Students and Alumnus Reflect on UMD Campus Radio Station

A sinking couch, a piled-too-high stack of records, and a jumble of penciled-in graffiti on the walls: this beautifully orchestrated disarray of a space is none other than UMD’s own radio station, WMUC 88.1 FM.

College radio is a place for music lovers, introverts, and bizarre extroverts, in roughly that order,” said Patchen Mortimer, one of the few university alumni who is still a regular at the station today.

Mortimer’s show, The New Indie Canon (Tuesdays, 10 p.m.-12 a.m.), places a strong emphasis on what he considers to be the “greats” of indie, rock, pop and folk canon. He joined WMUC his first semester of graduate school, in the fall of 2000.

“I had a show before I had an apartment,” Mortimer said.

Like most other places on campus, this one-of-a-kind room has a history of sorts. WMUC has had many homes since it was originally aired inside a classroom of the Speech Department October, 1948. The station relocated to the basement of Silvester Hall, then again to a renovated shower stall in Calvert Hall, once more to the old Journalism building and finally, in 1974, to the top floor of South Campus Diner, where it resides today.

The radio station’s general manager, senior computer science and film studies major Christopher Bugtong, reiterates Mortimer’s same claims about the unique cast of characters who go in and take a seat behind the microphone.

“We have music shows, sports coverage and news programming, and we work to make each aspect thrive within the station,” Bugtong said. “There are so many different kinds of people from different walks of life who come together and express their creativity through broadcasting and programming.”

For example, sophomore broadcast journalism major Sydney Wess hosts The Secret Life of Kanye Wess (Mondays, 6 p.m.-7 p.m.).

“The show is a hip-hop based take on what the great Kanye West listens to in his spare time while doing mundane tasks, like driving,” Wess said. “I wanted to poke fun at how obsessed youth culture is with celebrities in a totally lighthearted way.”

One thing that makes WMUC special, Wess says, is that things are constantly changing, which allows her to continue to mold her show in a way that makes it hers.

“I have met people of all sorts of different majors, goals and backgrounds,” Wess said. “The one thing that binds them all together is their love of music.”

According to junior psychology major Elie Rizk, the interactive aspect of broadcasting his shows is worth all the research and preparation he puts into each one.

“I think that the story behind a song is as important as the song itself,” Rizk said. “Sometimes we forget that it’s actually a person who made a certain song. He or she wrote it for a reason, and I’m always looking for that reason.”

Rizk named his show BiographElie’s (Wednesdays, 12 a.m.-1 a.m.).

“Every show, I pick a new artist and I play songs by that artist, songs by the artists that inspired that artist, and songs by the artists that [the] artist inspired,” Rizk said. “In between each song, I talk about their life.”

Sophomore letters and sciences major Shianne Richardson has a show Brainville (Tuesdays, 9 p.m.-10 p.m.), in which she covers a different theme each week.

“WMUC is actually one of the last free form college radio stations in the country, so I think it’s really cool that I’m able to play whatever interests me, no matter the genre or artist,” Richardson said.

According to junior communications major Shaliah George, the general vibes at WMUC are “definitely kitschy and unique” because everyone involved “adds their own flair and facet to the station.”

“Everyone that I’ve met through WMUC has been creative on some level, super ambitious and cool as hell,” George said.

Sophomore Biochemistry major Spencer Mehdizadeh hosts "Space Jam," every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sophomore biochemistry major Spencer Mehdizadeh hosts “Space Jam,” every Thursday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

George’s show, Lush Vibes, focuses on “good, chill energy,” hence the name of the show.

“I’ll play some lush beats and offer a few thoughts on how to lead the lushest life possible,” George said. “I also like to share little anecdotes about my life and college life as a whole, just to insert some humor and relatability.”

Senior English language and literature major Melissa Eck runs Lil’ Rose’s Rocks and Gravels, which she deems “a nod to ‘70s and ‘80s disco and rock n’ roll.”

“[My show] is a unique blend of Steely Dan’s ‘Peg’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams,’ with a sprinkle of the Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive,'” Eck said. “It’ll make you belt out Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect,’ while also creating a chilling ambiance with the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California.’”

For anyone interested in a more newsy spin on radio, senior broadcast journalism major Ellen Back’s Terps Talk (Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.) might do the trick.

Terps Talk covers a multitude of topics including, but certainly not limited to — university-related news, on-campus events, pop culture happenings and personal experiences.

“All of our shows are hilariously unscripted,” Back said. “When someone calls in, we basically treat them like a celebrity, high-pitched screams and all.”

And as for advice? Mortimer, who credits his organizational, practical and multimedia skills in part to WMUC, urges anyone interested in the field to start off with the little things.

“Just go to the station and ask how you can help,” Mortimer said. “Maybe it’s having a radio show, maybe it’s helping the concerts happen, maybe it’s working behind the scenes in engineering, maybe it’s just alphabetizing old CDs. If you care about music and can follow through on a commitment, there’s a place for you.”

The primary drive behind joining the station, Mortimer says, should have very little — if anything — to do with adding more lines to a resume, or checking bucket items off of a list.

“The last thing I want anyone to do is to get involved in the station because it’s useful or looks good on a resume,” Mortimer said. “Get involved with the radio because it’s not useful. Get involved with radio because it will make you a more interesting, more fulfilled, better person. Get involved with radio because college radio is what college should be, not what college has become.”