Arts & Entertainment

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Power 99.1 program director spins hits at club and on No. 1 radio station in Tri-Cities

Being a well-known DJ can be a little like living the glam life of a celebrity -- with a degree of anonymity.

Thousands of listeners tune into Power 99.1 each week and hear disc jockey AJ Brewster play today's hottest hits. He also spins tables every Friday at Out & About night club in Pasco.

"Without being elected or anything, you're kind of like a public figure and you have to accept that responsibility," Brewster said. "The one good thing about being on radio is that people don't see me every time I'm talking. I'm not on TV like every day, so there is some anonymity and I like that."

The 33-year-old program director deejays at Power 99.1 and oversees a team of three other DJs. Recent radio ratings have placed Power in the No. 1 position with more than 70,000 people tuning in each week.

"We switched two years ago from a rhythmic format, which is basically rap and R&B, to a straight contemporary hit radio Top 40, which plays everything," he said. "Since we've done that, our ratings have over doubled. We were always middle of the pack and we completely took over the market."

This success is a far cry from when Brewster started out in the business.

"It took almost 10 years of me being in the industry before my parents believed I could make money in this industry," he said. "I spent a lot of time working for free ... and working part time and living on couches."

His dedication to his craft has not gone unnoticed. Cheryl Salomone, vice president at New Northwest Broadcaster, praised Brewster's daily efforts.

"We are the No. 1 most-listened to station in the Tri-Cities," she said. "I'm very proud of it and very proud of the work not only he's done, but the entire programming staff. I think the success is totally attributed to what they've done."

While Brewster attended Washington State University in Pullman, he started working part time at local radio station KZFN Z-Fun 106.1 and began mixing turntables at a night club.

"I've always kind of been into music," he said. "I sang and played guitar and trumpet for years and years, and it just kind of fit my background with performance and knowing music."

Studying athletic medicine, Brewster said he ran out of money just 12 credits shy of finishing his bachelor's. A job opportunity in Spokane for a mixing position caught his eye and after working there for three months, he was hired full time and soon became the assistant program director.

"It's kind of a hustle business -- you have to out-hustle the people above you to move up. If you're dedicated and you love the craft and put everything you can into it, you'll move up and succeed and do well."

After six years, Brewster applied for a job at Power, giving him the creative freedom to call the station his own.

"He is very passionate about his job, his stations, his career," Salomone said. "What makes him such a great director is not only his passion, but his leadership ability. That his people respect him and look up to him."

Brewster's wife, Jacqueline, a teacher at Pasco High School, constantly has to remind her students that her husband is a normal person, not a celebrity.

Despite having his share of crazy people knocking on his door at 2 a.m., requesting autographs and even songs, Brewster insists he appreciates his listeners.

"I'd say the best part of my job is the people, the way the station can affect people," he said. "Meeting them and how much they love the station. They remember things that we've done. Some of that stuff just blows me away because it's just us; we're normal people."

On the air it's easy to forget that thousands of people are listening each week, Brewster said.

"There's a human connection," he said. "It's me talking to you, not 'you guys.' We're regular, normal people doing our job. I remember thinking that way about DJs, but I just didn't think what it'd be like on the receiving end."

-- On the Net: www.power991fm.com

*Bethany Lee: 582-1465; blee@tricityherald.com

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