On Monday, July 4th, we'll celebrate independence and independents at The Family Wash with our friends from The East Nashvillian. They're hosting a benefit for us from noon until 11 p.m. on the 4th. Stop by to meet the folks behind the voices you're getting to know on the air and learn more about independent media and community-supported freeform radio.
WXNA's volunteer DJs will be spinning records and hanging out all day. Drop by and visit us for a little while or stay for the whole shebang. Speaking of bang, be sure to join us for a fantastic view of Nashville's fireworks display. They're providing the light show, we'll provide the sweet summer jams.
There's a $5.00 minimum suggested donation at the door and we'll be giving away cool prizes throughout the day. We'll also have a selection of WXNA tees and totes that can be yours with a donation to your new favorite radio station.
The Family Wash, a locally owned restaurant, coffee bar, and music venue, is located in East Nashville at 626A Main Street. This is an all ages affair, so come one, come all and celebrate your independent spirit with WXNA.
On a cool, fall Saturday afternoon recently at Drifter’s BBQ in East Nashville, a mix of music filled the air — hot rhythm & blues, power pop, vintage hillbilly, Japanese rock & roll, punk rock, hip hop and more. I was one of several DJs manning the turntables. All of us are part of a dream that’s been in the works for more than four years — WXNA 101.5 FM, “Low Power, High Voltage Radio.” As we played music that you can’t hear on any commercial radio station in town, supporters of that dream milled about on the patio, proudly clutching T-shirts with the logo of Nashville’s newest, but not-quite-here-yet source of music, cultural, and public affairs programming — a reward for their financial contribution. As a member of the board of directors of WXNA, it’s been an exciting journey for me, and I’m honored and happy that The East Nashvillian asked me to tell the story of a dream for great radio that is only a few months away from becoming reality. read more
It’s a funny thing – though I grew up a child of the radio age, I didn’t quite understand the power of it until I moved to Los Angeles and spent nearly two hours every single day commuting to and from my office in Downtown LA, completely dependent on the able hand of KCRW to transform that painfully long stint behind the wheel into something I actually looked forward to. Because I was raised in a walking city, radio didn’t dominate as much of my youth as it could have – I’d always lose reception once the subway went underground, so my bulky yellow Walkman and stacks of endless tapes were actually my prized possessions (along with a set of headphones held together like a corrective dental device – how far, ye earbuds, we have come).
I don’t think my drive from a poorly-chosen apartment directly above Hollywood Boulevard to a new high-rise just beyond the 110 overpass was much more than 10 miles, but it took at least three times as long as it should, bumper to bumper down Beverly Boulevard, made even worse by my stubborn refusal to ever actually enter the freeway myself, because I had only learned to drive a few months ago and enjoyed being alive. So I’d spend every morning, afternoon, and in-between ride tuned into KCRW, the world’s best radio station as far as I’m concerned – with Nic Harcourt and Jason Bentley, feeling like I was actually being guided by a person with real taste and a sense for curation, not just someone who thought it was funny to throw up nineties grunge against a current Vampire Weekend album cut, just for shits and giggles.
I’ll never forget the day that I first heard Jason Bentley play “I Break Horses” by Smog, a band/moniker I didn’t know well enough yet to identify as belonging to the one and only Bill Callahan, or grow to love as much as I now do. This was before the days of Shazam, so I pulled over one avenue before parking on Melrose, where I was to meet a colleague for lunch, and waited through four songs and some commercials to find out exactly what that was I had listened to, the voice that had stopped me in my tracks. I trusted Jason and Nic, and their shows were journeys – not particularly tagged to any generation or theme, but somehow united in a point of view. I don’t know how they did it; mixing Sex Mob with Dirty Projectors and Santigold and Juana Molina and old Portishead but it merged, beautifully, like a perfect mix tape should. I endless albums in my time in LA thanks to KCRW, from that year or thirty before it. Radio was my magical vehicle for musical discovery then, Pandora be damned.
I always wondered why Nashville – the music city, ya know? – didn’t have more radio stations that rivaled KCRW’s sense of exploration, taste, encyclopedic knowledge and curiosity of songs old and new. WXNA is set to change all that: founded by a group of experienced DJ’s with distinct points of view and personalities, it will be broadcasting on 101.5 FM should it complete the funding, via Kickstarter, to get things off and running. Under the motto of “Low Power, High Voltage,” they’re planning on using the platform to shape a station that reflects the diversity of our fair town: from old, weepy country, to dissonant punk, to pedal-steel tinged folk melding them both. Like my beloved KCRW, they’ll be driven by careful curation – you’ll feel like you’re being guided by a very thoughtful, very knowledgeable friend (they will operate as a “freeform” station, like another favorite, Seattle’s KEXP). Should they reach their goal, WXNA will be on air by next summer.
