Originally published in UTEP Magazine, Winter 2015
By Daniel Perez • Photo by Laura Trejo
John Carrillo, a Peabody Award winner whose ear for sound took him around the world, listened to his heart in February 2014 when he returned to The University of Texas at El Paso to serve as development director at KTEP-FM (88.5).
Carrillo, an El Paso native and first-generation college graduate, caught the broadcasting bug at Bel Air High School and became a mass communication major at UTEP. He made an early connection with the late Charles Stanley, a longtime music faculty member who started the University’s electronic music program in the early 1970s.
He said Stanley encouraged him to experiment with the department’s state-of-the-art multitrack audio equipment. Carrillo, who started working at commercial radio stations as a freshman in college, credits the experience he received under Stanley for helping him become a recording engineer and land a job with National Public Radio (NPR) in 1988.
The 1979 UTEP alumnus earned his Peabody Award in 1995 as project engineer and technical producer of NPR’s “Making the Music with Wynton Marsalis.” The award is given for journalistic excellence in electronic media.
“Sam Donaldson (award-winning retired ABC News reporter/anchor) and I are the only UTEP graduates to earn this award. Sam has three. I’m happy with my one,” Carrillo said during an interview in his third floor office in Cotton Memorial. Although on the job since February, his walls and shelves are bare except for the Peabody Award.
He was based in Washington, D.C., during his 10 years with NPR, but his assignments took him into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant while it was under construction in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and to the jungles of southern Belize. His expertise as a recording engineer also earned him a spot covering national political conventions in the 1980s and ’90s.
Carrillo returned to El Paso for family reasons in 1997 and since then has taken leadership positions with a public radio station, a school district and several local, regional and national government agencies. He earned his master’s degree in communication studies from UTEP in May 2014 and looks forward to helping El Paso’s public radio station build its reputation and revenue stream.
Patrick Piotrowski, KTEP general manager, said Carrillo comes with a wealth of experience that will benefit the station. He said a big advantage is his familiarity with the difference in fundraising for a public radio station versus other kinds of nonprofits.
“John has great experience and he understands the system,” Piotrowski said. “He gets what we do.”