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Maggie Pelleyå finds inspiration, changes at WDNA

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It is hard to pinpoint exactly when Maggie Pelleyå’s life changed.  Perhaps it was in 1960 when she moved to the United States with the first wave of Cuban exiles, or when she changed career paths from working in the airline industry to WDNA Public Radio.

Though hard to pinpoint, the changes in her life have served her well. And Pelleyå’s current position as general manager at WDNA is a dream come true. She has fond memories as a young girl in Cuba visiting her father at his partly-owned radio station.

“I loved going there as a child,” she reminisces. Pelleyå also draws inspiration from her mother, who instilled in her the importance of education and never stopped studying. “Whether it was in a formal setting, or teaching herself a foreign language,” she said. Her father too was a big proponent of education. “He went back to law school when he arrived in America,” she shares, “and took the bar exam at the age of 60.”

VOLUNTEER

Her experiences at WDNA, located in the historic Shenandoah district of Miami, Florida, began as a volunteer. Pelleyå recalls that she and her husband volunteered as hosts of a Latin music program on WDNA because they loved Afro-Cuban music and it was not played on local radio.
She eventually served on the Board of Trustees and then finally as general manager in 1994. Pelleyå ensures that all departments have dedicated staff and adequate resources to operate.

“My additional responsibilities” she adds, “include grant writing, major fundraising, accounting and public relations.”

WDNA attracts an ethnically-diverse audience, “quite representative of the South Florida community,” PelleyÃ¥ says.  The format is jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, and music from other countries, including Jamaica, Brazil, and the East and West Indies.

“Radio,” she says, “is the most effective and free way to educate an audience about the richness and diversity of our community.”

SETBACK

In 1992, the radio station had a major setback when Hurricane Andrew destroyed the facility. Though the radio station recovered, Pelleyå says “nothing compares to that devastation.

“Struggles,” she adds, “are many in any business, but particularly so in the non-profit world. (Nonetheless), all struggles can be overcome if individuals have confidence in a vision. “Regardless of gender, if one is educated in the field, and is surrounded by talented staff they can come back,” Pelleyå insists.

WDNA has come a long way since its 1992 destruction. “We now own a $2.5 million state-of-the-art radio station,” Pelleyå boasts, “with a beautiful Jazz Gallery and performing space.” She is eternally grateful to the staff and volunteers who make WDNA possible.

“They labor daily to keep public radio as an important service to South Florida,” she says. Operations Manager Joe Cassara has worked with Pelleyå since 1996. He describes her as a poster child for Zen lifestyle - calm, introspective, and wise. “I’ve been working with Maggie since WDNA was a tiny operation in a business park, “ Cassara marvels. “What a great adventure it has been thus far.”

EFFORTLESS

Cassara commends Pelleyå, claiming he has never seen her upset, even in high-pressure situations. “She floats effortlessly through the halls, perfectly in tune with existence,” he says.

“Some general managers in the radio business, especially in South Florida, are not generally people of high moral fiber,” he admits.  “Maggie is the complete opposite of the prototypical GM; she is fabulous.”

Pelleyå reveals that in her spare time she loves spending time with her husband of 33 years and their two sons. She also likes to read literature, listen to music, cook and spend time in her tropical garden.

When asked where she would like to see her business in 10 years, Pelleyå laughs. “Without a mortgage, and providing an indispensible source of music education to our community,” she says.

Judith Hudson is a freelance writer for Caribbean Today.

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