Earlier this month I had a whirlwind trip to the East Coast, in which I visited nine radio stations in addition to NPR headquarters. My most hectic day of station tours happened on Tuesday, April 8th. I started the morning with a visit to WXVU at Villanova University on the mainline of Philadelphia.
For many years I've been intrigued by the mysterious big band station KCEA 89.1 FM. Located at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, California, the station airs a non-stop stream of nostalgic big band music from days gone by.
Friends who grew up in the area have told me that the station charmed them decades ago with its nighttime broadcasts of ocean sounds ("sounds of the sea, thus the call letters KCEA"). A fellow DJ at KFJC recounted that when he was in high school he would study to the soothing wave sounds. Craig Roberts, who toured me around KCEA, told me that rumor has it that a local insane asylum would pipe the nighttime ocean sounds through its buildings for the patients.
As I write my 50th radio station field trip post, it's hard to believe that this project started 5 years ago. When I visited my first station in March, 2008, my goal was to explore lesser-known college radio stations in different parts of the country. That first field trip, to WECB at Emerson College, was a chance for me to give some attention to a station that most people were unaware of. Hidden in the shadows of the other Emerson College radio station WERS-FM, the student-run online station WECB attracted my attention largely because of its underdog status. I wrote up a short piece, took a few pictures (the blog post only features three), and my field trip series was underway.
KJCC stamp above the studio console (photo: J. Waits)
About a year ago a fellow DJ at KFJC told me about a college radio station in San Jose, KJCC, that I'd never heard of. He was taking part in the broadcasting program at San Jose City College and had happened upon the low power FM radio station there. Ever since that time, a field trip to KJCC had been on my to-do list, so I was excited to finally make the visit this week. I kicked off a whirlwind day of San Francisco Bay Area radio station visits with a stop at San Jose City College station yesterday.
Another one of those call letter signs crafted by Leo (photo: J. Waits)
When I was in Portland, Oregon in April, I was fixated on visiting all of the college radio stations in town. I was able to get in touch with people at Portland State, Reed, and Lewis and Clark, but had no luck reaching anyone at University of Portland's radio station KDUP. Since I had a little bit of time on my last day in town, I decided to take a chance and just drop by the station on my way to the airport on the morning of Sunday, April 28, 2013. I drove to the small, Catholic university and was able to easily locate the station (it's just past a chapel and behind the student center).
KDUP at University of Portland (photo: J. Waits)
As I approached KDUP's wooden house, I saw a student walking up to the station. I asked if he worked there and he said "yes." I asked if I could stop by and tour the station and he graciously agreed to let me look around. That student DJ, Will Lyons, just happened to be at the station on the Sunday morning of my visit and invited me in to talk. As we chatted, we could hear the loud Sunday church bells from the nearby chapel. Lyons told me that there are lots of bells and that they ring at 9, 12, 3, and 6, and for mass. He said that they stop after 9:30 or 10:00 at night. Considering how loud and how close the bells are, I would imagine that the bells can be heard over KDUP at various times of the day if a DJ happens to be on the microphone at the right time.
Student Union at Portland State University (photo: J. Waits)
My final stop for the day was KPSU at Portland State University.
The bustling urban setting was quite different from the bucolic environment at
KLC and KRRC. Although the building housing KPSU (the student union) was easy to find on a main
street in Portland, the station itself was hidden in a labyrinth-like
sub-basement (apparently dubbed "the dungeons" on campus).
When I was at the What is Radio? conference in Portland this April, I saw a presentation about a new college radio station at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I thought that I'd heard references to this station before, but it didn't really register with me until after I'd seen the presentation. Soon after the event I was put in touch with Matty Staudt, the radio station manager for student radio station Urban Knights Radio and we quickly arranged a time for me to stop by to see the station.