Hi – I am a two-time alumnus of the University (College 1983, GEAS 1988), a nine-year veteran of WTJU (1979-88), a remote listener, and a UVA and WTJU donor, and I would like to offer my thoughts.
I loved my time working at WTJU. My closest bonds to the University remain through WTJU. WTJU reunions are more meaningful to me than my class reunions. I cut my time short at my son’s baseball tournament in Winchester to attend Chuck Taylor’s retirement party.
I grew at WTJU and I watched many other people grow. Folks would join the station as 18 year olds, interested in one narrow type of music, and within a few years they would be exploring musical paths no one ever would have believed of them. Our listeners did as well.
I know that WTJU can succeed without major formatting changes, and especially without DJs being required to play pre-selected albums or tracks. I know because we thrived with great leadership in the early and mid-1980s with music directors like Cindy Gillen and Steve Harris. They increased our visibility in the community and in the music industry. They got major and independent record labels to send us tons of music and promotional materials, even while patiently explaining to them that we didn’t tell DJs what to play. When I came to the University in 1979, no one interesting ever came to play Charlottesville. By the mid- and late-1980s, we had major independent rock and jazz artists playing Charlottesville routinely. They came because we had a radio station that loved them and played their music. They knew us by reputation. We didn’t need rotations or “currents” – if the music was good, it got airplay. That can happen again.
I’m not writing to tell you, “We have to uphold and preserve the traditions we had when I went to school.” I’m nearly 50. I pretty much stopped absorbing new sounds ages ago. But a couple of years ago, I received a flyer in the mail promoting the upcoming Rock Marathon, and I saw that I could listen online. So I listened, through tinny computer speakers, until I couldn’t stand it anymore and hooked up a computer to my stereo. After the Marathon was over, I kept listening. And I fell in love. I fell in love with the DJs, and their shows, and the music they played. They have expanded my world all over again. I often work long hours in my home office, starting with classical music in the morning, and often still listening at 3am when the DJ cuts over to the BBC. I love Soulful Situation, Lady D and DJ Law, Black Circle Revolution, and of course Professor Bebop. I especially love Tuesdays when I get to hear Rhythm And Romance, Radio Freedonia, and Ye Olde Tuesday Night Rocke Show. But let me tell you about The Hep Imp Show. Have you heard it? It’s on at 1am on Wednesday nights. Probably not a lot of people listening at that hour, and probably a lot fewer half an hour later. It is very difficult listening – it’s abstract noise, not made from normal musical instruments. I can’t say that I’ve ever liked the show; but I feel compelled to listen. I’m always stunned that someone created and captured those sounds, and published them for some audience somewhere, and Chris (the DJ) believes in it and plays it. And I feel enriched by it. Yes, this is art that appeals to a small audience, but I never would have heard those if not for WTJU. Back in the 1980s, we had Boris Starosta and The Space Cadet Music Show – kind of the Hep Imp Show of its day – completely foreign to most ears back then, but it had an audience, and the entire community was enriched by it.
Now, I feel as though a close friend is about to be killed while I watch. This doesn’t have to happen. I know we can come up with ways to improve the station that don’t require the radical changes that have been proposed and that continue to harness the tremendous passion that you’ve witnessed in the past week. I would like to help with that in any way that I can.