Man behind the mic: Larry Berger
Photo: Larry Berger is the founder and executive producer for Saturday Light Brigade. Photo by Joey Kennedy
By Diya Singh | Chronicle Intern
Saturday Light Brigade (SLB) is a radio show which aims to take youth seriously and elevate their voices. The man behind the mic for the program? Larry Berger, who is both the founder and serves as executive producer.
Berger had a passion for radio from the very beginning. When he was 13 years old he began working at a community radio station in Pittsburgh. At that point he had been more interested in the technical side of the radio, soldering wires, making recordings and things of that nature.
Eventually, he became an engineer for bilingual and specialty programs, which he said is what sparked a deeper appreciation for the capabilities of radio; giving a voice to others, and soon being on the air himself.
In 1978, when he was a junior in high school, he founded SLB for an audience of everybody, no matter the demographic.
“I pitched an idea for a radio program that would bring together people from all walks of life — youth and adults, rural and city,” Berger said. “The Saturday Light Brigade was born and has aired since 1978.”
As graduation loomed the following year, he decided that he wanted to pursue math and science, but he also had a deep intrigue in the world around him and learning about diverse backgrounds, things he attributed to his time working with radio.
“My time on the radio instilled a strong interest in learning about community issues, working with people with backgrounds different than mine, and thinking about the world from a broader perspective,” he said.
Berger decided to attend Carnegie Mellon University where he earned a dual degree in Chemical Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy.
“One reason I decided to go to Carnegie Mellon was a relatively new department called Engineering & Public Policy,” Berger said. “This department brought a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems at the intersection of technology and society. Engineering majors like me worked alongside students majoring in urban affairs, public policy, humanities, and other subjects. This mindset and my work on the radio supported my interest in environmental engineering — which requires different perspectives as well as good communications skills.”
Throughout college, he was involved with the campus radio station, as well as maintaining the SLB program.
After college, Larry got a job as the technical editor of Measurements and Data Corp, a national magazine, but quickly transitioned to a job as an environmental engineer. In this profession, he worked for several different consulting companies before taking a job at MSA Safety (Mine Safety Appliances).
All the while, he still devoted time to SLB, which he both produced and hosted weekly. It was at this time that SLB started to grow. It also started to gather attention in the form of several state and national awards. The radio began to offer youth workshops, remote broadcasts, and publishing a newsletter that reached thousands of listeners.
Then, in 2000, SLB was incorporated. Until this point, Larry was a volunteer, but he soon realized that he wanted to spend all of his time working within SLB, and transitioned out of his job as a director of environmental affairs at MSA Safety.
With its new developments, the radio gained a partnership with the Children’s Museum in 2000 when the museum aimed to expand and was seeking out small nonprofits that could benefit from the expansion or plant seeds in their footsteps. In 2004, the studio was created, and it was just recently renovated in 2022.
Since then, SLB has continued to expand as a radio producer that makes content for and from youth. Not only do they make the effort to facilitate this, but they also ensure that created media is pushed out to radio stations all over the country.
Larry has managed to accomplish so much in his years at SLB. This does not go to say that SLB goes without tribulation. The radio has to navigate the world of ever-changing media and make sure that it is the most effective in reaching people.
“Another challenge is technology,” Berger said. “While radio is still important, we now have to keep up with emerging technologies and make predictions on which ones we should focus on. This is daunting for a multinational media company, let alone a small nonprofit like ours.”
As for Larry, he hopes to continue the improvement of the Saturday Light Brigade radio.
“My priorities now are to ensure the success of our expansion and, as always, continue to develop and grow our staff,” he said. “I love what I’m doing, but also want to be sure it continues if I decide to slow down a bit or retire.”
SLB can be heard on Saturdays, from 6 a.m. to noon, on WRCT 88.3 FM.