Behind the Music

"You'll be Nazareth's own Garrison Keillor," my boss said to me after a meeting. Sure, I had heard of the College's radio station, WNAZ The Pulse. Heard of, but had never actually heard it. Now here I was, asked to write a story about it.

The experts often advise writers to know their subject. Well, first I had to get to know my subject, and so I interviewed Eric Stevens '12, president of WNAZ. Stevens, a music/business major, has a quiet tenacity that underpins his relaxed demeanor. He's also refreshingly honest.

"Eric, tell me: Why radio? Is it not—how to put this politely?—a dying medium?"

"Dying everywhere else." He elaborated, "With the internet, people can listen to whatever they want, whenever they want. They don't want someone else dictating their playlist, so radio has to be creative and engage audiences differently—for example, by playing albums before they're released or giving listeners a way to interact with bands."

Radio may have been dead on campus when Stevens joined the station last year (during the second week of his freshman year), but he's spearheading its revival. "We went from no officers to a full team of hard workers," he said of his 25-person staff comprising mostly of DJs, but some of whom also double as WNAZ's administrative staff. Stevens, for example, is president of the station, hosts Notes and Letters on Monday evenings, and acts as the station's unofficial repairman.

Today the station's staff operates under the auspices of the Undergraduate Association (the College's student government). DJs broadcast a variety of music and shows—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—available through the cable system as well as through live streaming online. The Pulse also has its own AIM screen name (wnazthepulse), Facebook page, and Twitter account.

A far cry from the station's early years when WNAZ began broadcasting in fall 1987. The station was student-run and transmitted only on campus, and later on AM radio. Interest and attention waned, however, and for the past decade, WNAZ was only available on Nazareth's closed-circuit cable system (channel four).

Stevens' next steps for the station include renovating the studio and transmitting WNAZ on FM. As a sophomore, he still has a couple of years left to realize his plans for The Pulse while also garnering work experience.

Speaking of experience—and in the interest of getting to know my subject—I asked Eric if I could host a show. Sure, he said. We would start the following week.

For the theme of the show, anything within FCC regulations was game, according to Stevens. The station's shows currently range from talk shows (news and current events, politics) to music selections. In other words, I could host Fireside Chats with Sofia or even Book Reviews for Bookworms. The possibilities were seemingly endless.

The following week Stevens and I made our way to the Otto A. Shults Center. Once at the radio station, I was hoping he would stay and be the Roz to my Dr. Frasier Crane. Alas, he left me to my own devices—rarely a good thing.

I started the show—Trance, Dance & Electronica with Sofia—at 2:30 p.m. I pressed the requisite buttons, cross-faded, had my playlist standing by, and introduced myself to the listeners while also explaining the concept behind the show. Electronica, after all, is an oft-overlooked genre, especially by the standards of commercial radio. My show—unique to The Pulse—was here to remedy the situation.

Two minutes in, I received my first instant message. Perhaps a request from my adoring public! Or not.

EricS2008: Microphone on?

Oops—forgot a step. But like Stevens with WNAZ, I began my show anew.

The rest of the hour went off without a hitch. And although my brief affair with radio has certainly been exhilarating, my first love will always be the written word. Well, if Garrison Keillor could be a successful radio personality and a writer, maybe I have a chance too.

Sofia Tokar

Prez Unplugged

President Daan Braveman is hosting his first ever WNAZ radio broadcast, Prez Unplugged, on Monday, April 26 from 8 p.m.–9 p.m. on WNAZ The Pulse. The show will combine some of his favorite tunes and call-in questions. Ever wonder what's on the Prez's playlist? Don't miss your chance to find out and talk to the chief.