College Radio is a term that means many different things to a variety of people. But if there is one thing that can be agreed on it is this: College Radio is a family. From the inner workings of a single station, to the regional level, and all the way to the international scale one can find people of all backgrounds working in an oft-under appreciated and overlooked environment because it is their passion. This can be proven simply by looking at the numbers. In 2013 over 700 student-run stations across 43 countries participated in International College Radio Day 2013. It should go without stating that these numbers are expected to grow in the future. The question, then, becomes why?
That question has a different answer for every person. For me, it was an evolution. As one of thousands of new students coraled into my colleges field house, with hundreds of clubs vying for my attention, it was a sensory overload while trying to decide on what to get involved with. About six months later I finally made the move into college radio, with the aspiration of being a radio DJ and persona, with a dash of helping to record bands on the side. But what you learn is that there’s a lot more to it than just being a DJ, if you seek out the opportunities. I have been fortunate enough to be a DJ, produce content and imaging, record bands, sell underwriting, and serve as an executive member of a nationally ranked station for many years now. To be a DJ is a tremendous experience: picture walking into a studio and having access to tens of thousands of CDs, tens of thousands more records, and who knows how many digital songs. Now imagine that you are able to craft two hours of music from that, and essentially extend your personality to whoever may be listening. Being near the microphone, having stacks of music, and seeing who the farthest away listener is takes you away from everything else that is going. At that moment, all that matters is the song playing back to you over the studio monitors, and the words coming out of your mouth when you do a mic-break. The most important takeaway, and the reason I stayed and become more involved, were the people and the sense of community, and the projects I have been able to work on. We’ll start with the latter and work backwards.
WITR 89.7 has been fortunate enough to be expanding, in an age when many college radio stations are contracting, facing pressure from their universities or other forces, or outright having their license sold to NPR or other entities. As for us, we’re building a new studio and have ordered a new transmitter. It has been an incredible multi-year project, filled with many sleepless nights and involving too many people to remember. I don’t think many people across the country can say that they helped bring a new broadcasting facility to their college campus, and it’s something that I’m incredibly proud of. Couple that with recent accolades, such as finishing third in mtvU’s best college radio station contest in 2013, and being voted a the 9th best college radio station by the Princeton Review 2015, and we’re in a position that is truly unique in terms of recognition and accolades. However, that isn’t to say that we’re ready to stop. The goal has been to reach this state and operate at a higher and more visible level, now the goal is to sustain that while continuing to grow. I can only hope that the people we leave in charge after we graduate are up to the task.
Last, and certainly not least, are all the people I’ve come to now. As it stands I’ve spent four years living with two of the best friends I’ve ever made, who are also involved with WITR 89.7. The fourth roommate is also involved, but is much newer. Almost my entire social life has revolved around the people I’ve met here, from friends to intimacy to acquaintances. We have been known as the “radio station apartment” for a reason. From hanging out in the office eating lunch and being far too vulgar and inappropriate; gathering around to listen to whatever new CD we’re all excited about; going on a midnight record store run at a friends store when he’s having a midnight release; opening the mail that comes in every week to see if any of the sixty plus submissions we receive are good; to having parties which occasionally involve basement concerts it has been a long journey, forged with many memories. Or even just lounging around in our apartment with people who are sometimes invited, sometimes not, and talking about life, females, males, and whatever we may be drinking at that moment in time. Some of which still happening and will happen for the rest of my life. Even as recently as Tuesday night, when five of us decided to go to Ithaca and see Real Estate and vibe out about how much we love that band.
These are the things that happen, these are the things that define and transcend our relationships. The fleet but everlasting moments where you realize that these people are your people. The people you are surrounded by in this cramped space are not only the people you work with, but the people you want to come over and watch some awful movie later that night - and probably drink. People have come and go, and many have graduated, but that bond will never be lost. That was made apparent to me when, while working on co-op in a different state I was also welcome to a couple of friends houses who were former WITR 89.7 members, and were now working full time in that area. I don’t think all this would be possible without at least a little bit of tension, of which there is usually a healthy amount, but I’m also of the opinion that same tension is the driving force that produces the most beautiful of albums. Sometimes life is about being in the right place in the right time. But more than that, I believe that college radio allows you to create the right place, and to create the right time. It is hat you make of it. This is college radio, this has been the driving force in the last five years of my life, and this is a glimpse of what it means to be passionate about something that most people don’t care about in the slightest.