In the world of radio, WTJU is something of an anomaly: a community station owned by a university, a college station whose staff includes locals, teachers, grad students, and alumni. And while WTJU can boast decades of support from the local community, it faces the challenge of attracting new listeners in the digital age.
“I just read about a study that said more young people are now finding out about new music through YouTube than radio,” said WTJU General Manager Nathan Moore. “And it’s true—a lot of college students don’t even own a radio. So we’re taking our radio station out into the public.”
On Saturday, September 1, WTJU will host a rock concert at the UVA Amphitheater, a welcome for new and returning University students. The goal is to increase student awareness and listenership, as well as to inform the student body that it has the opportunity to get involved with the station. “Sharing this music gives people a chance to have a great experience,” said Moore. “This is one of the ways we try to enrich the cultural life of the UVA community and connect people to the music scene.”
It’s the third year WTJU’s rock department has hosted a welcoming event, and the number of student volunteers has been steadily growing. Past concerts have featured local groups that have since gone on to wider acclaim and fame, including Andrew Cedermark and Eternal Summers. This year’s line-up features the energetic art-rock of Invisible Hand, the dreamy, country-flavored shoegaze of the Fire Tapes, and the charming pop rock of Dwight Howard Johnson.
The concert was largely organized by volunteer DJ Liz Lowenstein. “I went to UVA for three years without really knowing about WTJU. I had no idea the music they played was as diverse as it is,” she said. “But it’s really dynamic, and there’s a lot of room for advancement, and room for students to get involved.” Lowenstein has been volunteering for the station for one year, and has now become the rock department’s program director, as well as the host of Saturday’s 11pm program “Must Be the Buzz Talking.”
In organizing the concert, Lowenstein said, “These are all bands that we’ve worked with in the past. They’re all local bands, bands that you hear about a lot in town. Hopefully we can show students that there are things in the community that they can get into, that it’s not all just life on Grounds.”
The bands are also excited about the opportunity to connect with students, as well as to solidify their relationship with the radio station. “The studio is always really welcoming, every time I’ve been there,” said Invisible Hand frontman Adam Smith. “I had a great time recently when I sat in (as a guest DJ) with Don Harrison,” host of Sunday night’s “Radio Wowsville.” “We just traded off songs, playing back and forth for the whole show.”
“The last time we played at the Amphitheater in 2010, we had a lot of kids that were just excited to hear live music,” said Smith. “They really wanted to talk to us afterwards about ‘the scene’—all of the how, what, why, where. UVA brings people from other parts of Virginia, other parts of the country, and from around the world,” Smith said. “It’s refreshing for them to hear live music when they arrive. But it’s inspiring for us, too—to have that positive reaction—to get to see everything from a new perspective.” Smith is also relishing the opportunity to help support the station. “In the face of everything that’s happened with WTJU, it’s proven itself to be more than necessary. It’s a confident juggernaut that just needs to keep going.”
“None of us went to UVA, so that isn’t a built-in connection for us,” wrote Rob Dobson of the Fire Tapes. Nevertheless, the Fire Tapes have forged a strong relationship with the station. It’s performed live in the studio for the rock department’s fundraisers, and the station broadcast the band’s live performance from the Tom Tom Founders Festival in May. “We’ve been embraced by the DJs at the ’Teej, namely Nick Rubin (co-host of ‘Radio Freedonia’) and Dave Moore (of ‘Ye Olde Tuesday Afternoon Rock Show’),” said Dobson. “Hopefully this will be a good way to get our name out there on campus. Maybe we’ll play some frisbee on the Quad. ”
The concert begins at 5pm and is free and open to the public.
WTJU’s next big outreach will take place during The Bridge PAI’s month-long series of events, Audio September. Several concerts will be streamed live on-air from the gallery space, and Bridge volunteer Dave Moore is planning to host his weekly Tuesday afternoon show from a remote studio housed in a geodesic dome in the Bridge’s parking lot, visible from the Avon Street bridge. The station is also preparing for the weeklong jazz marathon fundraiser beginning September 24.