STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE – In the Digital Age, there’s plenty of online music sources from which to choose. A veritable cornucopia of genres, styles and artists are available at your fingertips — if you know where to search.
It seems these days the old school “dial” airwaves are limited to Top 40 and constant regurgitation of the same old classic rock tunes. (Seriously, how much Fleetwood Mac can one listen to?)
So, what’s the alternative for purists who opt out of Spotify or Pandora?
Well, “Your Only Alternative” — for those familiar with the College of Staten Island’s popular promo tagline — is WSIA, 88.9-FM. The station’s disc jockeys want to change the negative perception of radio monotony — one playlist at a time.
Visit silive.com for A look at the folks behind the WSIA radio station>
Staffers pride themselves on playing the newest tunes for listeners, some by obscure artists just starting out in the recording industry; if one of those acts should enter the sphere of mainstream radio, chances are the staff at WSIA had ears on their earliest work.
WSIA personnel director Samantha Endrom, who oversees most of the day-to-day programming, said the station has a specific format — alternative rock — but also says branching out with new music is essential for students, volunteer DJs and listeners alike.
“What you do first and foremost is emphasize the station, which doesn’t play [specific] preferences,” said Ms. Endrom as she feverishly shuffles around CDs from their cases to the rack players.
“You’re never going to know what new stuff you’re going to like, until you hear new stuff.”
For Chris Auletti, a new DJ at the station who recently completed his first radio show, pumping up the volume is his birthright. His father was a mobile DJ who heavily influenced his passion. While other kids received toys for Christmas, Auletti received CD mixers and other sound equipment.
“I joined [the station] because this is what I want to do … It’s a satisfying feeling for me, if I can branch out and give people new music and new artists to discover,” said Auletti.
Local and independent artists have always been the cornerstone of any college radio station and WSIA is no different. But recordings from new artists and acts don’t just fall in your lap — that’s where music director Krystal Lake comes in.
Lake spends most of her time contacting labels, artists and distributors to hunt down the newest material for WSIA listeners. The main goal is to expose underground music on the airwaves and give it a chance to have an audience.
“This [station] doesn’t have to be Top 40 to be good … There’s other bands like Little Dragon or Toro Y Moi that people don’t know about and then once they hear it, they are like, ‘Whoa, this is great.'”
A big perk to Ms. Lake’s job as music director is when she can interview bands and artists that have their music broadcasted over the air. Attending their live concerts is an even bigger score.
But with great power comes great responsibility; Lake and WSIA assistants like Danisa Griffith have the arduous task of reviewing all the new music that flows into the station before being played on the air. And with an extensive music library in the thousands (disc AND vinyl, for those wondering) that’s no small feat.
If there should be an obscene word, for example, broadcasted over the air at any given time, the station could incur a penalty fine from the Federal Communications Commission — and F-bombs are expensive. So much so, that multiple fines could result in shutting the small station down.
“If we don’t treat the problem then they’ll fine us $100,000,” said Griffith.
“I get in trouble and the DJ gets in trouble, so we try to pay very close attention to what we’re reviewing … Sometimes on an album it will say this whole CD is clean, but it ends up being dirty, we try to avoid that as much as possible,” Lake added.
WSIA radio station started in 1981 by an ambitious group of students who began playing music on home audio speakers for their fellow classmates. In 2014 the station celebrated its 33th anniversary as a student-run entity within the CSI campus, but the station’s future has a somewhat ambiguous path ahead.
The station broadcasts through an antenna located in Todt Hill. That parcel of land, the St. Francis Woodlands, is owned by the Franciscan Friars who use it to broadcast an archdiocesan instructional show; as of this year the St. Francis Friary has decided to close, making the use of the antenna uncertain for the college going forward.
“We would have to find another site to put the antenna,” said station manager Phil Masciantonio. “It’s a long, involved process.”
Masciantonio also says the college can still live stream their broadcasts online at WSIA.fm, but remains confident that the contract to use the antenna will be renewed by the archdiocese.
“We have a good relationship with the friary and I imagine they would contact us if there was any reason to be concerned,” he said.
All the DJs echo the same sentiment that the station is important to the Staten Island community in many ways, but not by simply by being the only FM station on the rock.
Established volunteers like Eliezer Garner, an ordained Rabbi who goes by the moniker “The Rockin’ Rabbi,” along with his wife Michele, say the station performs a service for students and listeners.
“We do a lot of interaction and interfacing with the Staten Island community,” said Garner. “One of the things that’s important about the station is, for many students, it’s their first introduction into a professional work environment.”
“This is one of the hidden treasures of the college,” Mrs. Garner added.
The article and video was written and produced by Anthony DePrimo for the Staten Island and www.silive.com where it first appeared on January 8, 2015. It is reprinted here with permission.