IMAGE: Volunteers discuss a potential jazz radio program in the WOWD broadcast studio, June 16, 2016, Photo by Bill Brown.
BY BILL BROWN
JUL 13—Just as Lake Wobegon leaves the radio, Takoma Park goes on the air.
Lake Wobegon stories were a weekly feature of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion. The fictional town retired along with that show’s host Garrison Keillor two weeks ago.
Fresh arrival Takoma Park is non-fictional, and its stories, music and program hosts by the score will be featured every day, all day on its own radio station.
Takoma Radio, WOWD 94.3 FM begins broadcasting July 16 at 9:43 a.m. It will be a “Low Power FM” radio station with a broadcast distance of two to five miles, depending on terrain, type of building and weather. “Car radios are usually excellent,” according to a Takoma Radio announcement.
Markia Partridge meets with a potential volunteer, June 21, 2016, Photo by Bill Brown.
Programming will begin with a short interview with the non-profit, volunteer-run group founders. At 10 a.m. the first program begins, This! Music from Bobby Hill from WPFW.
Following will be a gardening show, an interview and electric violin performance from Marvillous Beats, and short “off the street” interviews.
Music and interview shows will fill the rest of the afternoon. There will be shows on indie rock, reggae, punk and hip-hop and Congolese guitar.
Broadcasting will continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Takoma Radio started five years ago when the FCC made a low-power frequency available for a new station and asked for applications. Several applied, but the winner was Takoma Radio. Leading the project was city resident Marika Partridge, who had a decades-long professional radio career, starting in 1976 at Juneau, Alaska’s KTOO-FM. She came to Washington DC in 1985 where she spent 16 years at National Public Radio as a director, producer and engineer. She moved to Takoma Park in 1987 where she now works as an independent producer.
The WOWD storefront studio. June 16, 2016, Photo by Bill Brown.
Another city resident has been key to the effort. Charlie Pilzer, owner of Airshow, a music mastering studio in Takoma Park was at the first Takoma Radio meeting in 2011. When he recently expanded his Westmoreland Avenue sound-studio to create “Allyworld,” a live-performance recording space, he included a store-front broadcast studio for WOWD.
That studio has been a center of activity for weeks as potential DJs and volunteers are interviewed and trained and shows are taped.
When Takoma Radio began it was a grassroots neighborhood group. They needed an established non-profit 501c-3 organization to apply for the license. Historic Takoma decided the radio project fit their mission and applied to the FCC in November 2013 for the license.
On January 24, 2015 the license was granted, but the aspiring radio station then faced a July 21 deadline to raise enough money for an antenna and other equipment, install it and get on the air. They met that deadline thanks to volunteer efforts, grants,donations, benefit concerts and other fund-raisers.
A map showing WOWD estimated signal coverage. Image provided by Takoma Radio.
An open house will mark the occasion July 16. It starts at 9 a.m. with an Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The public is invited. It will be held at the WOWD studio, 7014 Westmoreland Ave.
The radio station will also be live-streamed on their website. The website is also where the program schedule can be found. For the most part, live programming will be from 6 a.m. to midnight, with preprogrammed audio at all other times.
Aspiring DJs, program hosts and other volunteers are still encouraged to apply, said Marika Partridge, “We host events, and need help with many projects.” Currently they have a competition to build two on-air studio lights, she said. She urged people to fill out the Takoma Radio volunteer form or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Come to opening day and get on the microphone!,” she said.