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Keri G. '10

Sep 13, 2008

The leftmost station on your dial

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Life & Culture

(I started this post wayyyyy back in January. Ask any blogger who's seen the unpublished posts; I just keep changing the date and planning to post it. I fail at life, I know.)

I woke up on Wednesday morning at 11 AM with the (vaguely) shocking realization that I had to read and answer review questions for a paper before my 1 PM 9.12 lecture. Because I clearly have no idea how to properly manage my time anymore, I decided to ignore the paper for another 42 minutes and watch this week's episode of Gossip Girl (SHUT. UP.).

Supernatural forces larger than anything I could possibly imagine must be at work here (or at least concerned with whether or not I'm at work); that, or the world just hates me. Anyway, I was getting back into bed to watch actors in their mid-twenties pretend to be sixteen when I discovered a very large, very live spider challenging me to a turf war over my pillow.

Yeah, my PILLOW. That I SLEEP ON.

NOT COOL.

The spider lost. I left my room, afraid I'd find another. I read my paper, answered my questions, and spent the lecture hoping Dr. Lois wouldn't ask me any super-detailed questions about rapid gene transcription in neurons.

So that's my boring story of the week. If you want, you can pretend that's how I've spent the last six weeks. We now return to our super-ultra-delayed blog post about the best part of MIT: WMBR 88.1 FM, the campus radio station.

The station began broadcasting in November 1946 as WMIT from the basement of an entry in Senior House, eventually moving to a studio in the basement of Walker Memorial in 1960. The call letters were changed to WTBS, for "Technology Broadcasting System," when it was discovered that a North Carolina radio station was already using WMIT.

If WTBS sounds familiar, it's because the call letters are those of TBS, the TV station founded by media mogul and all-around rich guy Ted Turner. When Turner wanted to take his TV station national in 1979, he offered to donate $50,000 to WTBS in exchange for the call letters. The deal worked out, WTBS became WMBR ("Walker Memorial Basement Radio) and got a shiny new transmitter (among other things), and all was right with the world.

Of the student groups on campus, WMBR has one of the largest direct community and alum involvement. Students, faculty, and other members of the MIT/Harvard/Boston community have regular weekly shows, some of which have been on the air for well over twenty years. The station's listener base is pretty large - during fundraising week last year, donations from listeners brought in well over $80,000.

Local and touring bands play in the studio weekly; in fact, one of the shows (Pipeline) plays only local music and brings in a band every week.

As you can see from the weekly schedule, there's a lot of variation in what goes on the air, and most of the shows have many devoted listeners.People join the station for its vibrant atmosphere and the relative freedom (save for some FCC regulations) to do whatever you please with your show.

Of course, the massive record library - including about 120,000 LPs and 170,000 CDs - ain't all that bad either.

I'm going into a third year hosting DJ Awesome and the Wonderfriends with Hanna '10.

IMG_0050

We used to come up with playlists, but dropped that after a few months in favor of playing whatever had the coolest album cover. I'm surprised people still listen to us, since our show mostly consists of us whining to each other, making funny faces people can't see over the airwaves, and then playing something by Pavement. Hanna throws in ten-minute-long songs by Opeth to annoy me sometimes, which I usually counter with sugary-sweet girly rock. (...I don't even like the stuff, but Hanna's visceral reactions are completely worth it.)

This year, the students of WMBR have started WMBR Live, a series of twice-monthly free concerts in the Student Center's Coffeehouse. Last week was the first show, which went really well! The concerts will build up to a huge show near the end of the Spring semester, possibly in conjunction with another department. If you're in the Boston area, check out the shows! Everyone loves a free concert.

In conclusion, WMBR is awesome.

If nothing else, it gives me somewhere to go when I want to hide from papers and spiders.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

The radio station sounds pretty awesome and I like how one of the stations features music by local artists.

Posted by: Stacy on September 13, 2008

Ah thanks so much for this post!

I am a heavy participant of the radio station at my highschool (WHHB) and I love it. I'm practically drooling over those rows of records, as I believe we have only a milk crate of them. We do have that same sound board, though. Right now, and always, the hardest part of radio is picking a name. My partner and I are having that difficulty as we speak. Gah, it's good to know that MIT filters some of its money into radio! I really really want to countinue my radio adventures into college.

Questions:
-How hard is it to get a show? Is it really competitive?
-Did you snag your show's name from a Threadless shirt? (I own that one, btw.)
-Are a lot of people involved currently in the show formerly involved in their high school's station (if they had one), or are a lot of people just jumping in?
-Is there a station website I can browse at?

Posted by: Vicky ('15?) on September 13, 2008

yay my favorite blogger!
me and kat watch gossip girl too!
you should watch it with us!

Posted by: kayla on September 13, 2008

Hey Kerri! I was about to write about WMBR too! I'm applying for a show this semester.

Vicky, as a new station member I will answer your questions as best I can.

-It's not hard to get a show. I've met many people who were on the air in the first semester of their freshman year.

-I haven't heard of any student hosts having any prior experience.

-Yes! Wmbr.org. Here's the current schedule (which is about to change in a few weeks as we move to the fall programming season: http://wmbr.mit.edu/www/sched )

Posted by: Ahmed on September 13, 2008

I was a pretty active WMBR member when I was at MIT... looking at all these pictures just make me feel really nostalgic!

Just to add a bit more to Ahmed's response...

-it's not that hard to get a show. I got a show my first semester at MIT. The catch is... during your first semester or two, chances are you will get a show at a pretty crappy time (2-4am anyone?) But that is kinda a rite of passage that everybody goes through. Before each season, you get to submit show proposals and apply for a more ideal time that would work with your schedule. The way the station decides who will get what show time is dependent on the number of volunteer hours you spend at the station. The more hours you spend volunteering, the better chance you will have getting your choice time slot. And there are tons of volunteering opportunities... besides, the people at WMBR is so cool anyway, volunteering is a good way to meet and hang out with them.

-to echo Ahmed, most people have little or no experience with radio. I definitely had never done radio before I got MIT, and I am definitely glad that I got a chance to get involve. But hey, having experience doesn't hurt either!

Basically, I think WMBR is one of the coolest college radio station around. I have tried to visit radio station at different college campuses, and I must say, WMBR has one of the largest music collection I have seen, and the equipments available are fantastic! Oh... how I miss my DJ days!

Posted by: tania '07 on September 14, 2008

wow, your pics have gotten nicer and nicer. =)

Posted by: omar '10 on September 14, 2008

Oh wow. Those techno CDs make me want to squeal. Is there a particular techno segment (like on a certain day or whatever)?

Posted by: Rebeca on September 15, 2008

oh my god keri you posted and i didn't even notice at first because i've been so busy. kudos. ditto omar, the photos are great. the last two are my favorites; hanna is such a hottie these days, even if she does have a bad case of microphone-lust.

anywho, yay wmbr! on a more relevant note, http://wmbr.mit.edu/ => click listen on the top left and you can hear the loverly radio from anywhere on earth! at the speed of the intertubes!

Posted by: the.lamp on September 16, 2008

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