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sun-drenched artisanal coffee shop in Vieux Ste-Rose, Shaun McMahon reflects on
family life, his place within the community and a busy radio career, all while
maintaining his signature good cheer.
“Right before I turn on that microphone, I think about how I can make someone’s life better,” he says earnestly. “Every day that I go to work, I’m just trying to make somebody smile.”
You know him as the voice of the Saturday Party Jam and Weekend Breakfast on Montreal’s Perfect Mix, The Beat 92.5. At only 35, with nearly 17 years behind the mic, McMahon feels he’s undergone a natural evolution of sorts, especially since becoming a father.
Family Life & Fatherhood
“It’s amazing how children change you,” says McMahon, smiling at the mere thought of Ethaniel, 5, and Fiona, 2. “Ever since I’ve had kids, everything I do is for them. Truly the most wonderful thing this career has given me is the time and flexibility to be with my kids.”
McMahon has called Laval home since his parents purchased a home in Auteuil in 2004, where he lived until buying his own first home in Fabreville following his marriage to Heather Bisset in 2008. Bisset and McMahon, who met while studying and working as teaching assistants together at Concordia University, recognize that their two vastly different schedules compliment their family perfectly.
“Our situation is really reflective of the way the modern family is evolving,” says Bisset, who works full-time as a Communications manager in the pharmaceutical industry. “It’s really nice that I have the opportunity to focus on my career while at the same time knowing my kids are at home with their dad.” Bisset says that as a father and husband, McMahon is gifted at bringing humour to any situation that calls for it and his on-air personality is a true representation of how he is in real life.
“I try to spend as much time with my kids as I can. I may help raise them, but they’re the ones who help me grow,” says McMahon. “I love my work and I’m always excited to be there, but I’m also very lucky to work for a company that believes in putting family first.”
Growing Up Shaun
A self-described shower singer, prone to drop the occasional rap lyric when the mood strikes, McMahon fans may be surprised to learn that he is actually a talented (albeit shy) singer. As a kid growing up in Ahuntsic, McMahon routinely sang at church and for family and friends, but his biggest public singing performance was at his Vincent Massey Collegiate high school graduation, an unforgettable experience that still evokes a nervous smile and sweaty palms. These days, McMahon reserves his acapella stylings to sing lullabies to his two kids.
McMahon recalls an idyllic childhood with fond memories of the community he grew up in. “I remember Ahuntsic as being so vibrant; there were so many kids around. If we weren’t playing street hockey, we were riding our bikes. Everybody knew everybody. I wouldn’t trade where I grew up as a child for anything in the world, just as I wouldn’t trade where I live now for anything in the world,” says McMahon. “Laval is the ideal blend of everything we need to raise our family.”
As a child and teen, McMahon was your classic over-achieving student, excelling in academics and sports, participating in his high school debate team, hosting variety shows and winning multiple public-speaking competitions. “I always got such a thrill from performing, and I knew early on that I wanted to be someone who could captivate an audience,” he says.
McMahon credits his parents, Gary and Rose, with his desire to strive for excellence, heavily influenced by his father’s strong work ethic (Mr. McMahon worked for CP Rail for more than 35 years) and his mother’s early life hustle in the garment industry following immigration to Canada from Italy, followed by 25 years as a daycare educator at his former school, John Caboto Academy.
McMahon attended Dawson College in the Creative Arts program, and it’s during this time that he got his first taste of radio life with the CEGEP’s own station, CIXS Radio. “I knew I wanted to be in radio in high school, but once I walked through those doors at CIXS, I felt like I had arrived,” says McMahon. “I did a lunch time show and breakfast show, and I don’t know if anybody was even listening, but it was such a thrill to turn on a microphone and feel connected.”
McMahon soon met certain individuals who pushed him in the direction of pursuing radio. At just 17 years old, he landed an internship at a major Montreal radio station in the promotions department, and he began to accumulate field experience quickly after that. At one point during his CEGEP studies, McMahon recalls interning at the radio station, going to school and also working a part-time job at the then-named Paramount Theatre in Montreal. “Back then I was fortunate enough to have met some legendary people in the radio industry and that was really a formative part of my life that confirmed what I already knew; that I was going to do whatever it took and work for as many unpaid hours as I had to, to make this [radio] my job,” explains McMahon.
Despite being on the fast-track to radio success at the tender age of 18, McMahon felt that education was a priority. He followed the path some of his mentors had taken, and graduated from Concordia University’s Specialization in Journalism & Communications program. Within weeks of being accepted in the prestigious program, McMahon landed yet another station internship, this time on the air in AM radio doing weekend sportscasts at 940News. “I was so blessed to have had the perfect learning environment, being taught by teachers who worked in the field, and then on weekends working with people in the field,” says McMahon. It wasn’t long before the station hired him officially, and he’s been on the air ever since. His first eight years on air were sports, news and traffic reporting, and the last eight years or so have been in music radio.
Community Life & Giving Back
Today, outside of his radio career, McMahon is known for getting involved in community fundraising efforts, both small and large-scale, notably the Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation, including its flagship event, the annual Lakeshore Ball, which McMahon will be co-hosting for the second year in a row this November. Last year’s event raised half a million dollars. This cause is particularly close to McMahon’s heart, as both his children were born at this hospital, and he can’t say enough about the amazing care he and Bisset received on both occasions.
Besides co-hosting the Lakeshore Ball again this year, McMahon has been brainstorming ways to get involved in local community and educational initiatives both in Montreal as well as in Laval. Last year he participated as a celebrity interviewee for Laval Families Magazine’s annual Young Authors Contest, in which a high school student interested in Journalism had the opportunity to interview him in person and publish a Q & A.
This year, McMahon will be teaming up with Vincent Massey Collegiate’s public speaking program to help mentor students through that experience, hoping to help them get excited about academics, learning, and public speaking. “When I was in school, there were just so many people who did that for me, so my hope is that I can give back and do the same, even if I reach just one kid,” he says. “It’s incumbent upon us to find ways to give back. It’s what ties us all together.”
With seemingly limitless enthusiasm and optimism, the voice of your weekend groove is also a talented voice over artist, having lent his voice to the likes of ESPN, Discovery Channel, Metro grocery stores and countless others. McMahon has done voice work for almost as long as he has been in radio, and when not talking to you in between songs on The Beat 92.5, he is likely recording a commercial that you’ll hear in the near future.
While navigating a busy radio schedule, McMahon also dabbled in television and online productions this past year, appearing on Sportsnet Central Montreal and WatchMojo, two experiences he thoroughly enjoyed. “It’s hard for me to imagine life without radio as it’s so ingrained in who I am and what I’ve become, but it’s really exciting to approach the business from different angles and I hope to do more,” he says.
One thing is for certain; when you turn that dial to The Beat 92.5 on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning, you can bet that McMahon is doing everything he can to put a smile on your face.
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