Willie Mae McIver
Forging Ahead With Rhythm-N-Prayze

With 19 years behind the mic as a Gospel radio announcer and with a thriving nation-wide Gospel radio consultancy business that keeps her hopping all over the country, 1999 Stellar Award winning Gospel Announcer of the Year Willie Mae McIver is particularly qualified to comment on the direction that Gospel is heading.

“Look for it to become even more contemporary. Oh, there will always be the traditional Gospel music sound, and I love traditional, but I see it becoming more contemporary, and I see it leading to the saving of more souls. But that’s what Gospel music is about …the saving of souls, by any means necessary.”

McIver is not one to shy away from new ideasWillie Mae McIver or new technologies. In fact, she seems to embrace them. In addition to being the creator, producer, and host of the longest running national "live" gospel radio program in the U.S. ("Gospel Inspirations", airing on ABC Radio Networks), she also has her own company, Covenant Media Group, a full-service radio consultant company, and finds time to consult for Radio One Inc., the largest minority-owned radio group in the country.

While many stations have made their live broadcasts available on-line via RealAudio technology, McIver has taken that concept one step further, and has developed a made-for-internet, 2-hour broadcast that can be heard 24 hours a day. “I love surfing the net”, she told GospelFlava, “and I didn’t see any Gospel music shows out there, and I really felt that there was a need.”

Consequently, she launched Rhythm-N-Prayze in March 1999 to fill that void. Every week, McIver prepares a new two-hour broadcast, and makes it available from her website, in association with Lightsource at Broadcast .com. To listen, you simply need to go to Rhythm-N-Prayze, which serves to link you in, and then click on the RealAudio button. (That means that your computer needs to have the RealAudio software, which you can download for free, if you don’t have it.)

The beauty of this is that while listening to Rhythm-N-Prayze in the background, you can surf the web, perhaps checking out the various and growing number of websites dedicated to Gospel music. And McIver always lists the songs that she plays on the website.

McIver explains that “the format of the show is a mixture of inspirational, contemporary, urban and traditional, but leaning more to the contemporary than the traditional [a 60:40 mix]. That’s because contemporary is the wave of Gospel music right now, and I want to keep everyone informed about what’s going on. Not everyone likes this change, because not everyone likes changes, but at least it keeps them informed.”

Like most Gospel announcers, McIver is faced with difficult choices when it comes to deciding what material to play, especially with explosion of new releases that keep pumping out. So how does she create her playlist?

“I look for content, production, Willie Mae McIverstyle, all of these come into play, especially the message…..I check out all the charts, I keep abreast of Billboard, the trade magazines such as Gospel Today, and the national charts everywhere.” Regarding the growing number of independently- produced albums, “Yes, I’ll play them if they’re good quality, and have good distribution behind them. I don’t like to play something if people can’t buy it.”

As for Gospel music on the internet, McIver looks forward to a day when many of the Gospel websites come together in some sort of umbrella organization. “We need to invite the artists and the industry to come and meet with us, to see how we can help each other, maybe have a seminar or a workshop”.

Into whatever new directions and technologies God leads Gospel music as we enter the new millenium, be on the look out for Willie Mae McIver. She’s sure to be there.

— interview by Stan North —

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