JMU’s own student radio station offers a varied taste found nowhere else
The trademark scream is heard every Thursday night at 6, and K Sean Long and Beerdog Jay (aka Kevin Long and Jay Huckle) are in the recording studio to do it in unison every time. The two friends host the WXJM Live Pregame, warming up to do WXJM Live at 8 p.m. along with their cohosts Nate Scholz and Morgan “The Machine” Schaffner. WXJM is JMU’s one and only student radio station. They’re known for introducing students to new and different music, a deep variety of shows and keeping everyone aware of all the concerts, house shows and cool events happening around Harrisonburg.
A song plays over the waves as K Sean and Beerdog sit casually behind the mic. “People listen to this station instead of others because it’s just so vastly different from what else is out there,” says Long, a senior history major and music minor. “College radio in general is a novelty because it’s people that are not as trained. It’s more honest, but people also love that we play music that isn’t usually played.
“We’re a breath of fresh air in the midst of the same pop song playing over and over and over again.”
WXJM began back in 1984 when the SGA ballots received an overwhelmingly positive response for a student-run radio station. The station relocated to its current location next to the WMRA studios off of Cantrell and Reservoir during the 2005-2006 school year. The new studio has accommodated a larger music library, a garage studio and a more professional atmosphere.
“Interest has really gone up this year,” says Huckle, a senior English major and music industry minor. “We’ve done such a good job of getting ourselves out there … [WXJM] Live is one of the best ways to network.”
Harrisonburg is a hot spot for local and touring bands looking for exposure, and WXJM is more than happy to give it to them. The station is known for hosting up-and-coming artists before they gain mainstream popularity and playing music from big names like Gotye, Lorde and Fun before they were anywhere else on the radio.
“All the best bands of JMU and Harrisonburg are coming through, and we get to talk to them,” Long says. “I love meeting people and seeing where they’re going because they’re out doing things, and this is just a stop for wherever they’re heading.”
WXJM has gone through many changes over the years to become the station we all know and love today, but the one consistency in its success is the dedication of its passionate and hard-working staff of students, who do all they do in the name of college radio. “People don’t really realize that college radio is an entire industry in itself,” says Schaffner, one of the WXJM student music directors. “It’s incredibly interesting, and people can get involved at this level and make a career out of it.”
Schaffner, a senior media arts and design major and music industry minor, cohosts WXJM Live as well as “The Wünder Twins” with her twin brother, Tony, from noon to 2 p.m. on Sundays. “We’re best friends,” she says. “We have a good rapport on air, so I think that knowing each other our whole life really works to our advantage in trying not to sound awkward.
The two have very different tastes in music, causing the genre of the show to jump quickly. Morgan is indie and punk rock like the Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg and Frank Turner, while Tony prefers EDM and bands like Pretty Lights and Polish Ambassador. “I like to try and make our show as professional sounding as possible,” Schaffner says. “And when he’s trying to throw something on real quick, it does get us into some sibling banter, but it’s great when we are actually on air we’ll finish each others sentences.”
The Schaffners aren’t the only sibling duo at WXJM. The Blue Brothers, Alan and Eric Sites, are also real brothers. By blood or not, WXJM is a large and tight-knit family. “The best part is you can listen to your friends,” Schaffner says. “You can call in and make requests or use our social media … It’s incredibly interactive.”
Derek Niver, a fifth-year senior graphic design major, is programming director and one of the “Big Three” at WXJM, including Rachel Corson, the general manager, and Dominic Hickman, the business manager. It’s their job to oversee the huge family of more than 100 volunteer disc jockeys, the majority of which are students. WXJM is advised by Tom DuVal from WMRA, but as far as the day-to-day function of the station goes, it’s left completely up to the students.
“We try to make the station run as smoothly as possible, which can be difficult with college kids,” Niver says, jokingly. “It’s kinda like wrangling sheep.” It’s also Niver’s job to fill the “grid.” The grid is every show time slot when WXJM is on the air: from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. “Last semester was awesome because it was the first time the grid was filled completely,” Niver says. The filled grid is just a symbol of the great increase in student interest and dedication to WXJM that the station has gained for itself over the years.
“I guess people listen for the same reasons we like DJing here,” Niver says. “You can hear such a wide eclectic range of music, and if you turn on any other station in town, even WNRN, you hear the same songs over and over again. It’s nice to be kind of surprised and maybe discover something you’ve never heard of before.” Listeners seem to appreciate WXJM’s motto and apparent dedication to “put something different in your ears.”
“I think we offer a new perspective on music,” said Schaffner. “You can’t find the eclectic mix of different genres and DJs we have anywhere else.”