By ELIZABETH SCHAFER, Associate Editor
It’s the only mountain in Mt. Pleasant that we know of — that’s one of the taglines for 101.1, the summit of sound. Boom, there’s another one.
I can’t express to you how nice it is to have a radio station in town that’s full of excellent music and basically commercial free. Now if WCMU 89.5 is not on my dial, then it is always turned to WMHW 101.1. I stopped by Moore Hall on the campus of Central Michigan University to see just how this miracle came about. The station was in the middle of conducting interviews for the winter semester.
The station is one of Central Michigan University’s broadcasting program’s many outlets. Aside from public radio and TV, the university has Modern Rock 91.5, and since April of 2010, it has its sister station 101.1.
The situation was comical because my first interview was with Allison Wilkins, the DJ I was just listening to minutes earlier in the parking lot. How great to put a face to a name and voice. Wilkins is both a DJ and the Program Director for the station.
Wilkins began by explaining what sets them apart from other station. “We’re different because we play folksy music, or local music, we play a lot of different music,” she said.
That is what attracts me to the summit of sound in the first place; it is the kind of music that would have played on any one of my Pandora stations of albums that I already owned. The difference is it’s a student-run operation and it is an AAA (Adult Album Alternative) station. There is no other like this in the surrounding mid Michigan area. Its target audience is women between the ages of 25-40. I’m 30; they got me; it worked.
Wilkins noted that “it’s an untapped market.” I couldn’t agree more. The station also has a lot of FCC rules to follow, which is why you find no commercials and more general PSAs and donors. The station cannot sell ads; everything is by donation. So if you hear a business mentioned on the summit, that means it has donated money.
Wilkins also said the DJs have to adapt to the station’s format. There are about 20 DJs per station. The DJ slots and technology positions are all on a volunteer basis and provide a great learning opportunity for future endeavors.
“I love to have the experience,” Wilkins said. “I got to train the jocks this semester, it’s great to see them evolve from first show to now.”
You can tell Wilkins enjoys helping people and the radio community.
Hearing local bands like Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, Ben Schuellar, and Those Transatlantics, you won’t find another radio station besides its sister station with live air time for local artists. That’s the beauty of The Mountain.
Nikki Grams also is a jockey from 9-11 a.m. on Fridays. Grams came here from Colorado in August of 2012 for the broadcasting program at CMU. She also is the graduate assistant for BCA 222.
Grams recalled listening to a popular radio show when she was younger. “Steven B and the Hawk, they were on a radio station in Denver; the crazy radio hosts made it really fun to listen to,” she said.
“I dig the interactivity, and people calling in with requests. It’s nice to know people actually listen.” Grams said that it’s also the AAA format, which is family and business friendly, that attracts listeners.
You can tell she is passionate about what she does and it shows during her broadcasts.
“Everything has changed quite a bit with technology,” she said. “It makes me hope that someday I can be really good at what I do. Maybe I’ll be good enough for syndication,” she added with a smile.
Wilkins and Grams agree that the great thing about The Mountain is that it’s volunteer-based, so you know that everyone participating really wants to be there. The staff and DJs really like to get involved in live remotes. When school is in session you can find WMHW at the Kaya Coffee on the campus of CMU.
Record labels and CD companies give the music to the stations and they also have digital downloads, which then all go into a set list for air.
The man behind it all is Chad Roberts, the Operations Manager for both stations.
Roberts said that The Mountain “holds a special place in my heart.”
He beamed while discussing the student-run radio stations. Having about 400 students in the broadcasting program, his job can be tough, but very rewarding in the end. With 15 years experience, Roberts started with a television and radio class in high school, then got a part-time job at a local station. Roberts still DJs on The Mountain every Wednesday from 9-11 a.m.