By: Ben Theriault, Staff Writer
“300 different songs in a week, not the same song 300 times.” This is the unofficial motto at USM’s college radio station WMPG, 90.9 FM. At WMPG, the staff members and disc jockeys pride themselves in their ability to provide USM and the greater Portland area with unique music choices that they feel would otherwise go unheard.
Their music programs cover numerous genres: classic rock, jazz, hip-hop, samba, celtic, electronic, reggaeton, metal, blues, showtunes and everything in between can be found. The station offers an eclectic variety of talk shows as well. with topics ranging from movies and current events to local craft-beer and astronomy. Programs in Russian, Khmer, Chinese and Spanish are also featured. The twenty-four hour radio station offer nearly one hundred different programs.
The station is run by three devoted full time employees—station manager, Jim Rand; development director, Dale Robin Goodman; and program director, Jessica Lockhart. They also rely on countless volunteers from USM and the community, as well as work study employees. The talk show hosts and DJs are comprised of students at USM, community members and USM alumni, with ages that range from as young as twelve to as old as eighty.
WMPG has been a part of USM since 1970, initially starting as a pirate station, one that broadcasts without a license, in a Gorham dorm. In this format it amassed a small following and was eventually acknowledged by the then school newspaper, alerting administration to its existence. Fortunately, instead of shutting the illegal station down, the USM administration helped acquire a license in 1973, making WMPG a legitimate station. Since then it has moved location from Gorham to Portland, garnered national attention through countless awards, and now serves 10,000 to 20,000 listeners every week.
Rand, Goodman, and Dave Wade—Dj of “Juke Jive ‘n Jazz”—all emphasized the importance of the greater Portland community’s contributions to the station and conversely the importance of WMPG for its community. Goodman explained that WMPG has a very devout following; she stated that during fundraisers, many people will bring the money in themselves, even though they could just mail it in and that those interactions are important. While meeting with Wade and Goodman, the first thing he mentioned was a poem that he had received that day from one of his listeners, showcasing the bond they have with the community.
Wade has been a DJ for twenty years at WMPG, focusing on jazz, R&B and poetry. He stumbled upon WMPG while scanning the radio and finding “incredible music,” he said. After hearing that they offered DJ training, he thought that it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
“What I love about it is that the DJs have a sense of responsibility and passion to serve the community the best music they can find,” said Wade.
This passion has made WMPG stand out from many of its contemporaries. Rand noted that unlike many of WMPG’s competitors, they are a station with few commercials and maintains a DJ presence one hundred percent of the time. The DJs come from all walks of life, bringing with them unique experiences from distinct places.
For Goodman, WMPG offers a way to promote diversity and free speech. She noted that there are very few radio stations that allow its community members to get on the air without proper connections.
“Community radio hands the airwaves back to the public,” said Goodman. “Access to the airwaves means access to your rights.”
To get involved at WMPG one just needs to sign up for their DJ training. These sessions occur every six to eight weeks and are free to students and $25 for non students. Involvement doesn’t have to come from being a DJ, as there are plenty of technical positions and behind the scenes work available as well, some of which that qualify for work-study.