Bruce Figler on stage

WOUB helped Bruce Figler find his passion

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Figler graduated from Ohio University in 1977

ATHENS, OH – As the executive director of the Pleasantville Music Festival in New York City’s northern suburbs, Bruce Figler is preparing for the first in-person concert series in three years. The Pleasantville Music Festival is a single-day music festival that features major national performers alongside new up and coming artists and local artists from around the region. It annually attracts nearly 7,000 attendees to the small village which bears its name.

“2019 was the last music festival we were permitted to have due to the COVID pandemic.” said Figler. “We are excited to get things restarted.”

Figler grew up on Long Island, New York and chose Ohio University for college mainly because of the reputation of its broadcast program. But there were a few other reasons.

“My parents wanted me to go somewhere affordable,” said Figler with a laugh. “It couldn’t be Syracuse because my brother went there. I wanted to go somewhere not too close to home, but not too far, and I wanted the school to have a varsity hockey team. Ohio University checked all the boxes.”

However, shortly before Figler would arrive in Athens, Ohio University dropped the hockey team from varsity to club level. But he fell in love with the school anyway.

Figler was interested in sports and music. And Ohio University gave him the opportunity to explore both areas within the media industry.

“I worked in music on the radio at ACRN, and I did sports on the radio at WOUB,” said Figler. “For WOUB Sports, I covered the hockey and soccer beat. I loved those sports and since neither were considered high profile assignments, there wasn’t a long line of people wanting to take them, so that worked out great for me.”

Figler eventually gravitated more toward music, doing some work with WOUB AM music programming. “At some point I looked at my sports friends and saw what they were doing on Friday nights. They were essentially a bunch of guys huddled around a TV watching games. Then I looked at my rock ‘n’ roll music friends and what they were doing on Friday nights. They were out with girls. I chose music,” said Figler laughing.

While on campus, Figler used his music friends and connections to put together a music festival.

“As a sophomore, I had this idea to get a bunch of musicians together to play in the large courtyard on New South Green,” said Figler. “I knew a lot of musicians on campus. So, I organized the festival and a few hundred people turned out. Little did I know that would be what I would do in the future on a much larger scale.”

He also took a keen interest in audio production. As a senior, he and some friends collaborated on a children’s radio play called ‘Alix in Punderland’ that won a grand prize in the 1977 Alpha Epsilon Rho National Student Production Competition. This was prior to Ohio University having their own chapter of the broadcasting society.

After graduation in 1977, Figler started looking for jobs on the periphery of the New York City radio market. He delivered demo reels personally to radio stations and then followed up by phone a few weeks later to gauge their interest.

“I followed up with WRNW, a small station in Briarcliff Manor, New York and was told the new program director wanted another week with my reel. I ended up getting an interview with that new program director whose name happened to be Howard Stern,” said Figler with a chuckle. “I was his first hire as program director. Stern now jokes about that time in his career saying he hired any idiot he could find. I’m one of those idiots.” 

After a few years there, serving as a full-time announcer and production director, Figler landed jobs in New York City, (first at WTFM, then at WAPP, neither of which exist anymore) which he thought was his dream, but found being an on-air personality in a major market wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

“At the smaller station, you did what you wanted, said what you wanted and played what you wanted,” said Figler. “At the bigger station, you were told what to do and what to play. It was no longer quite as much fun or fulfilling.”

Figler decided to focus on audio production, putting together a recording studio at home and starting his own company, Creative Sound Works. He jokes, “I was a pioneer in working from home, long before it was considered fashionable.”

Eventually, the company grew too big for the first floor of his home and for nearly 30 years, his studios resided in office space in and around his hometown of Pleasantville, NY. During that time, he thought about a return to radio but waited for a station to emerge that he thought would allow him the creative freedom he craved. In 2005, Figler found that station, and took a weekend on-air job at WXPK, The Peak. Figler would both run his company during the week and work weekends on the air at the station for 15 years, right up until the pandemic. But that association eventually led to what he is doing now, serving as executive director of the Pleasantville Music Festival. Figler credits much of his career success to his time at WOUB and Ohio University.

“I was able to cut my teeth there, both on the air and in the studio, where I was able to work on my own stuff. The fact that there was that opportunity was crucial,” said Figler. “I learned how to do things by spending hours and hours in the WOUB studios. The fact that those studios were open to someone like me was huge.”