We're on the air!
Music Director Allison Lapinski broadcasts live from home. Front page: Production Director Luis Mejia-Ahrens
The pandemic has created a challenge for DJs at Loyola’s student-run radio station, as they are unable to use the studio for broadcasts. Undaunted, the students at WLUW, 88.7-FM, are using modern technology to broadcast remotely.
SOC Events Coordinator Genevieve Buthod interviewed several staff members at WLUW about their experience broadcasting from home during the pandemic. Below are their compiled responses.
Interview with Operations Manager Paul Quinn, Production Director Luis Mejia-Ahrens, Promotions Director Morgan Ciocca, and Music Director Allison Lapinski.
Can you tell me more about your role at WLUW, and how things have changed for you since you began broadcasting remotely?
Operations Manager Paul Quinn: I work closely with [Student Media Manager] Eleni Prillaman with the operational tasks day to day. I was helping with the podcasting studio a lot. I train new DJs, help cover shows. I’ve been the liaison between getting DJs situated and troubleshooting with the engineers to keep things operating smoothly. I help get people used to the online format. We’re using Anydesk software to do it. It’s a program that remotely accesses a computer, it accesses our on-air computer at the station. DJs sign into the program on their computers, and then they can play their pre-recorded show live on the station. Q Go Live is a call in microphone, it’s an app you can get on your phone. It connects to the system and the on-air system. Mainly one of our DJs has the mixing board in the studio to work with, but now you can just change the audio output to go through the computer. DJs have reached out to me and Eleni and they’ve said they’re really happy to have their show even though it’s online.
Production Director Luis Mejia-Ahrens: I’m currently one of two production directors, which means we’re the people that record things that need to be put on air. If there’s any sort of promotion or PSA that needs to be aired, we’re in charge of that. If someone needs some help with editing something, we are the ones who do that. We’re the resource if they need help.
We started this summer by saying that we would pre-record our shows and then send them to our engineer to play them. So when I heard that news, I started saving up money from my internship, to get my own equipment, just simple things like a condenser microphone with a stand, and a Zoom H4N recorder. You can plug an XLR cable onto it, it’s just an audio recorder. So then I had an audio platform. So then I was able to record pretty good high quality-sounding stuff. Instead of having my Friday show live, I sit down on Thursdays, record my show, plug it into my computer, edit it myself, and air it on Friday.
Promotions Director Morgan Ciocca: In normal times, a lot of my job is reaching out to artists and concert venues and promoters to try to get passes for student DJs and other members of the executive staff to take photos and write about the show or the artist, that I put on our page. They send me the article, I look it over, and we work together to get it posted. I like being in contact with people, and I like being a part of Chicago arts culture.
My remote show, we’ve started out with executive staff members pre-recording shows and uploading them afterwards. It’s worked out. It’s kind of a lot of work to get everything edited. My show’s only an hour long. My show is called “Folk It Up.” It’s a folk and country music based show. It’s on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to noon. I’ve always really liked folk music. And in the past two years, I’ve discovered I actually really like country music. I try to look up factual information about the artists, or things about the genre, or trends that I see in some of the songs and talk about that. I can talk about all of that on the show, other than just the name of the song and “You’re listening to WLUW!”
Promostions Director Morgan Ciocca
Music Director Allison Lapinski: My position at WLUW is the station’s Music Director. My role has changed in a lot of ways- from scheduling new music digitally instead of the physical CDs, to no longer attending and reviewing shows, to now interviewing artists over the phone instead of in-person. I actually learned so much more about editing audio for my show and working more with spreadsheets. So it’s been an adjustment, but I think that I’ve found my groove.
And just in general, the changes at WLUW that we implemented along with our station manager, Eleni, were really strategic and I think an efficient response to closing the studio so suddenly. And I still get to enjoy all the work I do with labels, musicians and promoters, from the comfort of home!
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Mejia-Ahrens: The biggest challenge is not having the station itself, with all of its fancy equipment. Having to actually be there, it’s almost a psychological incentive to commit to the work you’re doing. I’m doing my own recording, everything I used to do in the studio, just about a foot away from my bed now.
