Last night I attended a small celebration of a pretty big event. Wesleyan’s community radio station, WESU, recently expanded its broadcast range by installing a more powerful transmitter. Tens of thousands of additional listeners will now be able to tune into the station’s eclectic mix of music, cultural and political talk shows, and to hear information about what’s happening in Central Connecticut. Along with station manager Ben Michael, students direct the organization. Community volunteers help guide the programming and are involved in all levels of the station.
Last night Sonia Manjon, VP for Strategic Partnerships and Chief-Diversity-Officer, sang Ben’s and the radio station’s praises. She emphasized how important WESU is for generating even more community partnerships. Mark Masselli, founder and director of the Community Health Center, spoke eloquently about how the station has helped community organizers for decades. “For a long time WESU has spoken truth to power,” Mark said, and he was looking forward to its ability to do so for years to come. Mark’s generosity is one of the key reasons we have this new transmitter, and he was already advocating for digital upgrades that would extend our radio presence even further. Middletown’s Mayor Sebastian Giuliano joined in the chorus of congratulations last night, and presented a proclamation declaring that Monday, November 8, 2010 would be “W-E-S-U Day” in Middletown.
I learned about the storied origins of the station last night. In 1939 a small group of students got things going in Clark Hall. They used the water pipes as rudimentary antennae, eventually getting their AM sound almost across the campus. Over time the station grew in range and sophistication, and in the late sixties students had acquired a license for regular FM presence. When I was a student here in the 1970s, WESU offered music and news you wouldn’t get elsewhere, and that’s still the case. I told a story about John Woodhouse’s strangely stimulating classical music late night show, and I could have talked about the great jazz or political shows that expanded the sounds one could hear on the airwaves. When I joked last night that I wanted more bluegrass, a student told me about his Tuesday show, Hardly, Strickly Bluegrass. It shares the early Tuesday night time with Acoustic Blender. Check out all the programs.
Now with 6,000 watts of broadcast power, WESU is stronger than ever. If you start listening, I’m sure you’ll find something offensive, delightful, and mind expanding. It’s independent radio — small station with the big sound. CONGRATULATIONS WESU!