PITTSFIELD — Bill Daughtry is a radio sports broadcaster for ESPN New York's 98.7 FM, and an afternoon and late-night jazz host for WBGO 88.3 FM. He's covered Super Bowls and World Series, the Summer Olympics and such. But recently, he told a group of teenagers in Pittsfield that working for a major sports network wasn't his "A choice" or "dream job."
"It wasn't my B or C or even D job," Daughtry said. "I wanted to play professional baseball."
A group of about a dozen young people and some community members got to meet Daughtry a couple of weeks ago in the up-close and personal Mr. Finn's Cabaret setting of Barrington Stage Company's Blatt Center for the Performing Arts. The broadcaster was selected to help pilot a new speaker series for teens and young adults involved in the theater's Playwright Mentoring Project.
According to the program's official description, "PMP participants range in age from 13 to 19. Many live in foster homes, in single parent families or in families struggling to support themselves financially. These teens are frequently struggling with issues such as bullying, substance abuse, foster care, unconventional family structures, violence, pregnancy, sexuality, self-injury, eating disorders, date rape, racism, and acculturation, as well as many of the other challenges that youth face during the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood."
Daughtry, a friend of Barrington Stage Board of Directors member and education chairperson, Sheila Richman, was prompted by moderators Richman, and BSC Associate Director of Education Jane O'Leary to share some lessons and experiences from both his more than 40-year career and his far-from-cookie-cutter life.
"With motivational speakers like him, perhaps we can help better the youth associated with the PMP," said BSC Press Director Charlie Siedenburg.
Daughtry spoke frankly about managing life's curveballs.
He talked about how he handled being raised by loving parents who exposed him to all sorts of culture only to find out, at age 53, that the woman who raised him wasn't his biological mother. He spoke about growing up in the New York Metropolitan area, experiencing the culture shock of going to college at SUNY Albany, finding no black radio or media in the state's capital and starting his own shows in response. He explained how, not being the best math or English student, he learned to use the knowledge he had to reach his greatest potential and goals. He's built a fearless pragmatism and confidence.
"It took me four times to pass algebra, but I can add, subtract, multiply and divide. I can deal with who, what, where, when and why. Learn how to master the basics," Daughtry told the teens. "I may not know how to conjugate a verb properly, but I can tell a story."
"Take the journey," he said. "Practice things that help you get ahead in life. As you develop your interests, you also develop your skills. What I've learned in life, is forget about the plan ... It's about every offshoot and avenue you can explore if you're prepared. Then, you can take the journey and enjoy the ride."