It may seem unusual to students accustomed to the bustle of campus life, but Oberlin in the summer is a rather relaxed place. Dormitories are mostly empty, many faculty members are traveling or conducting research elsewhere, and several campus offices are closed or operating with a reduced staff.
WOBC, Oberlin College’s student-run freeform community radio station, is no exception to this slower summer pace. The station, which broadcasts 24/7 and employs a staff of nearly 30 students throughout the academic year, broadcasts just 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and relies on a staff of two—a general manager and engineer—in the summer months. Paradoxically, both limited available air time and a small staff are advantageous for aspiring radio DJs and performers, says WOBC Summer General Manager Becca Winer.
“There is so much interest in radio that it can be really competitive to get a radio show or perform at events during the school year,” Winer says. “In the summer there are fewer people applying for shows, and because there is such a limited number of people, the community is a lot tighter and people have more opportunities to be involved in different ways.”
The most popular way to be involved is to host a summer radio show. Summer radio shows are generally an hour long and run from early June to mid-August. While a handful of timeslots are reserved for returning Oberlin community hosts, Oberlin students who apply for a show are incredibly likely to be accepted. Any show that is turned down is almost always due to scheduling conflicts.
In addition to giving students the opportunity to improve their on-air performances, a summer radio show also allows them to exit their comfort zones and explore new music genres or topics. “A lot of DJs diverge from their normal shows to explore a specific niche or crazier topics that they wouldn’t otherwise explore during the school year because they would be afraid they wouldn’t get a show,” Winer says. “You can cut loose and try something new and fun in the summer.”
The result, says WOBC Summer Engineer Sam Meier, is a small schedule packed with great shows. “I’ve spent a ton of time in the station listening to the shows in these first few weeks. They sound amazing,” he says.
Another way to experience WOBC’s fun and relaxing summer environment is to participate in any of the many events Winer and Meier are planning, the first of which was a bonfire in Tappan Square on Saturday, July 9. Next up is a WOBC Summer Splitchers on July 27, and still in the works for this summer are a live music pool party (in partnership with Philips Gym), bike-in music-themed movie nights in Tappan Square (in partnership with the bike co-op), and album listening parties—where participants can help sort through the piles of albums recording labels and aspiring musicians send to WOBC while munching on complimentary popsicles.
“WOBC is such a great space, but the doors are often locked for security purposes, so people are less encouraged to come in and hang,” Winer says. “We’re trying to break that this summer and open the doors for as many people as possible.”
Also on the docket for this summer is a cover band showcase with an expected date of July 29 or 30, time and location to be determined. “The cover band showcase is just a big, fun community event. Musicians fill out a form with their name, the band they want to cover, the people in their band, and how many instruments they have, and we give them a 15-minute set at this big show,” Winer says. “You don’t have to be affiliated with WOBC or Oberlin College to participate. It’s a great way to encourage people to play music without the pressure of being in a real band.”
For nonprofits looking for help promoting their events or services or those interested in radio journalism, Winer says the station is seeking public service announcements and news content. “All of our DJs are required by law to play two PSAs each hour. Over the school year we have a staff dedicated to curating and creating PSAs, but it’s just [Sam and I] over the summer,” Winer says. “There are so many summer happenings in Oberlin: We want to have those as PSAs to play on the air. So if there are any nonprofits that want free radio advertising, contact us.
“We’re also looking for news stories because we don’t have a news staff over the summer. If you’re interested in radio journalism, we would love to help you by giving you a production lesson or any supplies you need.”
Winer and Meier encourage anyone interested in any of WOBC’s summer events to follow their constant updates on Facebook and WOBC.org. Anyone interested in producing radio content or anyone interested in simply experiencing the WOBC studio space is asked to contact WOBC@oberlin.edu. And if WOBC’s planned summer happenings don’t quite appeal to you, Winer and Meier still encourage you to tune to 91.5 FM or WOBC.org Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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