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Meet Monte Belmonte, NEPM's new show host

Monte Belmonte.
Joyce Skowyra
/
NEPM
Monte Belmonte.

After 17 years hosting "Mornings with Monte" on 93.9 The River/WRSI, Monte Belmonte has joined New England Public Media to be host and executive producer of a new radio show and podcast celebrating life in western Massachusetts.

We chatted with Monte about developing the new show, what he loves about western Massachusetts, and his favorite way to spend a frigid winter day.

Ok, we need to know: is Monte your real name?

No.

What’s most exciting to you about launching this new show?

There is so much happening in western Massachusetts, and I love talking about it all — from our incredible art and music scenes, our restaurants and breweries, our rich history and up and coming industries. I’m looking forward to talking to the local people who make this a wonderful place to live.

Why public media and NEPM?

I’ve long been a fan of public media. I grew up watching the greatest PBS shows like “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and became a fan of public radio in college. I think of public media as the food co-op of media. The community has more of a say in the kind of media they are looking for and at the same time, public broadcasters understand their mission to the public goes beyond sheer dollars and cents.

You’re bringing Kaliis Smith with you to NEPM too! Tell us a bit about Kaliis and how she’ll be involved in the show.

Kaliis walked through the door of The River almost a decade ago. I recognized her ability to communicate right away. Being at a music station at the time, I asked her if she likes music. Turns out, she’s in like 50 bands! Kallis’s curiosity doesn’t stop at just music — she is such a wonderful nerd about so many things as well as one of the hardest workers I know. When you add her long history here in the 413 to her natural talent and curiosity, her perspective on what is happening in the valley each week will be a wonderful part of the show.

NEPM-1948.jpg
Joyce Skoywra
/
NEPM
Kaliis Smith and Monte Belmonte.

How did you end up in western Massachusetts?

Like so many others, the tractor beam of UMass Amherst drew me here. In my case, it drew my wife to get her masters degree in 2002 and brought me along with her. We fully intended on moving back to the Boston area, but stayed because we knew this is where we belong.

What do you wish people knew about Western Massachusetts?

I know I want to know more about our history. Our indigenous history, our industrial history, our abolitionist history, our post-revolution rebellious history. Plus, I’m told two major sports were invented here? I am excited to learn more about those kinds of things.

What's happening with Monte’s March?

The March will continue! Working together as a community and a nation to end hunger is something I very much believe in. Food insecurity continues to be an issue in our community and radio gives me a platform to draw attention to the problem. I’ve grown to recognize that the March means something to people in the fight against hunger. While the details of next year’s March aren’t yet fully worked out, rest assured that the March will continue.

We’re heading into the depths of winter, what’s your favorite way to spend a frigid day in western Massachusetts?

Inside. Drinking coffee. Reading the paper. Watching kung fu movies.

Now that you’re warmed up, what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Any flavor that mentions chocolate in the name twice.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee is like my blood. Tea for when I need to relax my mind.

Favorite public media personality?

Of all time? Christopher Lydon, host of WBUR’s “The Connection,” His show was my entry into public radio in college, and even though I’ve never met the man personally, his name appeared in the thank you’s on my wedding program. A story for another time…

What are the next few months going to look like for the team as you get ready to go live?

Over the next few weeks, Kaliis and I will be working on getting to know the rest of the team. We’ll be listening to what people are talking about to inform what WE are talking about. We’ll be brainstorming about big questions that face the 413 and we’ll be looking for the right people to help answer those questions. I also want to take the time to forge relationships with all the universities and colleges. There is an expert in virtually every field in a 50 mile radius from the radio station. I want to talk to all of them!

What do you want to know from your audience as you build the show, and how can they connect with you?

I want to know what matters to them. What are the topics they are talking about over dinner with their family, with their colleagues at work and while they are out relaxing with friends. Share with us what is important to you — here’s my email: monte@nepm.org, be in touch!

Give us one scoop! What’s coming up this month that you don’t want to miss?

Well, I’m not missing NEPM’s upcoming Valley Voices Story Slam at the Drake on the 19th. The theme of the night is “Sorry, Not Sorry,” so I’ll be channeling my inner Beyonce for the night.

Read more about Monte Belmonte and his work at NEPM in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.