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Magazine On-line [spring 2012]
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Radio TLX is ‘bringing the fun back to radio’

College radio has an illustrious but understated history of students tired of top-40 stations where they could listen only to what the charts said was good music. The result was genre-bending radio, where during any given segment you could hear punk rock next to fusion jazz next to folk next to hip-hop. Transylvania’s student-run station continues that tradition online, streaming music by artists both popular and undiscovered with inventive and fun shows by student DJs.

Radio TLX (formerly WTLX) streams on the Transylvania network Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m.-midnight and Friday and Sunday from 8 p.m.-midnight. Approximately 32 students volunteer at the station in roles ranging from producers to on-air DJs, and shows are two-hour spots with a variety of formats produced live in the Radio TLX studio in the lobby area of residence halls Clay/Davis.

“Basically it’s a wonderful experiment in DIY (do it yourself), making the best of limited means, and showing what Transylvania students can do,” assistant professor of writing, rhetoric, and communication Scott Whiddon said. “It harkens back to the old days when radio was more exciting. College radio allowed for bands like REM, the Smiths, and U2 to get a foothold in the states. That’s where real, interesting radio is.”

“Our campus radio station has broadcast in various forms over the years, but its most recent iteration is a result of the very high costs of broadcasting traditional radio over the airwaves,” Sarah Emmons, associate vice president for communications, said. “Scott began teaching at Transylvania in 2006. The first day I met him I found out about his background and interest in college radio stations, and I recruited him to be the adviser.”

He immediately began to help students revive the station. “Our goal was to move to a web-based station,” said Emmons. At that time, Internet radio was still in its early years, and copyright laws were insufficiently governing webcasters. Then in 2008, the Webcaster Settlement Act passed through Congress, which extended the laws to webcasting with new rules and fees. Whiddon brought in Brian Powers, an attorney, consultant, and musician, to help the group sift through legal issues. When Whiddon decided to step down as adviser, Powers stepped in.

“The sands are still shifting in this area,” Powers said. “The legal and technical requirements, fees, the whole thing can change from year to year. The good thing is, Transylvania is a non-commercial educational webcaster, which allows us a lot of leeway in what we can do, and the fees aren’t exceptionally harsh.”

The goal to take Radio TLX beyond campus and allow the rest of the world to hear the station is almost within reach. Powers, Whiddon, and the student executive board, led by senior Cat Cummins as general manager, have worked through issues like server load and equipment demands. The station will test broadcasting outside Transylvania’s network at the end of March, and if all goes well, will begin the 2012-13 academic year broadcasting to the world.

For now, those on the Transylvania network get to hear the unique creative outlet that is Radio TLX. Sixteen shows weekly offer wildly different formats and musical flavors, and listeners never know what they’ll hear on a given day. Last Halloween, DJs had some fun with their formats. One show featured two DJs trying to best each other’s song choices—one playing only Halloween music and one playing only Christmas music.

“There are some DJs who read poetry, some do sports shows, hip-hop shows—all kinds of things,” senior Casey Berry, director of external programming, said. “I have a show, and it’s whatever I want to play. It’s been interesting to see how much the DJs have stepped up and been responsible (for their programming).”

“There’s a rawness about it that’s not amateurish, but it’s visceral,” Powers said. “It’s bringing the fun back to radio.”

The operation is completely student run. Radio staff members go through training at the beginning of every term, learning about aspects of radio ranging from legal requirements and ethics to on-air behavioral standards and technical training. An executive board made up of seven students sorts out the day-to-day operations, and the students program and run their own shows. They also DJ special events on campus and organize concerts, through which several bands have come to Transylvania including These United States, The Doloreans, The Vicious Guns, Vandaveer, Fanged Robot, and Coralee and the Townies. It’s a full-time job, and students are learning to apply their knowledge in a lot of different areas.

“I’m convinced that the way these students are going to survive this job market is by using their degrees but not relying on their degrees,” Whiddon said. “They’ll survive by showing creativity, by taking A and B and making C, and by using the depth of thinking, breadth of reading, and the creativity that comes from a liberal education.

“Most of these students aren’t going into broadcasting, but they’re learning to be responsible citizens of a community. We’ve been given this benefit and are going to act accordingly and still have an awesome time because we are of this community, and we want to see it thrive.”

For more on Radio TLX, go to radiotlx.transy.edu.

Milby and Clark
 Radio TLX sophomore DJs Ariel Milby, left, and Malynda Clark do their weekly show, Mood Swings, from the TLX studio.

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