Sunday, August 08, 2010

WNEC interview part one

Previously published in the Intertown Record:

Nestled on the second floor of the Simon Center at New England College is a radio station that is tenacious in every sense of the word. Its origins reach back to the early 1970’s.Your columnist recalls joyfully listening to 91.7 FM back in the 1980’s and then later becoming a community DJ there in the mid 00’s. The studio was essentially a closet, the cd players were ancient but stalwart machines, the transmitter always had technical glitches (when it was working at all) and the technology was from the ghost of radio’s past. However in 2010, the station is enjoying a highly anticipated transformation. It is my pleasure to introduce you to our area’s best kept radio secret – WNEC.

Station manager Dan Freese and veteran program host Chip Colcord graciously consented to conduct an interview about WNEC.

What makes WNEC different from other radio stations?

Dan Freese: Well, WNEC is a college radio station and because of that it is in part a training facility as well as a source of diverse musical tastes. From the training standpoint we realize that mistakes will be made but by allowing the students to make mistakes (unless it violates FCC regulations) it makes it easier for them to do a show. If we took them to task for anything they may do wrong then we wouldn’t have any student DJ’s. Of course, we seasoned pro’s make mistakes as well and don’t (and I won’t speak for Chip) beat ourselves up too bad.

From a music standpoint our format varies from acoustic to Christian, rap to jazz, eclectic to classic rock and roll so we cover a wide spectrum. We’re currently working on a playlist for our automation system that will included music from current show song logs, almost like the student’s show with a pre-recorded promo to be played during the automated program that informs the listener that they are listening to a sample of the dj’s show and when it’s on-almost like an hour or 2 long promo.

Chip Colcord: Well, first I guess I think people would have to realize the difference between commercial and college radio to begin with. WNEC has a bit of a history of being about as free-form as a radio station possibly can be. The hosts themselves have historically controlled the content of their individual programs nearly 100%. Aside from the required public service announcements and station identification, DJs on WNEC create their own programs. Having so many varied personalities on the air, you never know what you will tune in to find, for better or worse. Listeners are likely to tune in one day and hate what they hear, only to tune in the next day and fall in love with a certain program. This variation has always been the tradition at WNEC and it happens year after year as students come and go, community members join and depart, and so on. WNEC DJs have been putting genuine thought behind their flow of music since it began in 1972, years before attempted to do the same thing with a computer. College and community radio is an art form in itself, while commercial radio is simply a business.

What will listeners hear on WNEC?

Dan Freese: As far as what listeners will hear, we are on the air 24x7 due to automation which has a variety of music although it tends to favor my tastes and that of Chip because we put the list together. As far as live shows we let the students choose the venue or style of music at this point, we don’t have a rotation like we’ve had in the past. Styles of music vary from Christian oriented to hip-hop and rap although I still have not been able to distinguish between the 2. We did have a student doing an international show that concentrated mostly on German music and we also have 2 students doing a sports talk show at 11 am twice a week.

Chip Colcord: Unless there is a live DJ doing a show at the time they tune in, listeners will hear our present automation flow that we have been tweaking for some time now. Whenever a live show ends, the DJ will play our automated mix of music from various genres. It is presently organized into miniature sets of music that hopefully flow nicely, split with public service announcements and station identification spots. A lot of different station members and friends have helped to ensure there's a little something for everyone in the automation flow. Dan has already mentioned a plan to add more specific show-related spots to our automation created by the DJs themselves, and we will continue to improve the mix and hopefully create special flows for various times of the year such as a holiday mix.

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