Former State College Radio Personality Finds Success in Pittsburgh
Elista Burneisen is a pretty big deal.
The Penn State graduate has made a name for herself in Pittsburgh as the evening disc jockey at Star 100.7 FM.
She got her start in radio at B94.5 FM in State College.
She credits a great deal of her success to the time she spent in Happy Valley.
"I wouldn't be in radio if it weren't for Penn State, that's for sure," Burneisen says. "I always wanted to do big things and I wanted that Penn State degree. It carries you everywhere. It's really helped with networking, which is key. Without Penn State, I definitely wouldn't have the opportunities I've had."
Burneisen grew up outside Pittsburgh in the town of Seneca, Pa. When it came time to choose a school, she looked at several but decided Penn State was the place for her.
As a broadcast journalism major, Burneisen gained valuable experience in the classroom. She also did some work for Penn State's ComRadio, a student-run web broadcast.
She says the experience she gained was invaluable.
"The opportunities ... the internships, it was all about production. I gained a lot of experience and met a lot of great people at Penn State," Burneisen says.
She did an internship at B94.5 and eventually earned a job as the evening host. B94.5 is part of Results Radio and after graduation in 2011, she left State College to work for the company's stations in Parkersburg, W. Va.
In Parkersburg, she was on-air and handled promotions for six different radio stations.
"It was fun and without the opportunities I had at Penn State, I wouldn't have been able to make that transition," Burneisen says.
When the opportunity in Parkersburg came up, Burneisen didn't exactly jump at the chance.
"Honestly, I turned it down at first. I said, 'I don't know if I want to do this.' I loved State College and I didn't want to move. Luckily, I talked to the right people and decided it was a great opportunity. Thankfully, I took it because it was my ticket to Pittsburgh," she says.
At B94.5, Burneisen worked closely with P.J. Mullen, the host of the Morning Zoo. He knew that Burneisen would make it in a major market.
"Elista is a marketing phenom, she just gets it. She knows it's all about the radio promotions as well as the social media aspect, the grassroots marketing, community relations and making sure the station logo and brand are in every camera shot and mention possible," Mullen says. "I'm so proud of Elista. Her goal from day one was to make an impact and she has done exactly that every single day of her young career."
When she landed the job in Pittsburgh, she thought it would be a perfect fit — and it is.
"I love entertaining the people here. My family is here ... so close they can hear me. The people of Pittsburgh are so friendly. It's just great to be a part of the community. It's similar to State College. It's family and tradition. Everyone is so friendly," Burneisen says.
Burneisen is on-air from 7 p.m. until midnight during the week. She also pulls some Saturday shifts.
She also has to do appearances at remote broadcasts throughout the city.
"I'm live for every Free Shirt Friday at the Pirates' games. It's really hard to go to PNC Park every Friday," Burneisen says with a laugh.
Seriously, though, she loves working nights.
"I've worked nights my entire life. I've gotten used to it. For me, it's just a way of life. Some people can do, some people can't. I've always been a night owl my entire life. I've always liked staying up late," she says.
Believe it or not, there are perks to working late at night, she says.
"For me, it works. I get to sleep in, get up and do my thing. I go to the gym, there's never a crowd. I don't have to deal with traffic. I go shopping and there are no lines. Things like that that a lot of people have to deal with, I don't have to," Burneisen says.
In the studio, things get interesting late at night. Burneisen said that working evenings tends to bring out the night owls.
"The people at night who call me ... those are my people. Those are people I really enjoy talking to," she says.
Working in a major market certainly has its perks. Whenever a major recording artist comes to town for a show, they often make the rounds at area radio stations. As a result, Burneisen has interviewed Gavin DeGraw, Ke$ha and the Backstreet Boys.
She loves interacting the artists.
"We have a lot of opportunities to bring them in, ask them questions. A lot of them, you'll meet them before they're big. It's interesting to watch them grow and to see their songs take off. Going to concerts and being around music is just a lot of fun," Burneisen sats.
She says that interviewing Ke$ha was quite the experience.
"You always see people and think they're going to be a certain way. She completely surprised me. Just how nice she was. And she's gorgeous. She's just a beautiful person," Burneisen says.
Interviewing the Backstreet Boys was also among the highlights of her young career.
"Growing up a 90s kid, those were the songs I would listen to when my heart would break," she says. "They're still the songs I listen to when my heart breaks. It was so cool to talk to them and see how their life has gone."
For Burneisen, Pittsburgh is now home. But she has fond memories of her time at Penn State. She always tries to get back to State College, especially during football season.
"I only have one weekend off a month, so it's challenging," she says. "But I come back to Happy Valley whenever I can. I definitely miss that place."