My final radio station visit during my trip to the D.C. area in April, 2014 was to see WLOY at Loyola University Maryland. I’ve known WLOY’s Operations Manager John Devecka for a few years now, so I took a quick side-trip to Baltimore in order to see the station before heading to the airport.
On the Saturday morning of my visit (April 12, 2014), the campus was actually quite busy with several events, including some related to newly admitted students. After finding parking near the dorm where the station is housed, I met up with Devecka to learn more about WLOY.
WLOY, located on the ground floor of Bellarmine Hall, was built in fall 2002, although radio at Loyola University dates back to at least 1975. Currently broadcasting at low power (under the FCC’s part 15 rules) at 1620 AM as well as online, WLOY also hoping to be granted a new LPFM license. It’s still awaiting word from the FCC, as it is facing heavy competition for the license in Baltimore. Seven groups, including another college radio station (Johns Hopkins University) applied for the same frequency (92.7 FM).
In 1975, AM carrier current station WVLC (“the Voice of Loyola College”) launched at Loyola. The call letters changed to WLCR (“Loyola College Radio”) in 1976 and the station was active until 1996 when its Student Center home was renovated. Radio resumed on campus with WLOY’s launch in 2003.
During my visit, a few WLOY staffers were also hanging out at the station in order to give tours to any prospective students who might come by. I was happy to see at least one family come through during my visit and I could tell that the prospective parents were also excited to see the station.
WLOY airs programming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. Live shows happen from 11am to 11pm and pre-recorded programming airs during other times and on the weekend. Although the staff and DJs are mostly students, there are also a couple of community volunteers and some alumni DJs. There are around 80-100 DJs at WLOY, with some shows having up to 3 or 4 hosts. Devecka said that they try to have pairs of DJs hosting a show, but that there are also some solo hosts.
New DJs start out with an hour-long show and after a semester they can build up to a 2-hour shift. After a year on the air, DJs must do 2 hour shifts. The current WLOY schedule reflects the wide range of programming at the station, including music from many genres (hip hop, rock, electronic, blues, oldies, etc.), old time radio (vintage radio dramas), sports talk, and public affairs shows.
Although WLOY is an extra-curricular activity that isn’t directly tied to coursework, there are some radio classes at Loyola that operate separately from the station.
The station is deeply connected with the community, which Devecka attributes in part to Loyola’s Jesuit affiliation. He told me that students are very interested in the broader community and a number of shows and projects reflect that. A radio show focused on homelessness (Both Feet In) airs on the weekends and has led to various outreach projects, including a BBQ which fed more than 700 people, as well the creation of a newspaper, Word on the Street.
There’s also a children’s show on the weekends as well as a free summer “radio boot camp” for kids. Much of this grew out of the show “What Happens Next,” in which kids (4 to 12 year olds!) are invited to WLOY in order to write the end of a story and then tell it on-air. Devecka told me that a lot of Loyola student DJs are involved with the children’s show.
Devecka explained that the station has been taking on even larger projects in order to help teach radio skills to kids and teenagers in Baltimore. In addition to a 2-week radio bootcamp for 8th graders, WLOY also started a program for 5th graders. The program, Radio EDU, operates out of local elementary school. WLOY built a studio space there and a few days a week a WLOY alumnus and WLOY student volunteers work with kids in order to teach them audio engineering and radio production. Some of the shows created during this program end up airing over WLOY during the Community Radio Hour on the weekends.
The elementary school program is rapidly expanding and last spring 4th graders were added to the mix, with 5th graders mentoring them. Eventually 3rd graders will join the program as well and the plan is for them to learn Audacity, while 4th graders will learn Audition and 5th graders will learn ProTools for audio production. It’s possible that all of these young students may also get official certification after learning different editing software.
On top of those programs, WLOY also works with a middle school teacher, helping to produce student-crafted radio plays. In 2012 they also enlisted local high school students to create the sound effects for the radio plays.
WLOY is full of fun pop culture artifacts, from a collection of NSYNC bobble head figures to a pirate head made entirely of System of a Down stickers. Stuffed ravens, orioles, and plastic pink flamingos are perched in the station window, in part as a nod to famed Baltimore resident John Waters (director of Pink Flamingos).
Devecka told me that WLOY marches in the Mayor’s Holiday Parade every year with a “campy float.” I was shocked (in a good way) to hear that WLOY has two of its own vans (as I rarely hear about college radio vans) and for one of their floats they perched a sleigh on the roof of one of them. Sadly the 2013 parade was snowed out, but Devecka said that WLOY staged their own parade to showcase their float.
In addition to all the fun pop culture stuff at WLOY, Devecka is also the keeper of much radio history. He showed me copies of The Journal of College Radio from the late 1960s, which gave a fascinating glimpse of the world of college radio decades ago.
As I left the station, I admired WLOY’s collage of album covers plastered on the walls in the entry way to the station. An amazing array of vintage gems seemed to wish me a fond farewell as I headed off. I was also happy to see another Leo Blais sign prominently displayed in the window sill.
Thanks to John Devecka for the great tour of WLOY. With this post I’ve finally completed all of my D.C.-area station write-ups. Soon, I will report on a visit to a high school station in Illinois as well as trips to several Seattle-area stations and yet another college radio station in San Francisco. You can see my ever-growing list of station reports on Spinning Indie.