For Andrea Collins, the road to becoming one of Montreal’s most listened-to English radio announcers is rooted in west Winnipeg.
Collins, who can currently be heard on-air as a top-rated drive-home announcer on Montreal’s Virgin Radio 96, was raised in St. James.
"I remember I used to listen to the radio and think all the DJs had the coolest job," says Collins, who graduated from Silver Heights Collegiate.
Collins went on to obtain a four-year BA Joint Degree in Communications at the University of Winnipeg and Red River College while cutting her teeth on those schools’ radio stations.
That led to her first professional job on 1290 CFRW with Don Percy and then onto Q94, Curve and BOB, as well as KOOL FM in Victoria B.C., before finally landing at her dream job at Virgin Radio 96 in Montreal almost two years ago.
The hardest part about adjusting to life in Montreal has been, not surprisingly, the language, but Collins is taking French classes and immersing herself into her new community in Le Plateau everyday, often with her dog, Sophie.
"There is always a lot to do here, so my challenge is to take in as much of it as I can. Just last week it was Fashion Week, Poutine Week and Igloofest, this crazy outdoor dance festival," she says.
But Winnipeg is never that far away, she says.
"Last week I was at this record store where the clerk and I started chatting. Turns out, he went to Oak Park! We high-fived in the middle of the store and had a good laugh."
Collins says the transient nature of radio careers is scary, but she’s found a way around it: "I feel that if you always work really hard at what you do, you’ll be just fine."
And that hard work is paying off.
Collins is among the first, or possibly the first, female drive-time hosts on Montreal radio that has close to two million listeners each week, and it’s something she doesn’t take for granted.
"I look at the other people I’m up against in my time slot and it’s all men, or teams of men and women. I look at their studios, full of producers, operators and co-hosts and then think, ‘hey, it’s just me here, doing all those jobs that all those people do, solo...and my numbers some of the biggest in the market,’" she says.
"That’s a good feeling."
Listen to Andrea online at montreal.virginradio.ca and follow her on Twitter @ACVirginRadio.
Trevor Suffield is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.