We thought we’d let the folks of WXNA tell you, in their own words, five reasons Nashville needs WXNA, for their Nashville Five. If you agree, donate to their Kickstarter here. We certainly do, and did.
Five Reasons Nashville Needs WXNA, by WXNA :::
1. We’re Music City, for Pete’s sake! We should have a radio station that reflects and celebrates the diversity and wealth of talent in this crazy amazing town. We want to turn on the radio and hear Bully, Tim Carroll, The Lees Of Memory, Nudity, Adia Victoria, JAWWS, Protomen, Richie Owens and The Farm Bureau, Jeff The Brotherhood, Amanda Shires, Los Straitjackets, Tommy Womack, Steelism, Chuck Mead, Hillbilly Casino, Chris Scruggs, William Tyler, The Dynamites, Hogslop String Band, Thunderbitch, Idle Bloom, Big Surr… See what we mean? (Even better, we’ll be able to stream this homegrown awesomeness to the entire planet via the world wide web!)
2. Music ain’t milk. Homogeneity is fine for dairy products, but not so much for radio stations. The music that gets played on the radio today is just a microscopic sliver of what’s out there. Old stuff, new stuff, weird stuff–we want to play it all. We guarantee we’ll play more Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon songs than any other station in town. Frankie who? Exactly.
3. Nashville is teeming with people doing incredible things that enhance the culture of this city. People involved in the arts, in fashion, in maker culture, in small businesses–we want to hear them. And we want to hear them talk to each other! How cool would it be to hear Nashville Fashion Alliance talking to Josh and Ivy from Wilder? Or The Skillery folks talking to the Fort Houston peeps? Or Bingham from Grand Palace talking to Linus from Yazoo Brewing? Our wish list gets longer by the minute.
4. Nobody knows Nashville like Nashvillians. Our friend Aubrey Preston calls what we’re doing the farm-to-turntable movement. Nashville deserves–yes, deserves!–a station that’s programmed by locals for locals. No algorithms need apply.
5. Nashville needs surprises. In this searchable, on-demand world, terrestrial radio is one of the few places left where you can be surprised by a new song, a new perspective, a new way of thinking. Surprises can change your life. They sure have changed ours.
Come on over to the East Side and show your support for X-plosive Community Radio in Nashville!
We have a killer lineup for you guys!
June 11th at The Basement East, 917 Woodland St, Nashville.
Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and the music starts at 8:00 p.m.
Thanks to all these amazing artists for supporting WXNA;
Stone Jack Jones
Jack Silverman & Stolen Faces
We'll have plenty of WXNA swag on hand, and some of your favorite deejays spinnin' tunes in between the live performances.
Don't know about WXNA yet? Check us out at wxnafm.org, or look for our Facebook page and give us a like to stay connected.
Huge thanks to our pal Larry Vaughn for throwing this here shindig for us! See you Thursday!
Oh yeah—suggested donation at the door is just 10 smackers!
Also, come see us at Porter Flea this Saturday, June 6
featuring DJ Susan on the turntables
Get Your WXNA Swag at Record Store Day
This Saturday, April 18
Awesome T-shirts, record tote bags, and more!
See that cool logo up there? Our very own Roger Blanton (of Delicious Elixir) created that, and we’re pretty damn proud of it. So proud that we printed it on T-shirts, tote bags, and bumper stickers.
This Saturday, on Record Store Day, you can help us build Nashville’s new low power community radio station by taking home some cool WXNA swag. We’ll have booths at Fond Object, Grimey’s, The Groove, and Third Man Records.
- If you’re gonna be buying LPs, take them home in a WXNA record tote bag!
- If you have a body, put it in a WXNA Next Level T-shirt of the highest quality!
- A 45 rpm fan? We got your WXNA 45 adapters—AND they glow in the dark! (ooh)
- Plus we’ll have cool bumper stickers! You have a bumper, right? Or a guitar case? Sure you do.
Come by, say howdy, and bring some extra cash or your credit card. All donations will go straight toward our building fund and help us get on the air pronto.
Thanks to Fond Object, Grimey’s, The Groove, and Third Man for letting us be a part of their festivities. We’ll see you on Saturday!
Relax with the dulcet tones of February's WXNA Pre-Fundraising Fundraiser
Our pre-fundraising fundraiser on Feb. 13 was a blast! Check out the sets our awesome WXNA DJs played for the crowd.
