The CD swap hosted by WAMH this past Thursday was designed to let students share their music interests and to further connect the radio station to the Fairest College community.
“People just needed a dollar to get in and could grab all they could carry of the CDs in the WAMH bins at the swap,” explained WAMH General Manager Eric Christ. “People were welcome to buy and sell each other’s CDs. We want to get the WAMH name out there.”
Events have been planned to take place throughout the semester in order to increase the visibility of the station on campus. “We’ve been having concerts that are inexpensive and free for Amherst College students,” Christ said. “WAMH DJs can also host theme parties cosponsored by WAMH, like the new wave party we hosted with Marsh House.”
“The theme parties and concerts are a more social way to connect with the Five-College community,” explained Tammy Jezek ’01, Programming Director. “We put on a freshman orientation concert with local band The Warren Commission. Our goal is to build a more visible relationship with the college.”
The station has yet to find a local fan base. “We have a large listening audience in the Five Colleges and throughout the Valley, but it’s a shame that many Amherst students haven’t given WAMH a chance,” said Owen Freeman-Daniels ’01. “People have limited their music tastes and are unaware of what so many of their peers are doing. The station remains underappreciated in its hometown. I hope the greater visibility and advertising [planned for the semester] will help to increase interest in Amherst.”
To make it even easier for listeners to find the music that they like, the station has adopted a horizontal programming policy, so that similar types of music are played at the same time every day. Most DJs do one two-hour block a week in the genre of their choice, often with another DJ.
According to the station’s mission statement, “It is WAMH’s purpose, as a non-commercial radio station, to provide an educational listening alternative to Amherst College and the surrounding community.”
This intention means making an effort to play music that mostly can’t be found on other radio stations in the area. Many WAMH DJs, however, need no encouragement from the mission statement to take this goal upon themselves.
“I chose to do a show because I love music, and I wanted to share some of that music with other people,” said Josh Bell ’02. “As a DJ, I get to play songs that other people don’t.”
Sam Jeng ’03 had similar motivation for becoming a DJ. “I wanted to be a DJ because I wanted to spread awareness about the kind of music I listen to,” he explained. “I have never heard Asian pop music on the radio outside of Asia, and I remember in high school a lot of my friends would rag on me because I listened to Korean music, even though they themselves never heard it before. I thought that maybe if I put this music on the radio, people might be more open to it and-God forbid-like it.”
But this altruistic approach to having a radio show does not have to overshadow the fun factor. “Hosting your own radio show is pure self indulgence,” said Tal Liron ’03. “I turn off all the lights in the station, put the volume to the max and dance. For two hours a week, I am master of my domain-highly recommended for all you control freaks.”
“It’s good to make your own media rather than to have to play what the corporate world hands us,” Jezek added. “We play what we enjoy, and it keeps the station interesting, which is a big plus of college radio.”
Although most shows remain focused on independent rock, the folk, punk, jazz, hip hop, RPM, international, electronica and new wave shows also have a regular listening audience, and DJs often cross over genres during their shows.
“My favorite show is the ‘Potted Plant,’ from eight to 10 on Sunday evenings because they play the top ten tracks of the week,” said listener Sanwaree Sethi ’02. “WAMH is a great way to get introduced to new music.”
Another popular feature is “The Revolver,” a show airing every Monday from 8-10 p.m. and co-hosted by Freeman-Daniels. Other DJs join in with a different theme each week. “Originally the show had different DJs and themes each week,” explained Christ. “But this year we have one host, Owen, who is always there to supervise and to work with the other DJs.”
“I just get in touch with a WAMH DJ or even someone who has shown interest but is not a trained DJ, and ask them for their plan for the upcoming show,” explained Freeman-Daniels. “The theme is up to the other DJ. They don’t have to be related in any way except for that one theme. One week we had songs that all had to do with the Apocalypse, and another week each song had a girl’s name in the title. The variety always keeps the show fun.”
One of WAMH’s biggest projects for the semester is web-casting the radio station. “We have the funding for a computer and are now trying to figure out the best way to get on the Internet,” Jezek said.
Once WAMH finds its home on the Web, Internet users will be able to listen to WAMH from anywhere in the world. The focus of the station will remain local even though the audience may now include those that are not familiar with the Amherst campus, such as high school friends of current DJs and family members of alumni.
“Although DJs will have to be more careful about dropping names [pertinent only to the Amherst community] and expecting their listeners to understand, we are still a college radio station and will, for example, continue to announce local shows and community events,” Jezek said.
“WAMH is one of the largest student organizations on campus,” Christ said, “perhaps even larger than the football team, with about 100 trained DJs and about 30 freshmen in training. The station was once only for Amherst College, but now is heard throughout the Pioneer Valley.”