Eisenhower High School boasts a promising producer
It would suit T.J. Walsh — a senior at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island — just fine if he some day is the producer of a Super Bowl telecast.
Walsh, 17, of Alsip, is the only student to be involved for all four years of high school with Eisenhower’s WDDE-TV studio. He also was the first student to successfully lead a crew to stream an event live on the Internet for the school.
His interest in production — stage and screen — was ignited when he watched his older sister, Jessica, 19, a former Eisenhower band student, perform in concerts presented in the school’s Performing Arts Center.
“I was always interested in the performing arts, what happened behind the scenes. I wanted to know how things were run, and I told my mom I wanted to learn how to do everything from sound to lighting,” he said.
As a freshman at Eisenhower, he became part of the production crew for the school’s TV station.
“I liked knowing I was part of the crew. Without them, there wouldn’t be a production,” Walsh said.
He gained a lot of experience when he attended the Illinois Broadcasters Association broadcast camp at Bradley University in Peoria the summer before his sophomore year. The five-day camp taught Walsh all the basics.
“If it wasn’t for that camp, there’s a lot of things I wouldn’t know here at Eisenhower. I learned skills there that I use every day,” Walsh said.
Today, as the station’s student general manager, he is in charge of streaming more than a dozen events this fall season.
“I like to be in charge of things because I’m a leader, and when you’re streaming, you can make things how you like them,” he said. “I choose the camera angles and I decide what shows up on the screen and what everybody else sees. I am the one who makes it happen.”
He spends most of his day at a computer.
“He absolutely loves all facets of production,” said Jodi Jasmin Pelini, who is in charge of Eisenhower’s broadcast department, “so much so, he built his own production studio in his home. His expertise and enthusiasm during these past four years have been absolutely immeasurable.”
Walsh got involved over the summer with St. Xavier University’s broadcasting department and now runs a weekly radio show there on WXAV-FM (88.3).
It was just supposed to be a summer camp in radio broadcasting.
“I thought I’d like to learn about radio. It’s a little like TV but without video, and it turned out to be a lot more interesting than I thought it would be,” Walsh said.
At the end of the five-day camp, Walsh and fellow Eisenhower students Joe Dixon, a junior, and Joe Serna, a senior, had an idea for a radio show.
“I am really good at production and my friends are good at the on-air part, so we came up with the idea to do a podcast at my house. So we asked St. Xavier if we could air one of our shows,” Walsh said.
Peter Kreten and Pat Creed, who work in St. Xavier’s media department, gave the idea the green light. The students’ idea for a sports podcast-turned-radio show, called “After the Whistle,” airs Wednesdays from 9 to 10 p.m. on WXAV-FM radio.
“It feels really good. I am the producer of the show and I get to run the show,” Walsh said of the program, which features Dixon as host and Serna as co-host.
In addition to his radio show and duties at the TV station, Walsh is president of the school’s stage crew and has served for three years as the theater’s stage manager. He also is active in National Honor Society, and through his junior year, he played percussion in band.
Walsh said his parents, Dorothy and Thomas Walsh, are his mentors.
“They support me with everything I do,” he said. “Before I buy my own equipment, I go to them to make sure I’m not buying it to buy it. Every time I finish a production, I show it to them and they give me honest feedback and I usually take their advice into consideration. They really do help me a lot.”
He has been accepted to Chicago’s Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, where he plans to study film and broadcasting after he graduates from Eisenhower.
Until then, his single-minded determination will help him succeed, he said.
“When I start something, I have to finish it,” Walsh said. “I close and lock my door and won’t come out until I finish the editing, which can be three to eight hours. I won’t stop until I see what I just created. I try to make things the best and make the best out of every production.”