Jess Phaneuf, a familiar voice to listeners of WUMB, is small in stature and big in passionate personality. The 31-year-old radio DJ spent seven years on the Island airwaves at WMVY, before moving on last year to WUMB in Boston.

Despite her years of experience, she admitted to some self doubt, and a case of nerves, in her first few shifts at her new job.

“I do remember being really nervous,” said Ms. Phaneuf. She sat down for an interview with the Gazette during a brief trip back to Martha’s Vineyard for a WUMB sponsored concert last Saturday.

“This is Boston,” she continued. “There are so many more people listening. It’s just a bigger market. WUMB is a station where they pride themselves on the host being so knowledgeable about the music, and having a lot to say about the music. That’s not necessarily what MVY is all about. They’re kind of cool, casual, laid back. They don’t talk as much. I was really nervous when I first started, wondering would I sound intelligent, would I be able to speak enough about the music, and would the listeners like me. Here I am coming in a little younger, and brand new. The listeners of UMB know what they like so I hoped they would like me.”

As it turned out, she had little to be nervous about. Now firmly established as the midday host at WUMB, Ms. Phaneuf has proved popular and innovative in bringing new and live music to the radio airwaves.

She got a good foundation early, but didn’t develop her passion for radio until a quirk of academic happenstance.

She started working in radio at Emerson College and never looked back. — Alison L. Mead

“My parents really instilled it in me at a young age,” said Ms. Phaneuf. “My dad went to Woodstock, my mom saw the Beatles when she was 16. So I got a pretty good foundation, although I didn’t really get into music until college. I liked the normal stuff teenagers like when I was a teenager. I wasn’t on the cutting edge of new music then.”

At Emerson College in Boston she initially hoped to prepare for a career in musical theatre, but the audition didn’t turn out as well as she hoped. Partly on a whim, and partly on the notion that she might someday enjoy a career in radio news, she checked off broadcast journalism on the form where she had to declare a major course of study.

“They required us to do the news at the radio station,” said Ms. Phaneuf. “I did the news, and became an anchor, and loved doing the newscast,and thought maybe I would work for NPR in some capacity.”

Her career so far has been fueled by a habit of hard work, a knack for being around when most people are not, and a willingness to do whatever needs to be done.

Following her sophomore academic year at Emerson, she hung around during the summer to do the newscasts while most students were away on vacation. The station needed help filling the airwaves, and she was asked if she would take a couple of DJ shifts.

“I loved it,” said Ms. Phaneuf. “I think I knew right away, this is what I want to do. I would rather do this.”

Seven months after graduating from Emerson, in a field where getting a career started is notoriously difficult, Ms. Phaneuf hooked on with WMVY. The hours were lousy, but the experience was invaluable.

“First I was on overnights, the graveyard shift,” said Ms. Phaneuf. “I was so thankful and happy to have found a full-time radio gig, not long after graduating from Emerson. I was so excited. Gradually over the years I moved into evenings, and then I started to fill in on other shifts, Eventually I ended up as the morning show host the last year or so that I was here which was fantastic to get that experience.”

Unlike most stations in the high powered world of commercial radio, hosts at smaller non-profits like the two stations where Ms. Phaneuf has worked are expected to select their own music, and give a voice to promising new acts.

“That’s why I love stations like MVY radio and WUMB where I work now,” she said. “When you say independent radio, we are independent. We decide what we play. There’s no one above us telling us this is what we have to play.”

Moving to a bigger station in a bigger market has proved to be rewarding for her. She said she thinks the executives at WUMB recognized her enthusiasm for music, and her desire to immerse herself in Boston’s local, live music scene.

“I had that enthusiasm and excitement, that a person who is still ready and rarin’ to go does,” she said. “Even though I had worked for seven years for MVY, I still had that energy of someone right out of the gate. To get out there in the music scene, that was a huge thing that they saw. It helps so much. You could sit at your computer and do a lot of research. But when you go to a live show, and you see an artist live, that’s such another dynamic.”

Her enthusiasm for the Boston music scene provided early dividends for WUMB, when she initiated a regular monthly program of live music from a Somerville pub.

“We started to do this live broadcast at the Burren, which is great bar and live music venue in Davis Square. We go to the back room there once a month, Third Thursday, we call it.”

Her radio job has also led to new opportunities.

“I picked up another job at Club Passim, this historic little listening club in Harvard square,” said Ms. Phaneuf. “I’m overjoyed to be working for them because I’ve admired that place for years. I’ve been putting on these little outreach concerts. I’ve done about 40 little concerts. They’re all outdoors, over the summer. I set up a pop-up tent, and I set up a little Bose sound system, and I make sure the artist is on their way, and I make sure I have a check for them, they all get paid.”

Ms. Phaneuf no longer has jitters when she hits the airwaves, and she seems sure of where she fits in the world of radio. Combined with her passion for music, that seems a pretty sure guarantee of job satisfaction.

“I love UMB, I love MVY, and working for Club Passim has been a joy, she said. “Common thread, all nonprofits, all champions of the arts, I feel pretty privileged to be a part of all three organizations. People supporting this kind of stuff is the way it stays alive.”