Dave Engstrom hosts ‘music with a message’ on VU radio station WVUB-FM for 25 years
By Bernie Schmitt
For 25 years Dave Engstrom shared his love of “music with a message.”
In mid-September Engstrom signed off for the last time from “The Missing Link,” a Christian music radio show he had hosted since 1994 on Vincennes University’s Blazer 91.1 radio station (WVUB-FM).
For two hours every Sunday, from 7 to 9 p.m., Engstrom shared with listeners his love of contemporary Christian music. That’s 2,600 hours of air-time.
All of his time, including what it took to prepare his shows, and the weekly drive to and from his home in Monroe City, was completely volunteered.
“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “It was two hours of greatest hits for me. I played music by artists not typically heard — especially back when I started.”
The show was titled “The Missing Link,” and all of it planned and executed by a volunteer disc jockey who had never studied broadcasting or worked for a radio station.
“They needed on-air volunteers,” Engstrom said. “I filled out paperwork and recorded a sample of what I would do.”
He credits Toby Hancock, who used to host “The Connection” on WZDM, a commercial radio station in Vincennes, with being his mentor. Hancock helped Engstrom put together a sample recording. VU radio station officials liked it, and gave Engstrom his show.
“The only thing was that they wanted at least a 13-week commitment,” he said. “It turned into 25 years.”
VU honored Engstrom just before his last show on Sept. 15. Rebecca Clark Duckworth, program director for Blazer 91.1 WVUB, presented Engstrom with a microphone-shaped award of appreciation.
“He has had a really positive and powerful impact on our Sunday night programming,” Duckworth said. “He always comes prepared with not just a playlist, but with scriptures and devotions to share with listeners. He’s always been very devoted to the station.”
I want to be like Christ for myself, my family and the people I work with. I try to be a shining light for them.Dave Engstrom
Engstrom brought his own music to the WVUB studio, often getting new releases from Christian music record companies. Later, when the industry became digitized, he bought music from iTunes and played them from his tablet.
“I just brought in things I liked,” he said. “It was stuff you wouldn’t hear at the Dove (Christian music) Awards.”
Bringing different sound to the airwaves
Engstrom plays the guitar and enjoys what he calls “Americana” music, like that of singer/songwriter John Prine. During his radio program he aired groups like The Lost Dogs, the Seventy-Sevens, Jars of Clay, and even artists like Johnny Cash and the Byrds.
“My total focus was Christian music,” he said. “It was more alternative type of music.”
Now and then he would offer bits of positive commentary, but he was quick to say that he “didn’t talk much” on the show. On occasion he would discuss a song or artist, or talk briefly about how to grow stronger with God.
“The longer I got used to it I’d do a little more,” he said. “Sometimes I would talk about something I was going through or talk about something that happened, but not very often. I definitely wasn’t preaching.”
On a few occasions he brought in local Christian music artists to perform live. Former Miss VU Hannah Swan, Clay Harting, and others have played on his show. Other times he would promote artists performing locally at coffee houses or churches. He’d learn how much of a following he had when he gave away music CDs or concert tickets.
“I’d sometimes have sound bites from different artists, too,” he said. “But I was never one for self-promotion (even for his show). That’s just not my personality.”
Engstrom said he became a Christian when he was a freshman in high school. He grew up in Marion, Ind., and after earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Ball State University he made his way to Vincennes University to study aviation.
Journey to VU
“At first I wanted to play professional golf,” he said. “But I wasn’t all that good, so I thought I could open my own pro shop. That’s why I studied marketing. But then I thought I’d be a missionary pilot.”
He finished his degree at VU and earned his pilot’s license, but he said he hasn’t flown since. While going to school at VU he landed a job at a local mental health facility (which became the Samaritan Center), and he’s been working there ever since.
“I love my job there,” he said. “I got interested in social work and I enjoy helping people. I think I’ve always had the attitude and mindset to help people.”
Working in mental health takes a lot of patience, Engstrom says, something he’s learned over the years. He claims to be a straight up, “black and white type of guy,” and says one cannot be that rigid in mental health. He’s learned patience and flexibility, and an understanding that not everyone has the tools to cope with everyday life.
“I love to work with the adults I work with,” he said. “I try to help them get what they need, and recognize that not everyone has the ability to deal with things like I do.”
He said his Christian faith was made stronger while in college at Ball State, when he got involved with the Campus Crusade for Christ organization. It also helped that his roommate, Bob O’Bannon (former Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon’s nephew) was a Christian. His experiences and mission work with that group strengthened his faith in God.
“I was fortunate in that regard,” he said. “But I think my experience with Campus Crusade for Christ really helped me a lot.”
Engstrom says that it is the “hope within me” that keeps his faith in God strong. He believes that Jesus Christ walked the earth, died for man’s sins, and was resurrected from the dead. That idea has carried him through times of doubt.
“I believe Christ was here,” he said. “I truly believe that. It is what I hang onto. I want to be a stronger man of faith. I want to be like Christ for myself, my family and the people I work with. I try to be a shining light for them.”
It is his mission to share God’s grace with others.
“I’ve been given a large amount of grace and I have to give that grace to others,” he said.
Engstrom has shared that message and his passion for music with radio listeners for the past 25 years. He said he is grateful to have had the opportunity, thanking his wife Sandy (who was “a part of this ministry”), his children Cameron and Morgan, radio station WVUB, the University, and his listeners.
“I enjoyed every bit of it,” he said. “I was just trying to get the music out there.”