Friday, December 18, 2009

WIRQ - 50 Years

I discovered today that the little radio station that started it all for me is going to be celebrating 50 years of being on the air in 2010.

WIRQ has been Irondequoit High School's radio station longer than any other high school radio station in the nation. My introduction came one night sometime my freshman year while dialing through radio stations as I avoided doing homework. Even though it was after 7pm, the station was still on the air for the weekly alternative countdown with Tim Carey and Jason Repp. I quickly popped in a cassette and hit record.

The cassette has since mangled a little with songs being recorded over in spots, but it still has snippets of some great, seemingly obscure songs of the early 1990s. I even caught part of a mic break where Tim, Jason and some other guy who dropped by the studio are riffing on the theme song to Shaft. The number 1 song that week?

Tim: "For the fifth week in a row.."
Jason: "Ehnnnnn"
Tim: "Detachable Penis.. King Missile.. 94.3 WIRQ"

I listened on and off over the next year and decided my need for more alternative music in my life could possibly be filled if I joined the station. Unfortunately, the summer of 1993 would be when the high school principal shortsightedly shut down the station. I forget what his reasoning was, but I'm sure it included stories of drug use, sex under the soundboard, students skipping class, and the principal's disinterest in the music being played on the air. Fortunately, a group of rabid station members successfully petitioned to the school board to have it re-opened.

My long time friend Shannon dragged me to the first re-organization meeting for WIRQ in November '93 since I was afraid I just might not be cool enough to step inside this legendary place. A few weeks later, I had my first training session to become a DJ. I quietly observed the personnel director at the time do her air shift. The next training session was with Ryan, a guy in my class. He was supportive as I stumbled a little over reading a public service announcement for some art exhibit at the Rush Rhees Library on the U of R campus. Then, almost 16 years ago to today, Ryan stepped out of the on-air studio and I did my first solo mic break. It was all over from there. I was hooked.

Two weeks later, chicken pox took out another fellow DJ and I was suddenly filling in for his daily show during 8th period of the school day. When he came back, he let me continue in the slot. Not long after that, I added a weekly afterschool show that included the dual-broadcast with WBER to my on-air time.

Senior year, I swapped duties with my friend Shannon and became the Music Director for WIRQ. Even with no prior experience, I threw myself into creating weekly play lists, reporting to College Music Journal, talking (or bullshitting) to Record Reps about what we were spinning and further feeding that aggressive beast inside that wanted to live inside a radio station even though I had been setting myself up for years to be a music teacher. No one was really surprised when I switched majors to broadcasting at the end of my freshman year in college.

WIRQ provided a super-charged awakening to my love for radio. I'm so thrilled that it still exists, even as technology changes, for other high school students to get to experience what it's like to be a radio DJ before college. Congrats on 50 Years WIRQ!

1 comment:

Steve Lafreniere said...

Great story! Now I see where you caught the 'casting bug.

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