WRSI morning show host ‘Monte’ Belmonte signing off on Friday after 17 years

  • WRSI radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte leads his 2022 Monte’s March fundraiser for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts while pushed a shopping cart in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • WRSI radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte talks with U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern during the 2018 Monte’s March. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

  • WRSI radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte, dressed as Elvis Presley, speaks outside Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield, where his annual Monte’s March fundraising walk concluded last month. STAFF PHOTO/Mary Byrne

  • WRSI radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte, dressed as Elvis Presley, signs posters from Wildwood Elementary School students at Kendrick Park in Amherst during the 13th annual Monte’s March. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2022 8:53:29 PM

NORTHAMPTON — After 17 years of bringing humor, local focus and a family dynamic to the WRSI 93.9 The River morning show, beloved radio personality Christopher “Monte” Belmonte will host his final show on Friday.

“It was time, and that being said, it is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in my life,” Belmonte, 44, of Turners Falls, said of his decision to retire from the show. “It’s like still being in love with someone, but it still being time to move on.”

Belmonte said he made his decision in an effort to “manage being normal.” His schedule would often involve him waking up at around 2 a.m. to prepare for his 6 a.m. show, a routine he said has worn down his mental and physical health over time. While he is committing himself to figuring out “a different way of doing things,” his departure from the morning show is far from a retirement from radio.

Aside from planning to continue appearing on WRSI in a different capacity, Belmonte cited big plans that he is currently keeping as a surprise.

Belmonte said he took up his position on Jan. 2, 2006 after working as a DJ and production director. WRSI, which was around 25 years old at the time, had featured “many morning show hosts over the years,” including current MSNBC show host Rachel Maddow, who Belmonte credited as a mentor.

“All of us have had a different take on how the show has been carried out over the years,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte said his “take” involved “bringing a human and family dynamic” to the program. This began with him moving interviews out of the “sterilized” studio environment and into more natural, relevant settings. He also made an effort to involve his family in the show, bonding with listeners as they grew closer to his personal life.

“My children have been on the show many, many times … and my wife is a weekly guest,” he said, adding that his father had once served as the show’s New England Patriots correspondent.

At the forefront of his focus was ensuring that the morning show felt unique to the area. He compared his program to fine wine made from grapes with unique flavors that point to their place of origin.

“I wanted ... people to feel like they’re in the Valley,” Belmonte said. “In this age of podcasts and Spotify, I think the best thing a terrestrial radio show can do is give the listener a sense of place.”

For Belmonte, the sense of community that the morning show fostered felt “like gathering around a campfire and sharing our feelings and listening to music together.” Friday’s show will epitomize this atmosphere, as “a lot of the regular guests” will all come together for a goodbye.

“Hopefully I won’t cry too much,” Belmonte said.

Toward the end of the year, he said, there will be a “career-long retrospective on some of the best moments over the past 17 years of my show.” After that, though, Belmonte wouldn’t say. He declined to comment as to who might succeed him following his departure.

“(Listeners) should have no fear that there will be music in the morning on The River, that’s for sure,” he reassured. “I’m excited to hear what they bring, because I’ll be listening.”

The Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls, of which Belmonte is board president, congratulated him in a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday. The center wished Belmonte “nothing but congratulations, love and admiration as he retires” before celebrating him for his many hats.

“Among his many other accomplishments, including championing countless good causes like Monte’s March for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Cancer Connection Campout, Monte has captained our Shea ship with aplomb and his trademark sense of humor,” the statement reads. “There have been many nights where he’s shown up at the theater after working a full day to introduce a show and help out, only to turn right back around to wake up a few hours later to get back on the airwaves.”

While being an morning radio host is no longer conducive to a healthy lifestyle for Belmonte at this point in time, he did not rule out an eventual return to the show.

“I’m going to keep all my options open … but I think I’m going to focus on other opportunities for a bit,” he said.

Belmonte would not reveal what he has in store for his next chapter, but assured fans that it would be exciting. He also confirmed that the Monte’s March fundraiser will not only continue, but will be “more amplified in 2023.”

For now, though, Belmonte is looking forward to spending more mornings outside “a windowless studio when the sun rises.” On some days, he said, he would not see the sun at all, heading into work before dawn and leaving after dusk.

“I’m open to figuring out what sunrises look like,” Belmonte said, “other than days I’m on vacation.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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