00:00 Pete Wilson, Nashville Jumps
19:05 Randy Fox, Hipbilly Jamboree
50:50 Heather Lose, Honky Tonk Jukebox
54:00 Doyle Davis, D-Funk
89:07 Roger Blanton, Delicious Elixir
109:33 Jonathan Grigsby, Set Records to Stun
Reclaiming the Waves of Nashville:
An Interview with Heather Lose of WXNA
By Benjamin Harper
(Originally posted on Hot Sauce and Coffee,
an online pub covering Nashville's DIY artist community)
As a budding young person growing up in Sumner County, music was a precious commodity. The hunger for new sounds was imperative to my struggling identity. Amongst my circle of friends, music was a force that gave us a home of sorts. I felt an innate compulsion to discover and HEAR all of the acts that I knew I needed to, artists for whom I could only read about in music publications. Outside of cable television shows such as ‘120 Minutes’ on MTV, such a notion was very difficult to come by as an early teenager.
One night while riding in my father’s truck, he was scanning the radio dial and stopped for just a few moments on 91.1 FM, the official station of Vanderbilt University. A loud, industrial ruckus blasted through at us. I immediately perked up and wondered what it was exactly that we were hearing. Of course my dad did not know, but he did know about 91.1. Shortly after I began to listen to this station after returning from school. I had a blank cassette at the ready. The goal was to capture the aforementioned music I’d only read about. Thus began my listening habits with WRVU. Those were simpler times. Patience and a willingness to call in a request were rewarded with a key to discovering an amazing array of artists.
Fast forward to 2011. In the interim years I’d always kept an ear to 91.1, still discovering new artists for whom I would dutifully go buy from Grimey’s or a number of digital music distributors. Nothing new, nothing special. Yet the option of terrestrial radio was always a good standby. It was great for the long commutes to and from work. It was really great to listen to while at work. Suddenly, it was relayed to the public that WRVU was up for sale! All of the hardworking and faithful DJ’s had nary a notice about this sale. Later that year, the 91.1 that I’d always taken for granted was gone. It was to become a classical only station run by WPLN. I’ll leave it at that.
A number of weeks ago I discovered that a number of the staff at WRVU are aiming to take the reins and establish a new, independent station called WXNA. Recently they held a fundraiser at Grimey’s Too, where I was lucky enough to meet some of those DJ’s. One such kind person, Heather Lose, granted the time to answer some questions about WXNA.
(Start of interview)
HS&C: What was your affiliation with WRVU, and what years were you active with the station?
Heather: I also grew up listening to the station, and because of “91 Rock,” which is was called years ago, found the Smiths, Sisters of Mercy, Violent Femmes, and more amazing bands than I could ever list. R.E.M. The Kinks! This was before the internet, before MTV. So there just weren’t that many ways of getting turned on to cutting-edge music, and Nashville was a completely different city, too. Not nearly as cosmopolitan as it is today. I’m not sure I’d be a lifelong rabid fan of music if we hadn’t had that resource here while I was a teenager, so it’s not an understatement to say that it changed my life.
One year I designed the poster and T-shirt for the station’s annual benefit show at the Exit/In. It turns out that my husband, John Reed, played his first show with a band called Raging Fire that night, though they were billed as “Mystery Guests” on the poster.
We weren’t even 21 yet. It probably would make for a better story had we met and fallen in love at the benefit, but it took another couple of decades—but what the story illustrates is the magnetism of WRVU. If you grew up here, you were a fan, and if you were in any way motivated, you found some way to get involved.
Years later, I brought my show “The Honky Tonk Jukebox” to WRVU in May, 2009, and it was on the air until they pulled the plug in June 2011.
HS&C: Am I correct in stating that Vanderbilt’s decision to sell the station to WPLN was rather abrupt? I seem to remember that there wasn’t a lot that the station supporters could do to stop the sale from taking place, even though there were some rather well known supporters who were vocal in opposing WRVU’s demise, including Chuck D from Public Enemy.
Heather: I’m not sure that any of the on air deejays or volunteers saw it coming. Pete Wilson, who was the last deejay on WRVU as we knew it then—a terrestrial station—was on the air when the whole thing went down. He had the presence of mind to ask if he could play one last song before the whole thing was sent to dark, and did. If any of your readers would like to read his account of the end, you can, at http://www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/the-dj-who-signed- wrvu-off-the-public-airwaves-describes-the-end/Content?oid=2507090
HS&C: After the station went dark at 91.1, you are right. Many people pitched in to try to keep it as a resource at Vanderbilt—for the students of Vanderbilt, but it was not a successful effort. What was the genesis of considering starting an independent station? Have you and all of the mainstay DJ’s involved with WRVU stayed in touch since the stations’s sale to WPLN?
