Tucked away in the basement of the Student Alumni Union is a haven for RIT music lovers.
With more than 80 members and an expansive music library, the student-run radio station, WITR-FM (89.7), floods the airwaves with indie rock 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
But WITR members want to become even more connected to the RIT community. The station has begun a campaign to build a new, state-of-the-art studio, currently known as Studio X, on the first floor of the Student Alumni Union, which will create a more professional space and allow them to further set WITR apart by improving broadcasting quality.
“The new studio is a waypoint to our real goal, which is to transcend college radio in and of itself to become a premier, independent media organization in the region,” said Joe Makowski, WITR general manager.
The station has already become a model for other college radio stations in the area. Some seek management and structural advice, while others look to WITR for consulting on engineering topics.
The next step is to become one of the best student organizations in the country.
A look back
The earliest known history of WITR dates back to when the broadcasting equipment was purchased in the 1950s. In 1975, the station submitted a proposal to the university requesting permission to make the jump from AM to FM radio. The FM call letters given to the station stood for W-Institute-Technology-Rochester.
Today, it is most commonly referred to as “Witter” among the student population. This pronunciation was introduced during the station’s rebranding during the 2009-2010 school year, when it also changed its slogan from “modern music and more” to “the pulse of music.”
The journey into radio typically begins at the club fair, with a few hundred students expressing interest in joining the major student organization each year.
From there, potential members are invited to information sessions and mixers to get introduced to the college radio atmosphere. Students attend member training and pass tests on both WITR and Federal Communications Commission policies, after which they can fill DJ, promotion, production or engineering roles at the station.
For students wishing to create an on-air persona or to share their favorite songs with thousands of listeners, a DJ position would likely be the right fit.
For Eta Santoro, WITR program director and second-year mechanical engineering student from Portland, Ore., deejaying is a way to share what she thinks people should be listening to.
“There’s an art to picking out what you’re going to play and it speaks a lot to who you are as a person,” said Santoro. “It’s my way of sharing a little bit of my personality.”
For many student-members, their time at WITR is a refreshing break from their schoolwork. Since a broadcasting program is not offered at RIT, students working at the station study anything from engineering to international studies.
Balancing academics with working at the station can be a challenge for many WITR members, and often, their passion for radio takes the front seat.
“I don’t think anybody on the management team here has regretted being a part of the station,” said Makowski, a third-year networking and systems administration and international studies double major from Rochester, N.Y. “They may have regretted being enrolled in their programs, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone complain about having to make a sacrifice to the station because they love it so much.”
Bring the sound up from underground
Studio X will become the primary broadcasting studio for the station, housing equipment, a small music library and a small office. The current studio will still remain fully functional.
AJ Colosimo, WITR development director and fourth-year chemical engineering student, said they are hoping to make a large portion of the wall facing the SAU lobby glass so that those walking by get a behind-the-scenes look at WITR.
“We have the conceptual drawings and we have the architectural drawings,” said Colosimo. “We are ready to start construction as soon as we raise the money for it. The space at this point is ours for the taking.”
According to administrative adviser Carol Reed, WITR hopes to start demolition and construction of Studio X this summer, with the goal of having it up and running by Fall 2014.
“Everybody is very excited about the location,” said Reed. “They will be able to expand their library and they’ll be able to do some other events they haven’t been able to do before. It creates more options for them.”
By the numbers
41,000 CDs and 30,000 vinyl records are estimated to be in the WITR library
360 songs are played by the station on a typical day
10,000 listeners tune into WITR programming every week
$125,000 is the fundraising goal for demolition and construction
Video extra: For a behind-the-scenes look at WITR, go to http://bit.ly/WITRRadio
Web extra: To see a photo gallery, go to www.rit.edu/news