Don’t tell me radio is a dying medium. Don’t tell me dreams and hard work would have been for naught. The majority of my extended stay in college has involved radio in some capacity. Beginning freshman year in Florida, being on the air meant talking to hear myself on the radio. Four years later, I realize radio is for the listener and not for the commentator. Don’t talk unless you have to, or have something to say.
Public Radio has been around since the 1920’s, alongside its overly competitive younger brother commercial radio. In his book “Radio’s Hidden Voice: The Origin of Public Broadcasting in the United States” Hugh Richard Slotten writes, “Radio stations at universities were particularly important because they pioneered some of the earliest experiments with radio in the United States and they played a key role in the establishment of an alternative, noncommercial, public service model for broadcasting.”
Today, there are approximately 780 campus radio stations across the United States of America, fourteen of them scattered around Connecticut. WFCS at CCSU began broadcasting over AM airwaves in 1929, nearly a decade after its big brother, WHUS at the University of Connecticut. The two would mirror each other over the next century alongside the ever-changing world of radio broadcasting.
Inside Two College Radio Stations
91.7 WHUS is a commercial-free radio station located on the campus of the University of Connecticut (UConn) and is run by UConn students. The station’s original call letters were WABL but they changed to WCAC in 1925 with an upgrade to a stronger signal. In the mid-1950s, they changed WHUS after a complication with the FCC resulted in a three-year hiatus. Located across the street from Gampel Pavilion in the Student Union, WHUS helps students become radio professionals. The station offers studios for their main FM station, online only station, their podcasts, and their news segments. The station offers a lounge area filled with old archived CDs and vinyl records where they hold band performances on a semi-regular basis.
The mid-1960’s provided two significant milestones for WHUS: the beginning of a twenty-four hour broadcast schedule, and the conversion from AM radio to FM radio. Automatic reverse tape reels that provided six hours of programing made the twenty-four-hour-a-day broadcast schedule possible. In 1966, the station moved off the AM dial to 91.7 FM, the frequency it still holds today. In the mid 1970’s WHUS became a “community” station, operating a twenty-four hour broadcast schedule with a staff consisting of students and non-student volunteers. The station began airing its signal online in 1998.
Forty-four miles west, Central Connecticut State’s on campus radio has been stationed in the Student Center since the early 1960’s. Originally operating with the call letters WTCC, the name changed to WCCS with the move from East Hall. When the time came to move to the FM dial in the early 1970’s an argument with WCCC necessitated a change in call letters to the current WFCS. The station’s position on the dial has been pushed to the edge over the years as the FCC allowed higher-powered stations to operate at 90.1 in 1980 and 97.9 nearly a decade later. Today, the station sits at 107.7 and in 2017 they rebranded to 107.7 The Edge.
Matt the Manufacturer: He Can Create It
Matt Kevorkian sits on his bed in his ranch home in Meriden, in his boxers, listening to songs by Metallica, Overkill, Ozzie Osborne, Motley Crew, and Kansas as he prepares for his show in four days. A true metal head, his band, The Not Mikes, plays tribute to metal bands of the past. “Radio is the voice of information, so why not give a voice to those who need it,” Kevorkian said. “As far as metal goes, metal is that voice and attitude that changed America. It gave America a culture shock.”
Other shows on 107.7 include topics ranging from movie reviews to the latest video game releases to music history. With scheduling blocks of two hours per show, with weekly shows, WFCS allows student DJs the ability to learn how to create a compelling show while also still having time for school and other obligations.
During his show, Kevorkian gave listeners a chance to win tickets to see the band “The Cult” in concert at College Street Music Hall in New Haven. In order to win the caller had to correctly answer the question, “Before settling on the name, The Cult, they performed under another name. What was that name?” The correct answer, Death Cult, was received in the final half hour of the weekly show. Had the question remained unanswered, the contest would have continued during the following week’s show. A common reality unknown by listeners is that radio stations want to give out the prizes that they have available.
College Radio for All
Gil Gigliotti is an English professor at Central Connecticut State University and serves as the faculty advisor for 107.7 WFCS the Edge. Gigliotti hosts his own show, “Frank, Gil, and Friends.” every Tuesday morning from eight to ten. In fall 2016 he celebrated his 1,000th show. Gigliotti started at WFCS back in 1993 and was approached to become the faculty advisor a year later when the communications department decided to cut its ties to the station due to a lack of direct connection.
Throughout the years, Gigliotti has done special events to help differentiate his show. Back in 2016, he hosted a twenty-four hour Frank Sinatra marathon, playing Frank Sinatra songs and songs about or referencing Frank Sinatra on his birthday. He used to do a series of shows where he would invite faculty onto his show. “Faculty come on and talk about what their expertise, and then I’d play songs related to that,” Gigliotti told me in his memorabilia filled office. He jumped out of his chair and hurried to the corner of the room. He reached down and grabbed a box filled with old cassette tapes of recorded shows. He has recordings of shows he has done on a cowboy Sinatra theme with Professor Candace Barrington; a space Sinatra show with Professor Chris Lawrenson; and emeritus Anthropology professor Dave Kideckel pitched in for an anthropological Sinatra show.
Last Semester, Last Show, Hold the Tears
While crafting one of my recent shows a slew of slow love songs came on the playlist. I grabbed the mic and said, “Shout out to all the ladies out there. These are for you. Top six throwback love songs. We’re starting it off with number six: ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys.” I cut the mics, turned the music on and kicked my feet up looking for an interesting story or tidbit to read on air the next time I have to say a legal ID.
Like Matt Kevorkian I also do ticket giveaways. In one of my recent shows I gave away tickets to CCSU’s spring concert featuring Tory Lanez and Lil’ Yachty. In order to win listeners participated in the game “Name That Theme Song” in which I play a well-known theme song and the first caller with the right answer wins the tickets. I messed up the first song, the theme to season two of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I failed to cut the song before the first lyrics, “go go Power Rangers,” making the answer clear to whoever was listening. A glaring error in the production.
Next I play “Everywhere You Look”, the theme song to the classic family sitcom “Full House”. By now it’s 11 at night and if zero people were listening at 10:30 then even less people were probably listening now. There is no issue in the production this time, the words full and house are never mentioned in the song. Still, no one calls in. Last chance of the night, a ten second snippet of the Yu-Gi-Oh! theme song. Within a minute Bob Schiessl called in with the correct answer.
Radio has been a key identifier of mine for a majority of my college career. Radio gives Kevorkian a platform to have a voice. Radio gives Gigliotti a platform to experiment. Radio has given me a platform to explore a passion, and to potentially pursue a career. Four years spent on air, at two different stations, and two different leadership positions. Radio is more than a passion; radio is my lifestyle.
For the past year my show has been on Monday nights from 10-midnight. My audience is modest but it does not matter to me, I am having fun. After the tickets were won my playlist turned strange. Instead of songs like “Power” by Kanye West, I was now playing “Goofy sings Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life.” There are worse songs to end a show on. The song ends, I go on air to say goodnight to whomever may be listening. I check to see what our automation program is playing, some heavy metal song, and close with: “if you know the words to the song please sing along.”