Editor’s Note: Zac Zibaitis is a columnist for The Collegian.
WDCE 90.1 FM welcomed community DJs back into the studio this semester after COVID-19 had previously prevented them from visiting campus.
Since 1960, WDCE has been the “voice of independent radio in Richmond,” according to their website. In addition to its regular programming, the station gives DJs from the Greater Richmond region the opportunity to host radio shows and mentor students who may be interested in pursuing radio- or music-related careers.
WDCE’s executive members voiced excitement about the community DJs returning to the studio.
“They have done so much for us, historically,” WDCE faculty adviser Timothy Barney said. “They've kept the station going through lots of different periods and so it was kind of strange not having them around, you know, because they're such a constant with us.”
Todd Larrabee, who has DJed for WDCE since his first year at UR in 1980, said that the studio had intrigued him because of his love for music. Before graduating with a B.A. in economics in 1984, he was music director of WDCE for two years, he said.
When he’s not working as a national sales manager in consumer goods, he comes to the studio. Doing it for so long has helped him train students that come into the studio, Larrabee said.
“It's fun to do and, you know, it's good to connect with friends, develop friends who go out there with me, not as much with my career but certainly for the music,“ he said. “I think it helps a lot to sort of learn from the right people,” he said.
Community DJs also get to collaborate with other DJs and alumni, Larrabee said. He gets to see them at concerts, pay attention to their music playlists and much more, he said.
Another WDCE faculty adviser, Joanna Love, said, ”From what I can see, the community DJs provide a lot of continuity because students come and go, not only semester to semester, summer breaks, they're gone. But a lot of these DJs have been around a really long time, and so they provide historical memories.”
During the 2020-2021 academic year, off-campus visitors, including community DJs, were not allowed on campus in order to decrease the spread of COVID-19. With UR in the Lime Stage of the Physical Distancing Framework, off-campus visitors are now able to come to campus while adhering to the updated mask policy.
Program director and senior Cam Smith said that the community DJs made her job easier. A lot of them loved training and liked having the new DJs shadow them, she said.
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Students that joined at the height of the pandemic did not get as many opportunities to get to meet the people who may have been doing their show for decades, Smith said.
“I remember when I did it my freshman year, and I shadowed some community DJs,” Smith said. “They were so great, they were so friendly and really made me feel comfortable. And so I think not having that really just was a bit of a bummer for the people who didn't get to have that quality time with them.”
Despite not having the community DJs last year when he joined WDCE, music director and sophomore Zac Zibaitis had the opportunity to shadow another student instead, he said. That student ended up being Smith.
“I thought it still went very well,” Zibaitis said. “And I didn't really miss the presence of the community DJs just because I didn't know what it was like.
“But I know right now that the concept of having them back is really exciting for me because just having these people with all this experience and these interesting outlooks, having them back is going to be like a really good thing for the station.”
With WDCE’s fall schedule underway, community DJs are regularly coming into the studio, Smith said. The radio station is also trying to get involved with the Center for Student Involvement, Spiderboard and other student organizations and groups to connect with the campus community or just provide music at campus events, she said.
“We're definitely, definitely looking to grow from our smaller presence in North Court,” Smith said.
WDCE is taking on a lot of new talent, both with the executives and the DJs, Barney said.
“We’re just super excited to get this thing going again and it’s like a new era for the radio station,” Barney said.
Contact visual staff member Madyson Fitzgerald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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