note, it gave me the gift of more time with my family. My son was 4 during the lockdown and those are precious fleeting years. Every single extra second spent seeing his face or giving him a quick kiss as I went for a bathroom break (and not spent in a commute) was priceless.

As you can imagine with all the above being said, spare time is a real luxury for me,” says Michaelis. “Although, when I’m not with family or working, I MAKE time for my other passion which is running and working out. Exercise is my link to sanity; my therapy and it is crucial to keep up with the energy my busy life demands. I am a firm believer that energy begets energy.”

Honestly, not much keeps her up at night, according to Chasta. “I work so hard and trust my higher power so much that I know whatever life brings me I’ll figure it out. If you don’t believe in yourself in that way, who will? Also, I’m usually exhausted,” she says. “My routine keeps me busy and balanced. I consider myself a high performer and it’s all because I have a routine and plan for every day. The day doesn’t always go that way, but knowing I have a routine helps me get through the toughest of times. My balance comes from working out, my water intake, my gratitude journal and most importantly the love from my husband and son.”

Despite Chasta’s already busy schedule, she’s got several projects in the works that we can look forward to. “Outside of my work at Cumulus, I do have two passion projects. I host and produce a music based television show called ‘Soundwaves TV’ that airs in the Bay Area and at www.soundwavestv.com. I also host my self-help type podcast ‘Rock Your Life’ which is my other baby. Follow Chasta on IG: @chastalynn, FB: @chastaradio and Twitter: @chasta