Heather: WRVU Friends and Family was the organized entity fighting the sale. They were an extremely motivated, vocal group led by Sharon Scott. When the sale became a reality, they agreed to pass the reins on to our group who is now bringing WXNA to life. We are the silver lining gang. We are all music geeks, and though we didn’t truly make strides to stay in touch, would oddly find ourselves in the same places after WRVU went off the air. One of my favorite memories was being asked to spin records at Grimey’s for Record Store day. I showed up with my box of discs, and lo and behold—there are Pete Wilson from “Nashville Jumps” and Randy Fox from “Hipbilly Jamboree,” also working at the deejay booth. As the relative newbie at WRVU, I was super intimidated, but over the course of the afternoon, realized what good company I was in.
This is a great question. I’m not entirely certain how our little group came to gel. We had some meetings early on with a few more people who sort of drifted away. And we’ve had others drift in. As far as we are concerned, all are welcome, and we have a volunteer form on our site at wxnafm.org.
HS&C: The facility to be used for the broadcasting of WXNA is in Germantown, correct? How did you find the building? Has it been used for broadcasting previously?
Heather: The tower will be in Germantown. We don’t yet know where the studio will be.
HS&C: What steps need to be taken for the station to launch? What is your desired timeline for all of this to happen?
Heather: The biggest step is to raise the money. We are shooting for $100,000. It’s a lot. But if everyone who ever loved this station donated the amount of a night on the town, we would be well on our way. We’ll be doing crowd funding and are currently brainstorming other creative means for raising the funds. The FCC gave us until June 2016 to have the whole thing up and running. We’ll do it sooner if we meet our fundraising goals sooner!
HS&C: How can people who want to support the station contribute? The fundraising event at Grimey’s Too seemed to have quite a positive response, but I know that doesn’t provide a constant stream of the needed long-term income. For us layperson fans and supporters, what can we do outside of spreading the word on social media?
Heather: We were THRILLED by the turnout and positive energy at our first event at Grimey’s Too! We so appreciate you coming, and all the other folks who showed up, too. There are several ways to get involved right now—
• Sign up to volunteer at wxnafm.org/contactus. Then, amazing Ashley Crownover is establishing our volunteer database so that when we are ready to fully engage, we can reach out to our people and get our boots on the ground.
• Like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter, and invite your friends to do the same!
• Donations are very welcome, even at this early stage of the game. It’s easy. Our website and Facebook page both have links to our Paypal link.
HS&C: For the last question, do you have any memories you’d like to share about WRVU?
Heather: I have a million great memories of WRVU, including an hour-long interview with Exene Cervenka, who is one of my punk heroes. But I gotta be honest—these days, we are all about looking to the future, and envisioning what WXNA will bring to this city that we all love so much. We are going to be small, but mighty. And our hopes and dreams are huge!
HS&C: Thank you so much for your time, Heather. I really hope this all works out well for all of you. Nashville needs a good radio station again.
~ Benjamin Harper of Hot Sauce and Coffee
By Tyler Falk of current.org
Founders of a forthcoming low-power FM station in Nashville, Tenn., aim to revive the spirit of a Vanderbilt University student-run station that went off the air in 2011 after the controversial sale of its broadcast license.
The student station, WRVU, switched to an online-only stream after Vanderbilt Student Communications, a nonprofit associated with Vanderbilt University, sold the station’s license to Nashville Public Radio for $3.3 million. The proposed sale of the station, which had aired on 91.1 FM since 1971, prompted WRVU’s fans and DJs to organize. A “Save WRVU” Facebook page drew more than 6,000 followers.
“From pirate radio to 14,500 watts of FM power, Vanderbilt University students quite literally built WRVU 91.1 FM from the ground up,” WRVU Friends and Family, the group that organized to oppose the sale of the WRVU’s broadcast license, said at the time. “ . . . The proposed on-air license sale would erase the 60 year combined work of 1000’s of students and community members.”
But the community effort failed to stop the sale. Nashville Public Radio began airing classical music on the signal, and WRVU has since been available only as a web stream.
WRVU Friends and Family then refocused their efforts on creating a new station. “When it became obvious that we were not going to be able to resurrect WRVU as a station at Vanderbilt, it was an obvious decision to continue working toward a freeform station that would remain true to the spirit of WRVU,” Heather Lose, president of the board of WRVU Friends and Family and a former host on the station, told Current.
