By Karen Thurber, For The Herald Bulletin
DALEVILLE — As a child, radio personality Ann Duran remembers her father calling her his mini-Barbara Walters.
“I used to interview everybody and hold this little microphone up like I was something,” she said.
Then in high school, she was drawn to singing groups from swing choir to madrigals. “My original dream was to be Sandi Patty. Who doesn’t love to listen to Sandi Patty?”
Ann Duran’s voice has guided her career, known for working in such top radio markets at Boston, New York City, Houston and Orlando.
In January, she joined the staff of a local group of stations within Backyard Broadcasting, where she is promotions coordinator for MAX, WERK and WHBU.
She goes on air from 3 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays to play classic hits on WERK-FM (104.9)
“I love it because all of these songs bring back a specific memory,” she said.
Duran is not a disc jockey who blends into the background between songs.
“I like to engage people to talk to me,” she said. “I like to know what’s going on in their lives, what excited them. I want to know that you found an incredible bargain today at the mall because I’m a shopaholic. I’m learning something about the listeners and the community. And that excites me.”
A cat, dog and husband
Local listeners may recall Duran serving as co-host for WTPI’s former morning show in Indianapolis a few years ago.
“Ann’s old fans from Indianapolis found her quickly,” said Amy Dillon, general sales manager at Backyard Broadcasting. “Word got around within hours, and she was receiving calls and e-mails from former listeners.”
Brad Feutz, of Anderson, a home remodeling contractor, is one of Ann’s new fans.
“Sometimes what we’re doing is pretty mundane stuff, but Ann and her music really helps to motivate you and gives you something to think about,” he said. “She isn’t afraid to state her opinion. She’s funny, but she has some attitude, and I like that.”
A native of Terre Haute, Duran is married to husband Carl, also a Hoosier.
“Carl is the love of my life, and I want to stay in Indiana because of him, forever. He is my soul mate. He’s shy around everyone but me, and sometimes I have to fight to get a word in edgewise when we’re by ourselves.”
Other family members include a cat that came with the name Herman and a rescue dog named Izzy.
Two years ago, Duran helped a southside Anderson woman who had found an injured stray dog. At the time, Duran had a thank-you program titled “The Gratitude Campaign.” Anderson resident Deborah Long, who found the dog, called Duran who then discussed the rescue and need for surgery money. Dozens of callers responded with donations totaling more than $1,000. The dog was saved.
That’s the kind of spirit Duran likes about the Hoosier state.
“I love Indiana,” she said. “I spent way too much time on the East Coast. It was time to be in the Midwest where we have morals and values. People are much kinder here than they are on the East Coast.”
Duran almost moved to Indiana when she was looking at universities.
“If I was going to be Sandi Patty, I had to come to Anderson,” she said with a laugh. But she wanted to be closer to Bloomington-Normal, Ill., where she grew up.
That led her to Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. to pursue her dream as a singer.
But it wasn’t long before she realized how hard it would be to reach the level of some of her peers. “There were people auditioning for the Metropolitan Opera, and I was not that person,” Duran said.
A professor suggested she focus on radio and television, so in 1985, Duran began working at the university radio station.
By 1987, she graduated and landed a paying job, but not in radio.
“I was a door-to-door salesperson,” said Duran. “I was working for photography companies that sold family portraits. When I learned that they were dirty, paying us cash under the table, I was like, OK, next.”
The program director for Millikin’s radio station had begun working at a nearby commercial station and offered her a job to do the weather and Chicago Cubs updates.
Not everyone was impressed.
“I was dating someone at the time, and he used to say, ‘When are you going to quit playing with your hobby and get a real job?’ That was the end of that relationship.”
Eventually, New York called. There she did a live daily show from a small theater on Broadway.
“My little extra goodie was that they wanted me to be up-to-date on the shows, so they would send me to a matinee immediately after my show every day, free of charge.”
While working later at Boston, she came to a sure realization.
“I think a lot of my career was chasing a dream of hitting so many cities, like so many people join the Army to see the world. I realized that I didn’t need to chase anything anymore.”
One of the hardest broadcasts for Duran was in Boston during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“I went on the air shortly after the plane hit the second tower,” Duran remembered. “There was shame and guilt at the fact that the plane had flown out of Boston.”
Bostonian casualties were high.
“The morning show stayed on the air all day and the next day I went on 10 a.m. and it turned into talk radio. I went live with callers, trying to calm people, letting them say their piece, whatever they needed to do.”
Danny Meyers, morning show host and program director at WXLK in Roanoke, Va., was working with Duran then.
He said, “It was a very stressful time to live in Boston, and Ann was so good at putting people at ease. There was a song she found by Brian McKnight that she played called, ‘Win.’
“It became a theme song for her show during that very difficult time. She definitely connects with people on a passionate level, and that is kind of a theme for Ann in her career.”
Donny Osmond on line
Her most embarrassing moment came when she had the chance to interview one of her idols, Donny Osmond, live over the phone.
“Nothing would come out of my mouth,” she said. “It was like I had laryngitis and I was so embarrassed.”
Duran’s co-host took over the interview. “He makes fun of me to this day.”
Duran’s enthusiasm struck a positive note with local station owners.
Steve Lindell, vice president of operations with Backyard Broadcasting, said, “Immediately, the energy and excitement for the day-to-day of what we do was very evident when Ann Duran walked in.”
During Duran’s second week on the job, the Go Red for Women Campaign, to mobilize women for heart disease awareness, was under way.
“Within hours, Ann had a promotion and recognition program set up,” Amy Dillon said. “She had red roses delivered to both hospitals to recognize the nurses and staff and started an on air campaign, as well. Nobody asked Ann to do it. She carried the torch.”
The campaign hit close to home for Duran. Her mother-in-law has suffered a heart attack.
She said, “We, as women, have to watch for the warning signs, because they’re different than they are for men. Who would think that pressure in your jaw would have anything to do with it? I would have thought I was having a tooth problem, not a heart attack. But my mother-in-law had that feeling.”
Duran also set up a program while working in Indianapolis called The Yes Mam! Mammogram Challenge.
“I kept hearing about women who weren’t getting mammograms and I was startled because I just figured that’s what you do. The reasoning behind it that I was hearing was ridiculous. That it hurt. I was like, ‘So, what, you don’t think cancer hurts?’”
“Ann really puts her heart around every project she gets involved in,” Dillon said. “The hospitals reported a huge increase in mammograms from that campaign, and that was what it was all about.”
Though radio can be finicky as formats often change, Duran plans to stay here.
“There is no way I’m ever leaving Indiana. It’s my final stop.”
That is, unless one TV star gives her a call.
“I know Simon Cowell is going to ask me to replace him on ‘American Idol’ when he leaves. That could happen very soon, and I would have to go.”