While some radio stations are known for flaunting their musical variety, Geneseo’s student-run radio station WGSU 89.3 FM plays a truly diverse range of songs, from indie rock to bossa nova jazz to Taylor Swift ballads.
Senior Oliver Horowitz, music director of WGSU, and three assistant music directors, junior Katy Boland and sophomores Nathan Kahn and Tom Silva, head the station’s meticulous song-selection process.
Each week, the team works with a music staff of dozens of students to sift through a hefty box of CDs from record labels, production companies and individual artists, searching for musical gems.
“I don’t think we’re really as concerned with playing a particular genre or kind of music as we are with supporting individual artists that we think are doing something innovative,” Horowitz said.
Starting on Fridays, the music staff signs out CDs and spends the weekend listening to them, writing reviews of each CD as they go.
Horowitz said that the reviews help him and the assistants select which songs will go on the air. Staff members recommend one to three key songs on each album for prime consideration.
“It’s just awesome to have a group of people on music staff that you can trust to know what’s good on an album and what’s worthy of attention. That’s really helpful to us,” Boland said.
“We all have different [musical] interests sometimes, so it’s sort of cool to see how they come together,” Kahn added.
On Mondays, Horowitz, Boland, Kahn and Silva read the reviews, listen to the CDs and select songs to add to the station’s rotation. Each song is designated as “heavy,” “medium” or “light” to identify how often it should be played.
“I think, on the whole, we like putting in [music] that [is] a little more challenging to listen to, or might seem more challenging at first, but [is] ultimately a more rewarding listening experience,” Horowitz said. “Discovering a new band or a new song or a new artist could be like the start of a long-term relationship with that music. So I think we all really are passionate about enabling that connection.”
WGSU disc jockeys can sign up for weekly, hour-long music show slots alongside the station’s sports and news programming. These music shows are divided into two categories: specialty shows, which specialize in a specific musical genre or theme, and rotation shows. Rotation shows are a combination of songs selected by the music staff and “d-cuts,” selected by the individual DJ hosting the show. DJs can choose D-cut songs from WGSU’s music vault or directly from their iPods or laptops.
Listeners can interact with WGSU as well, by calling in and requesting songs or asking questions about programming. Music staff also posts its album reviews on the station’s website, wgsu.geneseo.edu.
While Horowitz described WGSU’s music as free form and indie, he also called it a learning experience.
“As a college station, I think we are kind of, first and foremost, an educational resource in the sense that we want to expose people to new musical ideas, not mere entertainment,” he said.