In December, WRVU Friends and Family got closer to their goal when the FCC granted the organization a permit to broadcast a low-power, 100-watt signal on a new frequency, 101.5 FM. The new station, WXNA-FM, will also stream online.
“. . . [I]t’s important to reach people in their cars, workplaces, and in their homes,” Lose said. “And being a local voice allows you to really home in on topics that aren’t relevant to a noncentralized audience.”
The group plans to broadcast from a site north of downtown Nashville, reaching most of the city’s central core, according to a press release. It will have a freeform radio format similar to WRVU’s and draw inspiration from other freeform radio stations. Though WXNA will feature community volunteers, it will also accept applications for student DJs from local universities.
WRVU Friends and Family also intends for the station to be a community resource by providing community-interest programming and partnering with local nonprofits. It will also work with local schools and universities to provide a place for student DJs to hone their skills.
WXNA is now in the midst of launching its “full-court fundraising press,” Lose said, which will include crowdfunding, concerts and other events to fund the station. Lose hopes to raise $100,000 to “get on the air with good equipment, as much power as we can channel, and the ability to maximize our broadcasting capabilities.”
The station has 18 months from the FCC’s awarding of the construction permit to begin broadcasting. Creating a new terrestrial radio station will be worth the effort, Lose said.
“To be able to speak to our city and her residents about issues, help a local band get their music out, aid other nonprofit organizations in the work they do — to me, that’s radio’s highest purpose,” she said.
by No Country For New Nashville
Longtime Nashville music fans likely remember the good times, but also the ultimate demise of Vanderbilt’s student radio station, WRVU, in 2011. This blog started up mere months before the station was shut down, but, even in our short time in town, we fell in love with the free-form, truly independent station and their funky, intriguing mix of programming.
It was recently announced that, with the reality of low-power FM, the folks that really made WRVU tick have teamed up and been granted a license to start a new station, WXNA, which will broadcast at 101.5 FM. This news comes around the same time that Radio Free Nashville has begun broadcasting city wide on your radio dial at 103.7 FM.
If you are one of those folks out in the world that want to retain Nashville’s authenticity and unique character, WXNA is definitely something you should be behind full force. To that end, head to a “Pre-Valentine’s, Pre-Fundraising Fundraiser” tonight at Grimey’s Too from 5pm to 7pm. Many of the DJs (from the former WRVU and future WXNA) will be in attendance, spinning records, and hamming it up. Donations will be accepted for the station’s construction, and, if you are worried about missing happy hour, Grimey’s will provide some BEERfreshments to those of age. Be a part from the start for a good cause. Head below for more information.
WXNA-FM “Low Power, High Voltage” Announces Its
Pre-Valentine’s Pre-Fundraising Fundraiser
WXNA-FM “Low Power, High Voltage” Radio is holding its first fundraising event, offering music fans the opportunity to meet the team behind the new, independent freeform radio voice of Nashville!
WXNA's Pre-Valentine’s, Pre-Fundraising Fundraiser will feature live music from WXNA DJs, free refreshments, and information about how the public can help to get WXNA-FM on the air! The excitement starts at Grimey’s Too, 1702 8th Avenue South, on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, 5-7 p.m. Many former DJs from the late and lamented WRVU-FM will appear, including the hosts of D-Funk, Delicious Elixir, Hipbilly Jamboree, Honky Tonk Jukebox, Nashville Jumps, Needles + Pins, Out of the Closet / Dance, Set Records to Stun and more. They will be spinning tunes and answering questions about their plans for shows on WXNA. Donations for the station’s construction will be welcomed.
So show your love for great music and freeform independent radio! For the latest updates visit the WXNA Facebook page.
From WRVU to WXNA
The Scoop on WXNA-FM “Low Power, High Voltage” Radio
Journalist Nate Rau ran a great story on WXNA in Saturday's Tennessean. Click here if you missed it.
Continuing the Conversation: Randy Fox and Heather Lose on WRVU and WXNA
Nate Rau: What led you to pursue WXNA?
Heather Lose: I think the crushed feeling I had when our beloved WRVU (91 Rock to us really old-school Nashvillians) was taken away was one shared by many music lovers in Nashville. That station helped shape my taste as a teenager and then, much later, gave me an outlet for "The Honky Tonk Jukebox," a show I created and ran on WDBX Carbondale—a fine community station—for about six years. It also forged friendships, taught me that Greek Orthodox hymns were mindblowingly awesome early in the morning, and was a constant place of freedom, delight, and surprise for over 40 years. Those three things are hard to come by on the airwaves these days.