Quinn: Doing a show, it’s harder to make it feel unique or authentic. I’m not behind a studio microphone. I’m at my laptop, it has more of a DIY feel to it. I have to make something new and interesting every week without feeling bogged down. Constantly being on my laptop is hard. It’s just another screen I’m staring at for an hour.
Ciocca: I’ve been having trouble with the scheduling software. It’s a different process for DJs this semester. We’re going to be doing live remote broadcasting this semester. The new schedule will be out in a week or so, so then we’ll be able to train new DJs.
It’s a new experience with audio, too. Now every single week, I have to edit an hour long show. Balancing all the audio levels, writing a script for myself, then recording myself and editing my own recording. It probably takes about 3 or 4 hours to produce a one hour show.
How do you stay connected with your fellow students and workers at the station?
Ciocca: Our executive staff has weekly meetings, and I have everyone’s phone number. We’re like a little family. It’s sad that we can’t have in-person meetings. But it’s been good that we’ve been able to keep doing Zoom meetings. It was good to talk about things going in our lives. Staying connected in that way has been really nice. We all decided even if we didn’t have much to talk about that we would still have our meetings. And it’s made me happy knowing that there’s a certain time that I’m going to be talking to everyone.
Mejia-Ahrens: We decided to populate the website, stay active, use our social media platforms, to use everything available to us. If we see an artist we like, we’ll put it in our Instagram story. We use our own personal social media accounts to promote the station. We’ve always branded ourselves as a youth run, student led radio station. It’s just a few kids doing all of this! We want to let people know that it’s just something fun to do, whether you want to pursue radio as your passion or not.
Lapinski: I plan to just continue with our remote meetings and hopefully speak to more incoming students at the virtual Student Organization fair. I also helped launch a Spotlight DJ series this summer on our blog, which highlights different student DJs and is a really cool way to stay connected with all the people who contribute to our airwaves.
Any big ideas for what you’d like to see the station do this fall?
Mejia-Ahrens: We can continue to incorporate new programming onto our website. But what I’m really focused on is just making sure we are able to continue to run smoothly, even with everything going on. I want to see the radio station doesn’t take a devastating blow. I want to see all the creativity and all the excitement and revitalization that for some reason this situation may bring. I am very curious to see what younger DJs are going to do with their programs, now that they’re stuck at home and have a little bit more freedom. I’m lucky to have such a dedicated team of people wanting to see this radio station succeed, everyone that contributes to the radio station. Everyone is very excited about this broadcasting avenue we all share. We want to see it grow. We’re all very passionate about it. It rarely feels like a job. When my job consists of interviewing my favorite artists, choosing my favorite music I want to play on my program, it stops feeling like a job.
Quinn: I would like to see a virtual fest this year. I think that would be a lot of fun. Especially if we could do a feature on local musicians, like Loyola musicians. I think opening up opportunities to the rest of the school would be really cool. Still getting together with people, still being a community, is still very important.
Lapinski: I hope to see more Audio Production students and Communications students get involved at the station; especially freshmen because I know it will be hard to find community in a remote setting. I would also love to book a virtual music festival on our Instagram page.
Ciocca: I would like to work with artists and do livestreams if that’s possible. I would like us to have a fuller schedule than we have right now. I’m hoping that more students still feel like they can become a part of WLUW and feel encouraged to join the station.
How can students become more involved with the radio station?
Mejia-Ahrens: Just a couple of days ago, we opened up applications for the fall. Even though we’re fully remote, we’re accepting people for the fall. We’re trying to garner interest from younger students. We would have to teach them with remote software. We hope we get younger students so the station stays sustainable. The application is open to anyone. I’ve seen some of the applications coming in, a lot of people are incoming freshman or sophomores.
Quinn: This summer, our music director Allison has been coordinating a lot of interviews. I would like to see more interviews on our blog. I would love it if students who were interested in music journalism would write for the blog and talk to local artists. As school starts up and people start getting into a normal routine, I’d like to see our student volunteers do more than just a radio show.
Want to learn more about WLUW? Ever thought about applying to be a DJ? Visit their website and you can apply today!