Life-changing call — Lloyd Newell reflects on his 20 years with 'Music and the Spoken Word'

Published: Thursday, Dec. 2 2010 5:30 a.m. MST

In 1990, when President Gordon B. Hinckley sat down with Lloyd D. Newell to extend the call to serve as announcer for "Music and The Spoken Word," "he told me, 'this call will change your life.' I didn't really get what that meant at the time," Newell says. But looking back from a perspective of 20 years, "I've realized that it has changed my life in all the meaningful ways I can think of."

Not only has Newell rubbed shoulders "with all the wonderful people associated with the broadcast, who are the kind that would walk over hot coals for you," and been able to travel the world, he has come to have a more thankful, more appreciative view of that world.

"Another thing President Hinckley told me was to make sure each 'Spoken Word' was an inspirational gem. That's what I've tried to do with all my heart and soul."

Fifty-two times a year, Newell delivers a message "designed to uplift and inspire, to be a bright spot in someone's life. It's nondenominational, dealing with universal principles; it's something that anyone can listen to, can take from, learn from."

Occasionally, he gets letters saying he should preach the gospel. Sometimes he gets letters from people who think he is preaching for a church. "They write to Rev. Newell of the Church of the Crossroads of the West, saying they like this half-hour church."

But that's not what this broadcast is all about, Newell says. "It's simply a gift from the church to people everywhere."

Back when he started, "I never once thought about what it would be like to do it for 20 years. But the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years, and here we are." Last Sunday, Newell started into his 21st year of doing the broadcasts, which makes him second only to Richard L. Evans in terms of longevity.

You could say his connection to the choir broadcast goes back even longer. In his home, he has a 1929 upright Philco radio that belonged to his mother, who grew up in a small town near Grace, Idaho. "She told me that on Sundays, her family would gather around the radio and tune into KSL and the Tabernacle Choir broadcast. To me, that's a wonderful connection with the past, an emblem of the broadcast. It warms my heart to think of them gathered around this radio."

Newell himself grew up listening to broadcasts, "but I was just a dorky kid. It never occurred to me that I could have a part of it."

Newell grew up in Utah, graduated from BYU and planned on going to law school and perhaps into politics. "But as the time came closer, I thought, 'Do I really want to practice law?' I decided to get a master's degree in communications instead."

His emphasis was on broadcast journalism, and his first job was as the 6-11 p.m. TV news anchor for WSEE in Erie, Pa.

A couple of years later, Newell's father passed away, and his mother developed health issues, and he decided to move back to Utah. He got a job teaching at BYU but also started doing speaking engagements around the country, talking about leadership and communications. "It's what a lot of people call 'motivational speaking,' but I always tried to give real substance." That endeavor took him to 46 states and a dozen countries.

He had also got an anchor job at CNN, doing news and also broadcasts from around the country, places such as Nashville, Tenn., and Pennsylvania. "But it got to the point where being on the road that much was not fun anymore." Newell had married his wife, Karmel, and found it harder to be away from the family.

He had done some voice-over work for Bonneville Communications, "so in the spring of 1990, I heard they were holding auditions for a backup announcer position, and decided to give that a try."

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