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November 3, 2017

Meet Melissa Major

As a Digital Producer in WNET’s Interactive Engagement Group, Melissa Major works on website management, content creation, and project management. “I started overseeing the Great Performances website last October, around the time of the Hamilton’s America premiere (a very exciting first episode to work on). I collaborate with the Great Performances production unit and the new Audience Engagement team to produce promotional clips and other materials for the site and YouTube Channel for each episode. I also manage uploading the full episodes into Media Manager for streaming after they premiere on-air. During each Great Performances episode campaign, I coordinate closely with Whitney McGowan (Associate Director of Social Media), who manages Great Performances’ social media presence.  I also help the Chasing the Dream team manage their website and facilitated the addition of the American Dream Score Calculator section to the site,” Melissa says.

Read on to learn about Melissa’s lifelong connection to PBS and WNET, the Broadway-related content on Great Performances (and the GP website) that will have show queens whistling a happy tune, and more.

Melissa Major

What is your background, and how did you land at WNET?

I studied journalism and psychology at the University of Maryland at College Park. During my time there, I interned in the Education Department of PBS in Crystal City (Arlington, V.A.) and ended up in a temporary position working on PBS LearningMedia. In that role, I collaborated with several stations to upload digital content to PBSLM, included WNET. I was in touch with Sandy Goldberg in WNET’s Education Department, which led to another temporary position working on PBS LearningMedia – this time in the Education Department. From there, I moved on to my most recent previous role, a three-year stint at Random House Children’s Books. In that role, I strategized and implemented digital marketing campaigns for board books through young adult novels. I knew I eventually wanted to return to WNET and kept an eye out for relevant openings. When the digital producer role opened up in IEG, it sounded like a great fit and opportunity – so I applied and was lucky enough to be selected for the position.

Great Performances has just launched an exciting line-up featuring She Loves Me, Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, and other recent critically acclaimed Broadway shows. What are some of the features visitors can find on the Great Performances website?

We’ve built a Broadway’s Best on PBS collection page on the Great Performances website – which is where you can find all GP content related to the series. In addition to promos and excerpts from the shows, there’s some fascinating fillers including interviews with the cast and crew created by the GP production unit. There are also several fabulous blog posts written by our very own Broadway guru, Elisa Lichtenbaum. Once the full episodes become available for streaming, they will also be accessible through the collection.

You also work on a variety of website relaunches.

Yes, the other main component of my role since I started here in August 2016 has been acting as a project manager and web producer on website re-launches. I worked alongside Chris Mather (Director of Online Production) and several others in IEG to re-launch PBS SoCal’s website and implement PBS SoCal Passport last November. This summer, I led the re-design and re-launch of NJTV New’s website. I spent a good deal of time in the NJTV Newark studio during the project, which was a great experience.

WLIW Passport, a benefit that gives WLIW members access to an extensive on-demand library of public television programs, launches December 14. Tell us about your work on the project.

I am acting as the overall project manager on the WLIW Passport implementation project, which is a company-wide effort. This involves coordinating with WLIW, IEG, Membership, Communications, and Marketing to ensure that all teams are aligned and have what they need to complete their segments of the project. There are a lot of details that need to be in place – both technical and promotional – for the launch to be successful. I’m helping ensure that those puzzle pieces come together.

For our Media with Impact campaign, we’ve been asking viewers to share stories describing how THIRTEEN has influenced their life. How has THIRTEEN (or the PBS station of your childhood) inspired you?

I grew up in New Jersey, so THIRTEEN was my local PBS station. I loved Sesame Street growing up, which influenced my interest in educational content as a young adult. (I also attended the University of Maryland, which was coincidentally Jim Henson’s alma mater). My career kicked off at PBS, which eventually led to working here at WNET. So basically, you could say that THIRTEEN and PBS have been a constant in my life in one way or another from childhood to adulthood.

Which three shows airing on our stations this month are you most likely to watch, stream, or record?

Three upcoming Great Performances shows: Noël Coward’s Present Laughter (tune in tonight at 9pm!); an encore of In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams (Friday, November 10 at 9pm); and Foo Fighters: Landmarks Live in Concert (Friday, November 10 at 10pm). I’m especially looking forward to the documentary about In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical. I saw the musical years ago and am excited to learn more about the making of it.

Where do you live, and what are some of your favorite places in your neighborhood?

I live in Secaucus, N.J. New Jersey gets a bad rap, but I grew up in the state and have always been a fierce defender of it. We have beaches, we have places to kayak/bike/hike, we’re close to the city, and we have all the malls you could ever want or need. What’s not to love? Of course, North Jersey is decidedly superior to South Jersey…but that’s a conversation for another time. Secaucus is a relatively small, family town right near Met Life Stadium and in the heart of the Meadowlands. I really appreciate the Meadowlands, which I lovingly refer to as “the swamp.” Even though Secaucus is small, we have over 20 parks – and I enjoy spending time there in warmer weather. One of my favorite spots is the park/walking path that my apartment overlooks. There’s a quaint two-mile loop along the water and some really pretty plant and tree filled areas. My favorite coffee shop is Koffeewagon, which is off Route 17. They close and re-open on weekends from 6pm – 10pm to serve homemade crepes, and the family that owns it is really jolly and welcoming. There’s also a great Italian restaurant down the street that serves a pasta dish that involves setting a giant cheese wheel on fire.

Do you have a special interest or hobby outside of work? If so, tell us about it!

I love to paint and draw, although I don’t do it nearly enough these days. I have gone to a few painting classes at Edgewater’s Uptown Art in the past few months, though, which were a lot of fun. I also love to travel and spend time outdoors as much as possible. Recently, I took a quick 15-hour road trip up to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, during the Celtic Colours Festival. Highlights included driving along the foliage-lined coastal Cabot Trail and listening to lots of live Scottish and Irish music at local pubs. We also participated in a workshop to learn some basic Scottish square step (square dancing).

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