Today is apparently College Radio Day. I could write at near-endless length about my time as a student broadcaster and still note properly convey exactly how much I got out of it. I value everything about my collegiate experience, but the college radio station was special, in practically every way. It was a sanctuary, an enlivening mental obstacle course, a place of spiritual renewal. It was a place of constant discovery, for music obviously, but for so many other things, especially the reserves of belief, insight, and capability I had within myself that I’m convinced never would have been tapped otherwise. The most enduring friendships of my life were formed there, in bonding over the challenge of keeping a fully licensed FM station operational every day of the year. With every decision, we were trying to make the station the best it could possibly be, fervently believing that we had a responsibility to the community that resided within our humble broadcast range (humble at the time, anyway, since my alma mater, WWSP-90FM, now broadcasts at a mighty 30,000 watts). Yes, many of us were there because we liked music, but we were equally committed to the other aspects that came with being responsible broadcasters. My proudest night on the air came when I and several of my similarly youthful colleagues all convened on the station because the Gulf War broke out, and we worked together to pull together our own locally-focused, hour-long newscast in response to the events. I don’t think I’m the only one who views that as the high point of my tenure there.
By the time my life shifted and I became an advisor to a college station instead of a student participant, the cultural relevance of radio had started on its internet-driven descent. Happily, I knew full well from my own background that learning how to be a broadcaster, while rewarding, was the least important outcome of my time as a student behind the board. Instead, I learned how to be a leader, and the result of that learning manifested itself for me each and every day, whether I was fulfilling the General Manager duties at a broadcast outlet, working as a mentor to students, or even overseeing projects centered on the installation of complex power backup arrays. Being on the air may be reward in and of itself, but there’s so much more value to be extracted from involvement with college radio. I like to think I helped several students get the most out of their time on the left end of the dial.
Because I like beginnings and endings and other highly symbolic moments, I have a slightly compulsive need to identify the first song I ever played on the radio. I’ve covered this topic previously, so please just join me today in the conviction that “Away,” by the Feelies, inaugurated my time with the most important place I’ve ever hung my battered ball cap. Thanks to WWSP-90FM, and thanks to every student that, like me, found a part of their own being there.
Listen or download –> The Feelies, “Away”
(Disclaimer: It appears to me that Only Life, the album that contains “Away,” is out of print, at least as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner than compensates both the proprietor of said store and the jittery band from Haledon, New Jersey. This track is thus shared in this space with the understanding, perhaps faulty but sincerely held, that doing so impedes no fair commerce involves the purchase of this song. Besides, I’ve played this song on the radio a lot — like a LOT a lot — so the residuals from that should cover a couple downloads.)