Benjamin Charts New Course for Soundcast
By: David Ibata
A new sound is coming to Christian radio and the world of podcasts this spring, as the new head of The Salvation Army’s Soundcast radio ministry starts updating its production values for today’s audiences.
“It’s another wave of re-branding, bringing new freshness to it,” said Chris Benjamin, the recently appointed director of production and operations for Soundcast.
Soundcast is based at Southern Territory Headquarters in Atlanta. It produces four programs and distributes them to 1,660 radio stations internationally: the 15-minute “Wonderful Words of Life” (on the air since 1955) and its Spanish-language counterpart, “Maravillosas Palabras de Vida” (1992); and the one-minute spots “Heartbeat” (1996) and “Latido” (2000). The programs can be listened to on Soundcast’s website and downloaded as podcasts from iTunes and OnePlace.com
“Starting in March of this year,” Benjamin said, “we’re launching a completely new format for ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Latido’ to give them the same feel of the most popular podcasts of the last couple of years, like ‘Radiolab’ and ‘This American Life,’ with sound effects and music underlays.”
For example, when “Heartbeat” co-host Meagan Hofer talks about a quick trip to the grocery store, her narrative might be accompanied by the sound of a car door slamming, hurried footsteps and a music track.
The 35-year-old Benjamin grew up in a Christian home in Philadelphia. He experienced a spiritual awakening as a 15-year-old at a Third Day concert (“before they became big, when they were still playing small churches”).
“I felt really for the first time what it meant to have a personal connection to Jesus, and really feeling the Holy Spirit move in a way he hadn’t before,” he said. “That’s when my family’s faith became my own. Life wasn’t the same after that.”
A musician who plays drums, guitar and piano, Benjamin graduated in 2003 from Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida, seeking a career where he could combine a love of music with a major in audio production. He toured with bands before landing a job as the worship pastor – “which meant I also was multi-media director” – of an Atlanta-area church.
More recently, he said, “I was looking for another position and praying I could be in audio production and still be in ministry. The opportunity at The Salvation Army came when the couple who had been doing the operations and production of Soundcast, Mike and Regina McGraw, retired last year.”
Benjamin joined the five-member Soundcast team and was promoted to his present position in January 2017.
“Since we’re available digitally, we can track and see listeners all over the world,” Benjamin said. “Most of our audience still comes from the States, but it’s nice to see listeners in places like Accra, Ghana, in Africa. There’s a shortwave radio station there with a passionate following.”
For the future, Benjamin said, “we are looking at possibly adding more languages to the ‘Heartbeat’ format. We’d like to have ‘Heartbeat’ in English, Spanish and possibly Korean, and grow from there.”
“I think really what I want to achieve is to make the programs as relevant today as possible, to bring the kind of quality to Soundcast where a non-Christian could listen to one of these shows as quality entertainment – and sneak the gospel in. I want to see the production quality and the style continue to progress as the secular world does.”