In an age when applications like Spotify and Pandora can send a personally curated stream of music to your smartphone, what can a radio station offer?
Plenty, say the students who operate Amherst College’s radio station WAMH, which broadcasts original student programming 70 hours a week.
For starters, there’s a kind of nostalgia: “It’s this old-fashioned, massive machine that broadcasts over the airwaves, and that’s just fun and interesting,” says Jacob Gendelman ’20, DJ and chief operator.
As WAMH’s DJs see it, the station is a pure example of an autonomous student organization providing a platform for creativity and a home for student voices.
You see this immediately in the WAMH studio in Keefe Campus Center. On the way to the broadcast booth, you pass through a common area covered in student-penned graffiti. Overhead in this sea of doodles and slogans is the signature of the rapper Cardi B, who performed at Amherst in 2016 (after which she tweeted, “Amherst college was lit”).
That “irreverent commentary” on the walls says something, says Matthew Ezersky ’22, who, with Annie Martin ’22E, serves as WAMH’s events director.
“You get the sense that you’re in a space that is of and for college students,” he says. “There’s something authentic—which is a word that our generation seems a little obsessed with—about the WAMH studio.”
“It’s a space where you don't have to be perfect at everything you do. You can mess up and you can experiment, you can try things,” says Martin, who transferred here from Emerson College, which boasts a large professional station and a more student-focused, web-based station. She says WAMH combines the best of both, providing studio experience and freedom: “It's a creative environment that isn’t as high-stakes."
“I think there’s something very empowering about having two hours of radio time on a real radio station over real radio waves to say whatever you’re thinking and play whatever you want,” add Gendelman.