Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Radio Station Field Trip 39 - SCAD Atlanta Radio

Another sighting of the mysterious "Leo" sign at SCAD Atlanta Radio (Photo: J. Waits)

Last October I visited Atlanta in order to attend the national College Broadcasters Inc. (CBI) conference. I had a great time at the event and also spent a lot of time exploring Atlanta. Luckily there are a number of amazing college radio stations in town, so I made a point to visit 4 of them. I've already written about my trip to WRAS-FM at Georgia State University and on the same day of that visit (October 25, 2012), I also visited the station at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta.    

Spring House Dorm at SCAD Atlanta. The home of SCAD-Atlanta Radio (Photo: J. Waits)

Known as SCAD Atlanta Radio, the 5-year-old (they celebrated their 5th anniversary on November 9, 2012) student-run, online-only station is located in a funky old motel (now known as Spring House) that's been converted to student housing. I'd met the station's co-adviser Jessica Clary at the CBI conference and she connected me with her co-adviser Millie DeChirico. DeChirico ended up driving me over to visit the station during lunch-time and gave me some insight into the station and her radio history.

SCAD Atlanta Radio production studio (Photo: J. Waits)

DeChirico was actually at WRAS from 1997 to 2002 (as a DJ, then Music Director and finally as General Manager), so she was able to provide some perspective about both stations. DeChirico explained that for her being in college radio has been a "transformative experience." She also expressed her appreciation for all of the non-commercial radio stations in Atlanta, saying, "One of the great things about Atlanta is radio." At SCAD Atlanta, DeChirico has been on the air and at one point did a new wave/early punk/1980s music show on Friday nights.

SCAD Atlanta Radio entrance (Photo: J. Waits)

At the time of my visit, SCAD Atlanta aired shows from 10am to midnight. DeChirico told me that the goal was to be on the 24 hours a day, but that they just needed more staff to accomplish that. When there isn't a live DJ, the station runs on automation.

Rotation CDs at SCAD Atlanta Radio (Photo: J. Waits)

Although the station has CD players and a turntable, I was told that most DJs play their shows from the automation system (MegaSeg) or from other digital sources. New DJs are required to do "rotation" shows in which they play their entire show from the automation system. After completing 3 rotation shows, DJs are allowed to apply for a specialty show (which provides more creative control and relieves DJs from the requirement to play music from current rotation).

SCAD Atlanta Radio (Photo: J. Waits)

Current specialty shows on the schedule cover a range of genres, including soul, ambient, psychedelic, disco, funk, European rock, metal, animation/video game music, hip hop, Latin American music, international dance music, electronic music, punk, and local music.

View from SCAD Atlanta Radio studio into production room (Photo: J. Waits)

When we arrived at the station and walked into the on-air studio, I couldn't help but notice a 3-D cardboard SCAD sign propped on the couch. It resembles similar signs that I've seen all over the country (I most recently spotted one at KSPC at Pomona College). After scrutinizing the sign, I chatted with the on-air DJ about his show.  He explained that his show (called "Psychedelic Dad") was focused on "dad rock," which he described as '60s to '80s music that you'd find in a "dad's basement."

SCAD Atlanta Radio studio (Photo: J. Waits)

The station is pretty small and contains 3 distinct rooms. As one enters, there's a small office which leads into the on-air studio. Beyond the studio is a production room that contains a small music library closet. DeChirico estimated that SCAD-Atlanta has a couple of thousand CDs and perhaps 500-700 vinyl records.

SCAD Atlanta Radio's music closet (Photo: J. Waits)

The digital music library generally contains material that's been in current rotation. DeChirico said that even though the student DJs are "very tech savvy," they are also interested in vinyl records and CDs. She said that the DJ coming in for the next show actually wants to do an all vinyl program. However, she added that the DJs tend to have a greater mastery over the use of music files in Spotify, iTunes, and other digital sources.

Album cover on SCAD Atlanta Radio studio ceiling (Photo: J. Waits)

During my visit I was fascinated by the collection of cheesy vintage album covers on the ceiling. When I asked about them, DeChirico mentioned that the Music Director and General Manager are both obsessed with soft rock artists in the "yacht rock" genre.

SCAD Atlanta Radio office (Photo: J. Waits)

Being at an art school, SCAD Atlanta Radio makes a point of embracing student work. According to its website, "SCAD Atlanta Radio is dedicated to offering music and programming not heard on other Atlanta radio stations, with particular emphasis on music performed by SCAD students and other local artists." As mentioned, there's an entire show (Locals Only) devoted to local music and live performances.

Turntable at SCAD Atlanta Radio (Photo: J. Waits)

Thanks so much to Jessica and Millie for helping to arrange my trip to SCAD Atlanta Radio!

See a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips here

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