It really was a no-brainer to take action to try to get the station back on the air. And when it became obvious that we wouldn't be able to do that exact thing, we decided to keep going, to establish a freeform station that would stay true to that independent spirit.
Randy Fox: Even though I was very happy and appreciative of my time on WRVU, the fact that it was a university-owned and student-run station meant that it was never a fully focused community station. Over the years WRVU had several good student management teams that were able to balance a vision of the station as being both for students and for the community, but in a crunch, student issues would take precedence, and rightly so. What I always wanted to see was a fully independent station that would function as a part of Nashville’s vast and diverse music and cultural scene.
Sometime in the late-1990s, I discovered WFMU-FM— one of the country’s premier independent, freeform stations—which, interestingly enough, began as a college station but continued to survive after the college it was a part of closed its doors. It was the type of station I wanted to see in Nashville, and I fully believed we had a market that would support such a station. The death of WRVU as a broadcast station was sad, but it also presented a huge opportunity to create a new vision of Nashville radio.
Radio Free Nashville was on the air by that point, but their signal was still limited to western Davidson County, so it made sense for us to pursue our own course. WRFN has now expanded their coverage through a translator signal, and we think that’s great. The fact that Nashville will soon have two independent freeform stations on the air is fantastic.
Nate: Who was part of the effort?
Randy: Heather can speak better on how the ball first got rolling, but we eventually settled into a core group of all former WRVU DJs. Only a few of the group were Vandy alumni— most of us came to WRVU as community volunteer DJs. We (and the shows we had on WRVU) are: Roger Blanton (Delicious Elixir), Ashley Crownover (Set Records to Stun), Randy Fox (Hipbilly Jamboree), Jonathan Grigsby (Set Records to Stun), Heather Lose (Honky Tonk Jukebox), Laura Powers (Needles + Pins), Ron “DJ Ron” Slomowicz (Out of the Closet / Dance) and Pete Wilson (Nashville Jumps).
Heather: More people than it is even possible to mention helped get us to this fine day. All the folks who donated money, time, or energy to the Save WRVU campaign. The bands that played benefits, the businesses who donated money from special events. Sharon Scott and the original board of WRVU Friends and Family did a lot of the ground work early on. They formed the 501(c)(3) and were fierce in their efforts to keep the station at Vanderbilt, as an opportunity and resource for the students there.
When it became obvious that the station as we knew it would never again find traction at Vanderbilt, the new board was elected and began carrying the torch in a new direction. One member remains from the old board—DJ Ron, who has been a crucial bridge from the old to the new. We’ve already had a lot of inquiries from other well-loved community DJs from the past. Everyone is excited. We can't wait to hear the first song go out over 101.5 FM.
Nate: What is your fundraising goal?
Heather: It's a moving target at the moment. We will have our first fundraising conclave next week and at that time can really start to project what our startup and operating costs will be. For now, let's say $100,000. That sounds like a lot, but if everyone who ever cared about WRVU simply pitched in the cost of one night out on the town, we would be well on our way.
Nate: Do you plan to pursue a stronger signal? Will there be a streaming component?
Heather: Ask us about the signal again after we've built a tower, transmitter, studio, and staff! This task is truly overwhelming when you take the bird's-eye view. The FCC gave us 18 months to be up and going. That sounds like a lot of time, until one starts to make a list. I've found that the only way to keep from freaking out over this responsibility is to baby step through this. One thing at a time. Because it is a responsibility. Many people worked hard to get us where we are today, but man. The real work hasn't even started yet!
Randy: With a 100-watt signal we should reach most of downtown Nashville and the surrounding area. We plan to strongly promote our online streaming. Our hope is that people can discover the station when they’re in the downtown area, and then listen online—whether they’re in Nashville, New York, London or Tokyo.
Heather: If anyone reading this article has a cool space they'd like to donate or rent affordably for our studio, we are all ears! You can contact us at wxnafm.org.
Nate: What can you disclose about programming?
Heather: We want to be a forum for experimentation, freedom, and excellence. I've worked in radio in one capacity or another for years, and truly believe that radio serves its highest purpose when it exists to serve the people within a community. We want to provide a wide range of shows because there's a great swath of music in the world that is not included on the dial these days. We want to give a voice to folks in our area who don't have one right now. We have already partnered with Open Table Nashville to help them with their mission of making life better for people who are homeless. And, we are looking forward to providing a rich blend of topical shows devoted to local viewpoints, underserved populations, and interests.
