by Bridget Rea
For the members of WKVR, Juniata’s radio station, the cascade of emails that swamped inboxes in exchange for food during Lobsterfest were actually heeded. The club, while small, is one that offers a sea of experience and an opportunity to share ideas and music.
Members of the club DJ on WKVR, and dedicate time toward their craft for listeners through online streaming, as well as live broadcast throughout a small radius around Huntingdon.
Working in the college’s radio station is not difficult. DJs press a few buttons, turn a few nobs, and follow simple, common-sense rules. The rules are mainly to help keep the station up and running in an ordered manner that limits the chances of getting an angry email for not disclaiming controversial ideas or being cited by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for inappropriate language. I can say with some certainty that the radio station, located upstairs in Ellis near the women’s restroom, is the only room on campus that has a huge sheet of paper with prohibited swear words written in many different colors.
Step one of becoming a DJ is coming up with a DJ name. It can be as simple as a favorite animal, or coming up with a solid alter-ego. Mine, for example, is DJ Cats. Some DJs choose names that are relevant to their show content. Others opt for ones that work in a group, such as Snap, Crackle and Pop. The point of constructing a name is partially for protection and partially for the liberty that comes from such an alias. It allows DJs to explore more about themselves in order to have a consistent persona to be displayed through the radio waves.
Next is the process of crafting a show. This isn’t the case for all DJs. Some stick to specific genres, others are random amalgamations, while others are purely whale noises. Some others include shows that feature rockabilly, playlists that prisoners at SCI Huntingdon turn in, and hip-hop. I personally have a show that involves perusing the Wikipedia article for the day and creating a playlist around it for the first half, and the second half is usually some sort of other theme.
However, one of the most rewarding parts of running a radio show is the fan mail. Most of the fans that write in are not what one would expect. They aren’t family members or friends, and that makes sense because those people would offer feedback via messaging or text. One of the biggest listening bases for WKVR is the prison at SCI Huntingdon. The inmates there frequently write in to those who have regular radio shows and share interesting, funny or eye-opening accounts.
The reason that this is important for being a radio DJ is because there are very few contexts where one can interact with incarcerated people on an informal and somewhat personal level. The prisoners do not truly know who the DJs are unless they decide to reveal their identity. I truly enjoy communication with the prisoners at SCI Huntingdon, because most of them don’t necessarily want to have something played. Most of them just want someone to talk to and share their unique stories with who won’t judge them.
WKVR also does a few projects. One of them is the zine, which is a self-published booklet that features art that has been sent in from the DJs, community members, students and prisoners. Basically everything received is published, and any medium that can be reprinted is allowed to be submitted. The idea is that the zine is a continuous project that could be put together as the years go by and be published fairly regularly to serve as somewhat of a replacement to KVASIR, which was once a student publication that featured similar art. There will be a WKVR zine available at Liberal Arts Symposium.
Another thing that WKVR does outside of the DJs individual shows is DJing at events. Most recently, members of WKVR made playlists for outside of Empty Bowls to entertain those who stood in line. They’ve also entertained at Pridefest, Oktoberfest and Lobsterfest, where they had their sign-up sheet to join their ranks. Even though Lobsterfest has passed, like any other club, anyone is welcome to join at any time.
Doing WKVR is a great opportunity that has been underutilized at Juniata College. Despite the fact that it is a minimal time commitment, especially for non-officers, few students pursue the opportunity to share their music and ideas for free to an audience. It will be one of the greatest things I miss after Juniata because it is such a great mechanism for self-expression. Gaining feedback, both positive and negative, and working with the intricacies of being a public image is something that, even on a micro scale, has proven valuable to my education. Maintaining an image and working through blunders are important skills, especially when technical difficulties create awkward silences.
It is through navigating the airspace as radio DJs on WKVR that the small group of people dedicated to their shows get to share their ideas with others and reach out. True to the College’s motto, participating in WKVR allows students to think, evolve and act as they navigate the airwaves.
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 10 A&E