It is Monday morning in a dark room in North Court, and the phone rings. A voice on the other end delivers bad news -- the third disaster this week. "We can't make it," the voice says, "We're splitting up."
Members of The Kal Nwaneri Band of Richmond, Va., decided to leave the music business just five days before they were scheduled to headline "Benefit the Beats," a fundraising concert for the University of Richmond's student-run radio station, WDCE 90.1.
Station employees said the concert aimed to raise awareness of the organization and gain funding for a new transmitter, which would expand the station's signal radius from nine miles to 25 -- covering the city of Richmond.
Whitney Cavin, program director for WDCE 90.1, said she had received similar calls over the weekend from members in two other bands who said they had to withdraw from Saturday's 8 p.m. concert.
Benefit the Beats fliers had promised six bands from the Richmond and D.C. area. The bands were supposed to perform for 45 minutes each, Cavin said. By Monday, she said, the list was down to four after a singer from James Madison University, who mistakenly thought she was expected to perform, had offered a replacement.
Cavin said the last-minute withdrawal of the headlining band had been an unexpected blessing, because the replacement -- a band called Money Cannot be Eaten-- was amazing. The Indie scene in Richmond is astounding, she said. "There's talent in Richmond, and we have access to it."
The selling point of WDCE 90.1 is that the music is not mainstream, Cavin said. "It is independent music from people who deserve to have a voice." Cavin said she was particular about the music she wanted to present at the concert and was surprised that she had found a great band in the midst of a crisis.
The members of Money Cannot be Eaten asked for dinner and gas money to travel to the university in exchange for playing at the concert. Cavin said she was paying those costs out of her pocket, because she was eager for them to perform.
The bands that will play on Saturday are William Rousseau, Cardinal Compass, Quango Almo and Money Cannot be Eaten, Cavin said.
"We have decided to fill the remaining hour of the concert with local disc jockeys who play at the station," Cavin said, grinning. She said some DJs had worked at the station for more than 40 years. All of the DJs are volunteers, she said. Cavin said this proved the bands and the DJs were dedicated to music. "A college audience for them is a very strong thing."
Cavin said she expected 250 to 300 people to attend the concert. If everyone gave one dollar, the station staff would raise about $300, she said, but the transmitter they need is more than $20,000. The suggested donation is $3. Donators will receive a WDCE 90.1 button, she said.
Max Vest Director of Student Activities and adviser for the radio station for the last 36 years, said the concert would be free, because "we decided to focus on marketing." The intention is not to raise all the money now. "The rest of the money would need to be raised through monies from SOBAC and the University and a possible fundraising campaign among previous station managers and DJ's."
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Vest said the station's current transmitter had been installed in 1978, and that issues with streaming were partially due to age and the current antenna. He said the station was awaiting approval from university officials to purchase a new antenna. "A new transmitter and tower could run around $50,000," he said. This fee would be in addition to the station's daily costs, which include paying an engineer, buying soundboards, speakers, computers and microphones, and general building maintenance, he said.
"By expanding the station, we can help these bands be heard," Cavin said.
The benefit concert, which Cavin and Vest have been planning for more than a year, is the first fundraising concert for WDCE 90.1 in more than three years, Cavin said. The station was created in 1960, she said, but many students are still unaware that the university has its own radio channel. "The station has been dormant for a very long time, but now things have really taken off."
Cavin said station employees had designed T-shirts this year, the amount of positive feedback had increased and student DJs had mentioned seeing an increase in the number of online listeners to their shows. "When people see something thriving, they want to be a part of it," she said.
Contact staff writer Rachel Bevels at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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