By Rebecca Perry
The basement of Thompson Hall is much more than a dry passageway between buildings. It’s also home to the happening music hub of Fitchburg, taking the airwaves by storm: WXPL 91.3 FM, Fitchburg State University Radio. With the new semester, WXPL is starting its third comeback year, seeking to reclaim the success it had in the 1990s.
“The past two years have marked the second rising of WXPL here at the college and we are coming back better than ever,” said Kenny Caudill, a communications major who has been part of the radio station’s recent revival. “Ben Hassey, the station’s general manager, is doing a great job pushing forward as we try to rebuild the station and our following.”
Caudill joined the radio program in the fall of 2009, after visiting WXPL’s table at the annual Rock the Block event. “The radio station always has a table and runs the sound for the event,” Caudill explained. “Everybody there seemed excited for the new year and it made me want to get involved.”
In the short time he’s been a member, Caudill has taken hold of two radio shows and was recently elected as the public-relations director. “I will be working hard to increase our presence and further our image around campus,” he said. “I want everyone to be jealous of our station.”
Caudill’s radio programs are “Way Back Wednesday” and “Open Airwaves.” The crew for these shows includes Caudill as the DJ and audio mixer, Mike Audet as the co-DJ, and Nick Moreau as public relations and assistant DJ.
“Way Back Wednesday” plays music from a wide selection of the last 60-plus years every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. While it may seem like pure fun, Caudill noted that hosting a radio show without live music involves sharp thinking and a little showmanship. “It’s up to us to be the voice of the radio station for that block,” he said. “People don’t just tune in to the radio waves for music; they expect a personality, someone who will hold their attention, maybe make them laugh, or present interesting views and facts.”
On the flipside, every Tuesday from 7 to 8 p.m., “Open Airwaves” showcases local musicians and bands from the college and surrounding towns.
“This is my favorite show,” Caudill said. “It is a great chance to be heard on the radio and I enjoy it because of the bond that has begun to form between local musicians and the college campus.”
Performers on “Open Airwaves” have included Nick Krassowski, Magnolia Street, Peanuts and Eggs, and Tank LeBlank. In addition, Caudill said, “We have had rock bands like Lee Villaire and Basketball Jones, and even an appearance by a Canadian folk-jazz group called Old Shoe.” There was also an appearance by the Leominster High School Saxophone Quartet, which played contemporary tunes as well as their original material.
“On our show, we try and interview local artists and have a laid-back, yet informative conversation with them about their music and style,” Caudill said. “We do this for the first quarter of the show and then let the band take over.”
It’s difficult to tell exactly how many loyal listeners tune in, but the station is regularly played in the Gameroom, and they even receive calls from the road. “We are trying to expand our listening base with online streaming, because many students complain that they do not have radios, or that listeners cannot tune in outside our broadcast range of 10 miles,” he said.
Despite any setbacks, WXPL has created a lot of fun memories on the air, Caudill said. He shared that someone, while delivering a pizza, called in asking for the 1980 hit “Funky Town.” “We also had a full band in the studio,” Caudill recalled. “It was just awesome to talk to the artists and then hear them perform after. We even got to take pictures with them afterward to promote the radio station.”
If any students wish to get involved with WXPL 91.3 FM, Fitchburg State University Radio, it is as easy as visiting the studio in the basement of Thompson Hall. Sign-up sheets will also be available at their table at the Rock the Block event on Sept. 9. More information is available at http://falcon.fsc.edu/wxpl.
“In order for the station to flourish and provide a musical connection to the campus and community,” Caudill said, “every student should get involved.”