Ranking in a list of the nation’s top 10 best college radio stations by the Wall Street Journal earlier this month was enough to puff the chests of the crew at WKDU. But that honor was trumped just days later, when it was named Station of the Year by College Music Journal (CMJ)—for the second year in a row. What’s more, last year they tied for first with another college station. This year, they won outright.
“CMJ is kind of like Billboard for college stations,” says Jake Cooley, a junior business administration major and general manager at the station. “It’s a big deal because at CMJ you’re voted on by other colleges and people in the industry.”
WKDU was also named “Biggest Champion of the Local Scene,” a win that validates the very ethos of the station.
“These students have a passion for local music,” says Larry Epstein, associate professor of entertainment and arts management and faculty advisor for the station. “They’re not just interested in listening to themselves talk on the radio—they’re interested in new music and what’s going on in the local music community. That’s what makes WKDU such a gem.”
It is a membership requirement at the station to devote a few hours a week listening to new music. DJs are required to play at least two new songs per hour on the air.
“I think part of the excitement of working there,” Epstein says, “is being in a community where you can talk to each other about these bands that aren’t well known but are producing new music.”
WKDU operates from its “centrally located but impossible to find” location in the basement of the Creese Student Center. Now in its 40th anniversary year, WKDU is the only college station in Philadelphia run entirely by students.
Cooley and Epstein agree there are a number of different reasons to join the staff at WKDU, whether as a resume builder, a social activity or a hobby. But one thing is clear among the students who work there.
“I think the students just relish the opportunity to do something that they enjoy and that is really unique,” Epstein says. “These students can create their own content and have the personal and professional experience of radio broadcasting.”
“Everyone is here because they love it,” Cooley adds. “With the amount of time you put into it, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t love it. We are all here to do what we love and do it on the radio.”
Tune in to 91.7 FM or online at wkdu.org for Cooley’s weekly show, “Soup is Good Food,” on Tuesday’s from 1 to 3 p.m., a colorful mix of punk, crunk and wizard rock (a genre inspired by the Harry Potter enterprise). For more about WKDU’s history, visit http://wkdu.org/history.