WOUB helped Bruce Figler find his passion
Figler graduated from Ohio University in 1977
ATHENS, OH — As executive director of the Pleasantville Music Festival in New York’s northern suburbs, Bruce Figler is gearing up for the first round of in-person concerts in three years. The Pleasantville Music Festival is a one-day music festival that showcases great national artists alongside up-and-coming new artists and local artists from across the region. He attracts nearly 7,000 visitors each year to the small village that bears his name.
“2019 was the last music festival we were allowed to hold due to the COVID pandemic.” said Figler. “We are excited to restart things.”
Figler grew up in Long Island, New York and chose Ohio University for college primarily because of the reputation of its broadcast program. But there were a few other reasons.
“My parents wanted me to go somewhere affordable,” Figler said with a laugh. “It couldn’t be Syracuse because my brother went there. I wanted to go somewhere not too close to home, but not too far, and I wanted the school to have a varsity hockey team. Ohio University ticked all the boxes.
However, shortly before Figler’s arrival in Athens, Ohio University upgraded the hockey team from the varsity level to the club level. But he still fell in love with school.
Figler was interested in sports and music. And Ohio University gave him the opportunity to explore both areas of the media industry.
“I worked in music on radio at ACRN, and I did sports on radio at WOUB,” Figler said. “For WOUB Sports, I covered the rhythm of hockey and soccer. I loved those sports and since neither were considered high level assignments, there weren’t many people who wanted to play them, so it worked out really well for me.
Figler eventually turned more to music, working with music programming WOUB AM. “At one point I looked at my sports friends and saw what they were doing on Friday nights. They were basically a bunch of guys huddled around a TV watching games. Then I “looked at my rock ‘n’ roll friends and what they were doing on Friday night. They were out with girls. I picked the music,” Figler said with a laugh.
While on campus, Figler used his musician friends and connections to organize a music festival.
“In sophomore year, I had the idea of getting a band of musicians together to play in the big yard at New South Green,” Figler said. “I knew a lot of musicians on campus. So I organized the festival and a few hundred people came. Little did I know that would be what I would do in the future on a much larger scale.
He is also interested in audio production. As a senior, he and a few friends collaborated on a children’s radio play called “Alix in Punderland” which won a grand prize at the Alpha Epsilon Rho National Student Production Competition in 1977. This was before the University of Ohio does have its own chapter of the broadcasting corporation.
After graduating in 1977, Figler began looking for jobs on the outskirts of the New York radio market. He personally delivered demo reels to radio stations, then followed up by phone a few weeks later to gauge their interest.
“I followed WRNW, a small station in Briarcliff Manor, New York and was told the new program director wanted another week with my reel. I ended up getting an interview with this new program director whose name was Howard Stern,” Figler said with a chuckle. “I was his first hire as a program director. Stern now jokes about that time in his career that he hired any idiot he could find. I’m one of those idiots.
After a few years there, as a full-time announcer and production manager, Figler landed jobs in New York (first at WTFM, then at WAPP, which no longer exist) that he thought would be her dream, but found being an on-air personality in a major market wasn’t all she was meant to be.
“At the smallest station, you did what you wanted, said what you wanted, and played what you wanted,” Figler said. “At the biggest station, you were told what to do and what to play. It wasn’t as fun or fulfilling anymore.
Figler decided to focus on audio production, setting up a recording studio in his home and starting his own company, Creative Sound Works. He jokes: “I was a pioneer of working from home, long before it was considered fashionable.”
Eventually the company outgrew the first floor of his home and for nearly 30 years his studios resided in offices in and around his hometown of Pleasantville, NY. During this time, he considered a return to radio but waited for a station to emerge that he believed would allow him the creative freedom he craved. In 2005, Figler found this station and took a weekend off the air at WXPK, The Peak. Figler would both run his business during the week and work weekends on the station’s airwaves for 15 years, until the pandemic hit. But that association ultimately led to what he does now, as executive director of the Pleasantville Music Festival. Figler credits much of his career success to his time at WOUB and Ohio University.
“I was able to cut my teeth there, both on air and in the studio, where I was able to work on my own stuff. The fact that there was this opportunity was crucial,” said said Figler, “I learned how to do things by spending hours and hours at WOUB studios. The fact that these studios were open to someone like me was huge.”