Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Seeking connection, college radio DJs put their own spin on community building

Photo Courtesy of Veronica Silvosa
Veronica Silvosa looks through records in the Stacks, Louis Hall’s music library.

Behind the world’s heaviest metal door, tucked in a corner of John J. Louis Hall, students gather to broadcast music to the Evanston area over student-run radio station WNUR. Groups of two-to-five people sit in front of PC monitors and a board of various dials and knobs, cranking tunes while they chatter away to one another. 

But, when they leave the studio after their slot, many of these student co-DJ groups don’t interact with one another.

For college radio DJs, broadcasting music picks and commentary is a way of expressing individuality and sharing musical tastes with the campus and local community. However, perfecting their craft in windowless booths can sometimes be a lonely endeavor.

University of Chicago sophomore and WHPK DJ Gemma Lippman explained the isolating effect that the organization of college radio stations can have.

“People don’t really socialize with each other unless they are already friends with each other,” Lippman said. “I would say the ethos is somewhat solitary, to be honest, at least for me.”

Lippman said she primarily plays folk music on her radio show and enjoys the freedom it affords her. She added that sharing music with her co-DJ is one particularly rewarding aspect of her experience, as the two introduce each other to music they might not otherwise hear.

While the UChicago student radio station emphasizes a genre-based focus for each of their DJs, Rock Show –– WNUR’s radio show dedicated to underrepresented music — encourages DJs to play smaller artists across genres. Communications sophomore Veronica Silvosa said that Rock Show has provided a unique creative outlet for her at Northwestern.

“The ethos is basically to play underrepresented music, music that not a lot of people would listen to,” Silvosa said. “Generally, the rule is under 300,000 listeners on Spotify, but you try to go even lower, if possible, like truly unknown artists, artists that you want people to listen to that are not being played pretty much anywhere else.”

These guidelines result in a show that can be unexpected and distinctive for listeners. This search for new artists can be an inspiring process for DJs, sparking collaboration and bonding between co-DJs, Silvosa said.

“It has allowed me to discover so many new things, listening to what my other co-DJs have selected,” Silvosa said.

This musical exploration is also a highlight of University of St. Andrews in Scotland sophomore DJ Avery Konwiser’s student radio experience. Konwiser said he designed a themed program with his co-DJ that explores different aspects of the human experience through music.

The radio station’s environment, which he described as “chill” and student-driven, allows room for him to craft unique soundscapes for his listeners.

“Our radio program is kind of low-commitment,” Konwiser said. “So we had kind of free rein over our, like, creative direction. There’s no one telling us, ‘No, you can’t use that song.’”

However, Konwiser said that while he enjoys being a part of STAR (St. Andrews Radio), this freedom can result in a lack of structure and community for participating students.

“My criticism of STAR is that they’re not really very good at cultivating a community around radio,” Konwiser said. “(STAR is) literally hundreds of people, but there’s no real interaction between them,” Konwiser said. 

Silvosa echoed many of Konwiser’s concerns, and said she craves more interaction with the wider Rock Show community. 

“I honestly wish it was more social,” Silvosa said. “I feel like I basically just go in my little booth, play my music. There’s not really a lot of social events.”

Tufts University sophomore Alec Rosenthal, who is a Studio B Assistant on WMFO, elaborated on some of the ways that Tufts radio encourages connections through live music events. 

He said bringing the entire WMFO community together through concerts centered around their common interest in music can bridge the divisions that sometimes make DJing lonely. 

“Music and pop culture, that is such a thing that can easily bring people together,” Konwiser said. “That’s such an untapped well of community building.”

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Twitter: @challahslices

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