Although live FM radio is facing a lot of competition these days with digital streaming and internet podcasts, WRIU is still ringing strong after 82 years.
The roles of disc jockey, program manager, and station manager are filled with students and volunteers who continue to provide unique programming to listeners at and around the University of Rhode Island.
“I love the connection between student and community radio and the impact a station like WRIU has on people’s lives locally and around the world,” said Toni Pennacchia, who has been active in different fields over the years. years old and is currently involved in music and programming at the station.
She also coordinated and rotated host of the World Wide Waves program on Sunday mornings and contributed to public affairs programming, including her regionally and nationally syndicated radio station MergingArts Pacifica and the Spoiler Alert Radio program which airs Sunday nights on WRIU.
“Being independent means we have independent challenges and opportunities on or off the air, programming, music, technology, and more,” she said of the station these days. this.
Chuck Wentworth’s 37 years at the station spanned from 1978 to 2016 and he was the folk and roots music manager and host of a three-hour show every Monday night.
“I established the folk and roots music format for five shows that run every weeknight in the early evening. This format is still in place today. I joined the station to share my love and knowledge of music,” he said.
A well-oiled machine
This FM radio station, 90.3 WRIU, is a well-oiled machine, reaching all of Rhode Island, parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and sometimes, on a clear day, as far as the tip of Long Island.
WRIU offers an eclectic mix of programming for its listening audience. In addition to traditional genres of music such as jazz, country, rock, hip hop, reggae and blues among various genres.
The brains behind the operation are full-time students who form a board of directors. The station is almost entirely student-run, except for some DJs who have been on the air for over a decade.
Many of the senior staff spend more than about 30 hours a week in a small room, station headquarters, which is covered in graffiti writing and lined with walls of CDs in Memorial Union on Lower College Road.
Will Pipicelli, a senior from Colchester, CT, who has been involved since freshman year and is now the station’s general manager, said WRIU exists because of a mix of dedicated students and community volunteers.
“We have about 40 active students and about 35 community members. Adults and community members have this taste in music that is not so easy to find among students and would appeal to a wide audience,” he said.
This call is a drawing card that keeps people tuned in, whether they’re from the tri-state area or online through the station’s website at wriu.org.
The students, he said, mainly play a lot of rock and roll, top 40 songs and indie music.
The passion for music drives them to participate, many join their first year and stay for their four years at URI.
“Being in this studio for two or three hours and expressing yourself with their music is a tremendous freedom,” Pipicelli said.
For sophomore Tina Munter of Madison, New Jersey, this freedom has brought her into contact with friends and new faces at school.
“Starting at WRIU as a freshman at URI, I could walk into the studio and do a show on a topic that interested me and although it was streamed online for anyone who wanted to tune in, I knew some of my friends and family were listening and it was almost like I was hanging out with all of them,” she said.
Jacob Iacobucci said it was his chance to indulge a passion and interest in music as well as express himself.
“The prospect of having my own radio show was a chance to share the music I loved with others in a program over which I had complete creative control,” said the second, who also joined the station as a rookie.
Then there’s also a cadre of long-time community volunteers whose music and programming interests reverberate on the airwaves of the stations.
Bill Parker has been with the station since 1997. He has since hosted The Children’s Show and hosted a more “cult” show called The Frankie Stein Show.
“Behind the scenes, my somewhat nebulous title is ‘CIO’ and the title and role has evolved – and grown – over the years, but it started when I was invited back about a year after I graduated to design the station’s website,” he said.
His duties include managing the station’s website, ensuring streaming operation, maintaining a public record required by the Federal Communications Commission, managing the station’s annual fundraiser, and creating of “practical” documents, he said.
“I wanted to join WRIU because as a high school student there was a clear distinction between what non-commercial WRIU offered and what, say, commercial WBRU, (which are) the two local college stations”, did he declare.
“I looked for schools with real, non-commercial, student-run community stations (of which there are unfortunately far fewer now), but in the end, I had already fallen in love with WRIU, so I went to URI. “
Another longtime timer is Erika Huntley.
“I’ve been at the station as a volunteer for over 17 years as a DJ for ‘Jazz Journey’ and one week a month as a DJ for ‘RI-K’ on World Wide Waves. I love music and appreciate the input of my listeners. It’s a pleasure to share music that could easily be forgotten or unheard,” she said.
Tish Adams, who said she’s been at the station for “25+ years”. She is the host of “The Vocalists and Localists Show”.
“I play vocal jazz – past, present, future – and local (i.e.) vocal and instrumental jazz famous and not,” she said, adding that she also informs listeners New England live jazz events and does occasional live interviews.
“I love doing my show! I discovered songs and artists that I may have never heard of. On a more selfish note, my on-air presence has also enriched my live jazz career. I acquired new fans, increased the number of members on my mailing list and even got live concerts, due to calls to my radio show,” she said.
A lot of advantages
For old-timers or newcomers, the benefits are huge to have the station and help produce programs that keep it on the air.
“You can’t measure the value of a community radio station or a university-affiliated radio station if you only see it as a way to train people for ‘viable careers,'” Laura Travis said, who joined the station in 1982 at the invitation of Wentworth. .
A graduate of URI, William Berry, while a student and afterwards, co-hosted from 2010 to 2016 in the 9 a.m. to noon rock/freeform slot a show called “The Killa B’s Three-Hour Radio Hour». It consisted of rock, indie, folk, and a handful of other genres.
“Our music blocks were always punctuated with banter and laughter. With an open revolving door spirit, our program had over 40 different ‘co-hosts’, all friends and family who were able to share the mic with us,” he said.
Allan Lawton, who has been a DJ at the station for 34 years, pointed to the overall experience students gain learning to get along with other staff, follow company rules, deal with the public and manage their time.
“(It) involves learning and understanding the principles of community service, and seeing and being part of the bigger picture, of what you can achieve and benefit from, more than just ‘Yo, man , I’m on the air! ” he said.
Being live on the air, getting people’s attention and responses – good and bad – as well as developing popularity in a universe of listeners are the contagions that happen when the radio bug bites someone.
Current URI student Iacobucci said he feels very lucky to be able to be active at the station year-round and connect with listeners who tune in.
“Having that creative freedom to develop something that’s uniquely your own and then hearing positive responses is the best feeling in the world. Being a DJ and a WRIU board member is something inseparable from my college experience and something I wouldn’t trade for anything,” he said.