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Friday, July 25, 2014

WCC DJs Passionate About Music and Orchard Radio

  • Broadcast arts student Stephanie Mae hosts “The Takeover” on Orchard Radio, WCC’s Internet-based radio station.

It’s 2:45 on a Wednesday afternoon and Stephanie Mae is reminding her 450 Facebook friends that she’ll be on the air at Orchard Radio in 15 minutes. Mike Pickett and his buddy, Matt Gilson, are on the mics behind her rehashing the Tigers’ heartbreaking loss the day before and the controversy surrounding star slugger Miguel Cabrera. They are surrounded by posters of Led Zeppelin, Rob Zombie, and Pillar of Autumn, among others, and are oblivious to the parade of students, faculty, and staff walking past the half-wall windows that give them a birds-eye view of the Student Center first floor.

Welcome to the fast-paced world of Orchard Radio, WCC’s Internet-based radio station that’s on the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With 40 unique formats, it offers something for every listener on or off campus.

“We have DJs who play rock, folk, country, hip hop, rap, and alternative music,” said Scott York, the station manager. “We also have three sports shows which are mostly talk—the diversity is great. Rock is programmed for the slots we don’t have a DJ. Because it is Internet based, the programs can be heard around the world.

“It’s not like other stations that are set up in only one format like rock or country or jazz; you’ll hear something new every hour and every day of the week here,” York added. “Stephanie’s been on the air for a couple of years now and is president of our Orchard Radio Student Organization, which meets twice a month to go over events and schedules and promotions. This is Mike’s first semester in the studio. Both love what they’re doing.”

Mae and Pickett represent the passion that is energizing the station and the WCC broadcast arts program that it supports, and could account for the increase in students it experienced this fall.

“I think the jump in enrollment is due to a few things,” said Dena Blair, who teaches broadcast arts. She pointed out that students taking classes in the program must sign on for 10 one-hour radio segments each semester. “Many didn't know that WCC had a broadcast arts program, as we are only a few years old,” she said. “Once that information started getting out, we could see our numbers rise.

“Radio is a staple in many students' lives, and the idea of actually studying and eventually working in it is incredibly appealing. I also believe that the revival of Orchard Radio has created awareness, not only for the radio station but for the program as well.”

MySpace and Facebook are the two biggest resources for alerting listeners to what’s happening at Orchard Radio, said Mae, who with a few more courses will graduate this spring with degrees in broadcast arts and journalism. “It’s a good way to get people sitting at work to tune in,” she said. “I feature local, underground, and punk bands from Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Windsor on my show, ‘The Takeover.’ When I love a band I want to know what they’re like off stage, I want to find out what they’re all about, I want to have that connection with them. A lot of people who listen in are bands that I play.”

Pickett likes the broad experience that he’s getting. “I try to dip my toes into every format I can: sports, general news, and music,” he said. “I want to get a sense of what goes into everything. I would really like to go on as a talent. I love this area and I want to stay here, it’s one of the top 15, top 25 markets. If you have a highly-rated show in Detroit, you’re known nationwide.”

The broadcast arts program also emphasizes providing students with a broad experience that involves producing, editing, writing, and working as on-air talent. “This training makes students more marketable as they are able to perform several different jobs/tasks instead of just one,” Blair said. “As the radio industry evolves, those that have many skills will be sought after before those who just specialize in one. That is how students will find jobs in the current industry.”

To become a DJ at Orchard Radio, you must be a WCC student enrolled in at least one class with a minimum 2.0 GPA and a love of music, York said. College employees also can host shows. “Students enrolled in the broadcast arts program have first priority over schedules, but volunteer DJs fill in the rest of the slots Monday through Thursday 8:00am-6:00pm and Friday 8:00am-5:00pm,” York said. “There are other parts of the business students can help out with. The student club needs a finance student to oversee its account, and we need people to help with marketing and promotions.” People interested in working at Orchard Radio should contact York at .

With laptops prevalent on campus, in coffee shops, and on desktops everywhere, listenership for Orchard Radio is bound to grow. But DJs like Mae and Pickett will tell you it’s really all about the music.

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