Randy: It’s safe to say that music will be a primary focus. We’re dedicated to a freeform format that gives each DJ absolute freedom in choosing what they want to play (within FCC guidelines of course). That means there will be lots of specialty or theme shows but we’re also hoping for some interesting and entertaining eclectic shows that will encompass all types of music, guided by the DJ’s personality.
You could say we’ll be a different format every two or three hours depending on how long a show is. But even if one listener doesn’t enjoy every show they hear, the hope is that they’ll be back two hours later to see what’s next. It’s the exact opposite of what commercial radio has become, where it’s all about homogeny and blandness so a listener won’t bother to change the station. I would love to see a day when listeners will have WXNA and WRFN as pre-sets and spend the day flipping between the two for different shows.
Nate: Why is WXNA good for the community?
Randy: Nashville has such a rich music heritage. Live music and recording have continued to grow and have played a huge part in making Nashville the city it is today. But radio has actually declined in terms of cultural influence. WSM with the Grand Ole Opry and WLAC with its nightly rhythm & blues broadcasts during the 1940s through the 1970s played a huge part in influencing American culture and music. But today, most of the radio in Nashville sounds exactly like radio stations in the rest of the country thanks to corporate ownership and centralized programming. There are some exceptions, but the “anything goes” days of radio broadcasting that led to the explosion of country and R&B in the 1950s and the creation of rock’n’roll are long gone. Our hope is that WXNA will bring back some of that personality and make radio a place to discover music rather than just hear the same songs repeated endlessly. We want Nashville’s airwaves to be as vital and exciting as Nashville’s music scene.
It seems a little thing, just another shuffling of letters and numbers — and yet to thousands of Middle Tennesseans, the news was received like a death in the family. On Tuesday afternoon, June 7, WRVU-91.1 FM — the Vanderbilt college station known for decades as 91 Rock — ceased more than five decades of broadcasting over the public airwaves.
It wasn't from neglect. For the past six months, 91's volunteer DJs, alumni supporters and dedicated listeners waged a battle through social media, email campaigns and fundraisers with the station's license holder, Vanderbilt Student Communications, to keep WRVU on the air. Those hopes were dashed last week when the station announced its $3.35 million sale to Nashville Public Radio, the nonprofit parent company of NPR affiliate WPLN-90.3 FM.
At a time when radio is nowhere near the potent cultural and economic force it once was, there are reasons to believe 91's fate — becoming Nashville's newest classical station, WFCL Classical 91 One — is the best of the pragmatic outcomes it faced. The time is right for Nashville to get the classical station its emerging world-class symphony and accomplished chamber ensembles demand.
Listeners of 91.1 will not hear their beloved station playing canned Top 40 pap or the blandest of contemporary Christian, as many had feared. Not only that, but some form of 91 Rock will continue online, as well as on a high-definition radio channel available only with a special receiver. Public supporters of the sale — mostly, members of the VSC board and paid full-time VSC employees — say this will address the reach of new technologies and changes in the ways students listen to music.
Symbolically, though, something is lost. The 91 Rock that galvanized the city's nascent rock and club scene in the 1980s, hosted local rappers ahead of the curve in the '90s and boasted everything from gay dance shows to bluegrass and Persian music needed no special receivers or dashboard jacks. All you needed to get its signal was a radio. More than any other station in the city, its programming crossed boundaries of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language, politics and interest.
Maybe its terrestrial signal was a relic, as VSC representatives have suggested — especially at a time when college stations from San Francisco to Yale have either sold their signals or shifted exclusively online. It definitely embodied a time when radio was a companion, not a sonic backdrop — a voice in the night that seemed to sense you were out there, listening.
But the station offset Vanderbilt's chilly reputation as a secretive, elitist monolith that regards itself as a gated community walled off from the city beyond. Critics of the long-rumored sale — who accuse VSC and its student media adviser Chris Carroll of everything from contemptuous silence to outright lies — say last week's all-thumbs handling of the switchover announcement has left hard feelings that may result in karmic payback when the time comes for VU alumni donations or WPLN pledge drives.
But there's an important difference between a community radio station — like Radio Free Nashville, the low-power FM station that may stand to gain the most from 91's diminished presence — and a radio station that somehow reaches a community. That difference is ownership. WRVU belonged to no one but VSC. Soon it won't even belong to them.
