Their website will tell you that WVKR has been broadcasting since the early 1970s with the same mission, to “promote music not heard elsewhere and to serve the community interest through eclectic radio programming.” This past weekend, Vassar’s independent radio station WVKR held their interest meeting and interviews for new stations, and I had the privilege of getting a preview of what’s to come, and what’s been going on above the College Center.
General Manager Lena Redford ’18 explained, “I got involved with WVKR as soon as I got to Vassar. My first semester of college, I eagerly applied for a show, and even though my time slot was from 3 to 4 a.m. on Monday nights/Tuesday mornings, I was stoked. Through WVKR I have made a lot of friends and memories, and as corny as that sounds, it’s true!” Redford continued, “I learned how to mix through doing radio and have been able to DJ paid events as a result. I’ve also been able to produce podcasts, make original music and even meet some of my musical inspirations through WVKR-sponsored events.”
Although it was a while ago, she recalled the intense nerves of applying for that first show: “I wanted it so bad. I was proposing a show called ‘girlectro’ that was to feature electronic music by femme artists from ‘then and now.’ Which meant I spent a bunch of time researching the history of electronic music from the early 1900s. I memorized the biographies of so many influential women producers who we never talk about.”
While some of the show hosts have been a part of the organization for their whole time at Vassar, some students jump in a little later. Self-proclaimed lover of SoundCloud Kiki Walker ’19, looking back to the start of it all, recalled, “This past summer I got a WVKR show. I had friends who had some and I would go to their shows, and it sounded really cool so I applied in the summer.”
Speaking to what some may consider a daunting interview process, Walker clarified: “I interviewed twice. Once for summer, which was pretty chill, I just said what I wanted to play, had a playlist which I sent over. The semester interview was a bit more spicy. I knew that lots of people were applying so I came up with a spiel of why I should get to continue having a show during the semester. I also made my playlist a bit more ‘obscure,’ like artists I thought they wouldn’t know as well as more experimental mixes, rather than playing it safe.”
Redford also commented on the interview process, stating,“In the end, I was totally over-prepared. But it was cool to see that the interview process was actually quite chill. I hope this year’s applicants felt that way, too. I hate that it’s this scary thing. We’d like everyone to feel comfortable applying for a show.”
Like Walker, it took a little time for Maddy Ouellette ’19 to seek out WVKR. They summed up their introduction to the opportunity by saying, “I guess after a couple years at Vassar I got hipster enough to feel comfortable having a show and I signed up for the summer. I’m friends with a couple of DJs like Dakota Lee [’19] and they told me I should do it.”
Looking forward to the new year, they added, “I’m really pumped to have a duo show with Dakota Lee this semester. Whenever they sat in on my show it was a lot of weird fun and a good time. Also, I fill the dream pop vacancy which is great. Never enough dream pop in the world.”
Additionally, representation and broad inclusive listenership is a priority for WVKR. The visual designer for WKVR this year, Jonathan Rodriguez ’19 (also known as DJ Valentina Gansito) plays music exclusively produced or created by Latinx artists. They explained what this meant for the station by saying, “We aim to highlight queer and trans Latinx artists, especially Afrolatinx and indigenous artists, many of which influence Latin music greatly (and all music at large), but are often abandoned when their sound is praised and awarded. (Read: ‘Despacito’ is a banger but dembow and reggaeton roots are really the roots to be praised by Puerto Rican and AfroCaribbean counterparts, not Justin Bieber’s flashy appropriation of the sort.)”
Rodriguez maintained, “Vassar doesn’t do well on ‘community’ in my opinion, and the purpose of having this platform is to broadcast new and important music and talk that have insight on future artistic and political movements.”
This idea extends to WVKR as a whole entity, considering just how rare independent radio has become. As Rodriguez explained, “Radio space is a direct link to the Poughkeepsie community and a community larger than Vassar. Crafting representation and relevant content takes a lot of work, and the thought and message under what shows are privileged to have the space is in itself a form of expression I think as a station and as an individual we are continuously reevaluating and evolving.”
Walker also contributed to this important dialogue, emphasizing, “I think black music is so important, it’s very influential. So my show is just about playing remixes of black music, because even if it’s oldies, or like new school mumble raptype stuff, the remixes turn it into something new. She continued, “I think that remixes create a space for people to build community within the black community because it’s something new built off something we already know. Like music has always been important within black culture, but with remixes I can go from playing Sade to Lil Uzi and it flows perfectly, like it’s not jarring because the two remixes work together.”
If you missed this past weekend interest meeting, don’t fret. While there aren’t enough slots for everybody, Redford pointed out, “Not having a show doesn’t mean you can’t still be a part of the WVKR family. We hold a bunch of events and can always use volunteers on our music staff!” No matter what your role is, WKVR is a staple at Vassar, and provides a voice for many students on campus.