By: Sophia Miller
For those who enjoy a customized touch to their ordinary music listening experience, college radio provides a break from mainstream tracks to showcase a vast range of genres and artists—along with much, much more.
Today is World College Radio Day, which has been celebrated since October in 2011, where 365 college radio stations came together for the first time. College radio first began in the early 1920s and has become a noteworthy part of universities over the years. Many notable bands and artists gained traction from stations when college radio rose in popularity during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, such as Nirvana, R.E.M., and The Pixies. Since 2011, World College Radio Day has significantly developed, and is now celebrated in over 40 countries. This commemoration was founded by Rob Quicke and Peter Kreten to celebrate the important contributions of college radio and raise awareness of the many stations operating, encouraging more people to tune in, especially those who wouldn’t normally do so.
College radio presents countless benefits and opportunities to both DJs and listeners that commercial radio stations and streaming services do not. Listening to college stations provides exposure to new, local, and underrepresented artists from a variety of genres. DJs present a personalized touch that stands out from the average corporate music consumption; students share their unique tastes and challenge listeners to step outside of the diminishing cycle of commercialized songs. When asked what college radio means to her, Jane-Clare Elliott, the WXJM Social Media & Merchandise Coordinator, stated that “college radio has given me the opportunity to express myself. Growing up I have always loved sharing my music taste with others, so it is pretty cool to do that through radio now! It also has brought amazing friendships into my life.”
Aside from music, students can also host talk shows and podcasts, where they speak on-air for a certain amount of time about a large range of topics, such as movie reviews or comedy shows. It is also a fantastic way to become involved with the local music scene and stay connected on campus. Caitlin McGeehan, the WXJM Radio Program Director, described college radio as “a way to express [her] interests and learn more about this side of the music industry,” as well as “a great opportunity to meet people who are also passionate about music and learn more about the local music scene.” Radio offers connections and links with the music industry, but more importantly, it offers a community. Students with similar passions and tastes come together to share music and form lasting bonds.
Lastly, running a radio station provides a unique perspective into audio engineering and production, allowing students to gain relevant technical skills at an early age. Procedures like operating a soundboard, recording and editing audio, and managing various software applications are multi-faceted experiences acquired through the college radio process that can transfer into numerous fields of study. Students learn communication skills as well; DJs increase their confidence in public speaking by talking on-air in an encouraging (yet relatively low-stakes) atmosphere.
College radio creates an environment for individuals to find their voice, whether in a literal sense by hosting a talk show or through playing their favorite songs. Celebrate World College Radio day by putting something weird in your ears and supporting underrepresented artists. Tune in to WXJM Harrisonburg at 88.7 FM or WXJM.org today!