In this week's cover, as the online future of WRVU and the identities of WFCL and WPLN remain in flux, we commemorate 91 Rock as the city knew it — Nashville's beacon of new sounds, frequent flubs, happy accidents and constant surprises, a cultural connector that made listeners and staffers alike feel a little less isolated. We also examine the sale and what the future holds for the parties involved — and the parties opposed. And until the Vanderbilt student station makes its online return this fall, we look for whatever might fill that empty slot that just opened up on our car radios.
by Jim Ridley -Jun 7, 2011 2 PM
The Scene has received word that after months of speculation, the Vanderbilt college radio station WRVU 91.1 FM has apparently been purchased by WPLN 90.3 FM, the city's National Public Radio affiliate. The new 91 Rock will be WFCL — Classical 91 One. It will offer classical music 24 hours a day, seven days a week, freeing WPLN to pursue all-NPR news programming.
A press release is expected later today. More details as they arrive.
UPDATE, 3:09 p.m.: Official press release below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Vanderbilt Student Communications and Nashville Public Radio Announce Launch of Classical 91.1
Nashville, Tenn.- June 7, 2011 - The Board of Directors of Vanderbilt Student Communications and the Board of Directors of Nashville Public Radio agreed today to the transfer of the license of WRVU 91.1FM to Nashville Public Radio. The new station’s call letters will be WFCL and its mission will be to showcase classical music and the arts and promote local performances and events. The change in format is effective June 8.
WRVU’s eclectic programming format continues without interruption as an online service and will resume over-the-air broadcast service on WPLN’s HD3 channel beginning in the fall of 2011.
The agreement calls for a payment of $3,350,000 from Nashville Public Radio to Vanderbilt Student Communications, gives WRVU the use of WPLN-HD3 and guarantees internship opportunities for Vanderbilt students in Nashville Public Radio’s award-winning news department.
Vanderbilt Student Communications is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization chartered in 1967 to manage Vanderbilt’s student media. After careful deliberation, which included inviting extensive feedback from the community over the last nine months, its Board concluded the creation of an endowment was critical to ensuring VSC’s ability to service the information and cultural needs of the Vanderbilt student population.
“The media industry is changing dramatically, a fact nowhere more obvious than on a college campus where younger consumers and content producers are gravitating to innovative technologies,” said Mark Wollaeger, Vanderbilt University English professor and chair of the VSC Board of Directors. “This agreement will help ensure for our students the opportunity to shape the future of media for years to come.
“Students and faculty members representing VSC researched various options privately and publicly for two years and ultimately concluded the sale to Nashville Public Radio best addresses the greatest number of needs,” Wollaeger said. “This arrangement will allow 91.1FM to preserve students’ radio experience online and on-air via HD, remain a community asset, develop an internship program at Nashville Public Radio and create financial security through an endowment for VSC.”
Nashville Public Radio is an independent, community-licensed public radio station, originally licensed by the FCC in 1962 as a unit of the Nashville Public Library. Nashville Public Radio, a charter member of National Public Radio, separated from Metro Government in 1996 and has since been governed by a board of private citizens.
Nashville Public Radio operates 90.3FM, WPLN 1430AM, WTML 91.5FM in Tullahoma, WHRS 91.7FM in Cookeville, WPLN-HD2 and WPLN-HD3. All of WPLN’s program services are available as an Internet stream.
Michael Koban, the Chair of the Board of Directors of Nashville Public Radio, said, “The board was excited about the potential for the acquisition of 91.1FM to strengthen our entire organization. We saw clearly how our signature public radio formats, music and news, could reach their full potential for audience service as standalone stations.”
Nashville Public Radio President Rob Gordon said, “This move strengthens our ability to deliver both news and music because it gives us room to enhance and build each service.
“Over the years our listeners and supporters have asked us to establish separate news and music services, which we’ve not been able to do because of the limited number of frequencies available on the FM band. Multiple public radio stations have proven successful in many other cities; now we’re proud to say Nashville can support both an NPR news and a full-time classical music station.”
As part of its mission the new station will partner closely with area arts organizations and present local performances and interviews with artists and musicians.
“This belongs to the community,” Gordon said. “We want Classical 91.1 to reflect our region’s vibrant, energetic arts scene. Over the coming weeks and months we’ll ask area arts organizations for feedback and input on how to make the station a vital resource for the arts in our region.
“We are grateful for the confidence the Vanderbilt Student Communications board has placed in us and applaud the current and earlier VSC boards and staff for their many years of careful custodianship and management of WRVU,” Gordon said. “We are also delighted to offer opportunities for Vanderbilt student interns to experience what it is like to work in a professional newsroom.”
President, Nashville Public Radio
Chair, Vanderbilt Student Communications Board