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Hempfield native gets Howard Stern's help to break into talk radio

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Run-of-the-mill radio reporting just isn't Dante Vallozzi's style.

Vallozzi — Hempfield native and aspiring disc jockey — is getting a shot in the field with help from radio shock-jock Howard Stern and Sirius Satellite Radio.

"The radio work I feel I'm good at has always been personality-driven," said Vallozzi, 25, who lives in New York City.

Vallozzi graduated from New York University in 2007 with a degree in business communications and landed his first on-air job last summer on the morning news at WWNC-570 AM in Asheville, N.C., reporting "city council, county commissioner events and anchoring the local news," he said.

A month into the job, Vallozzi's supervisors told him his penchant for sliding humorous personal slants into his on-air reports did not suit the station's style.

"Technologically, it was a great experience, and I can't say enough good things personally about the people I met ... but it just didn't work out."

Jerri Jameson, WWNC-570 AM news director, agreed.

"News was probably a bit constraining for him ... he's a talented kid, he should have some future in the talk radio arena," Jameson said.

That became evident late last year when Vallozzi — who interned for Stern's operation his last semester in college — entered the Sirius "I Want to Be Howard Stern" radio contest and was chosen the winner by a group that included Stern himself.

Vallozzi was driving home to Greensburg last fall when he heard an advertisement for the contest. A few days later, he made a three-minute demo recording and mailed it to New York.

A few weeks later, Vallozzi was in the car again when he heard Stern featuring the demo on his show as one of three finalists.

"He was laughing at my stuff. That was just wild," Vallozzi said.

In November, Vallozzi did an hour show on Stern's Sirius show "Howard 101," in which unique, up-and-coming talents are featured. By December, Stern and his staff voted Vallozzi the winner.

Vallozzi won $5,000, two on-air interviews with Stern and a chance to perform for another hour on the "Howard 101" channel. But he got something much more valuable from Stern.

"He (Stern) ended up calling me on my cell phone personally just to tell me I am really good at this, and that I have a future in it and I am doing the right thing with my life."

Vallozzi discusses subject matter twice a week with Tim Sabean, program director for Howard Stern Channels on Sirius and is slated for additional paid spots on "Howard 101."

"Dante is intelligent, well-prepared and able to speak comfortably about the topics of the day," Sabean said. "We plan to have him on for specials from when he has a topic to work with. Call him a young Howard Stern in training."

As he awaits his big break, Vallozzi said he keeps his delivery fresh by recording daily podcasts from his laptop.

He stays abreast of current issues that could make for talk fodder like the bank bailouts, President Obama's first 100 days in office, or the possibility of General Motors or Chrysler going bankrupt.

"What they want from me is sharp humor as it relates to those kinds of topics. It's just a question of building an audience, building a brand," Vallozzi said. "It's just a question of how the audience responds to me that will determine where I go."

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