WVVY: Island sound
WVVY is organic radio, just the way the founders planned it.
Local roots may be the biggest reason that WVVY 93.7 FM, Martha's Vineyard's first community-run radio station, will celebrate its first year on air early next month.
The half dozen people who spent almost nine years creating the station did it with the belief that an organic approach would work; that mandating freedom and allowing the community to create the programming would serve it best.
The programming schedule reflects that it's working. Ten months ago, chasms of unfilled programming dominated the schedule and both DJs and programs were being recruited. Today 75 to 80 percent of the time slots offer slices of Martha's Vineyard's cultural vista. More than 40 Island DJs, many with eclectic, sometimes germinal and offbeat opinions, have taken to the air with their musical and creative passions.
Photos by Ralph Stewart
"This is authentic radio, the way it used to be 40 or 50 years ago," Bob Lee said this week. Mr. Lee is a founding father and the program director of the almost 94-watt 24/7 station.
The labor pains were difficult. WVVY chairman Maria Danielson worked relentlessly late last year to raise a reported $10,000 to construct an antenna tower, and to begin transmitting before expiration of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) charter that enables start-up community radio stations. WVVY went live December 6, 2007.
Ms. Danielson and the founders were literally racing the clock. The station had to be on air before year-end or its FCC license would expire. "If you asked me in mid-October last year whether there was going to be a radio station, I would have said there is no way," treasurer Jim Glavin recalled this week. "But a bunch of people just came out of woodwork. Some gave a little. Some gave a lot. It was all needed and the total was into five figures."
Since its birth the station has survived on love and passion, rather than cash transfusions common to startup commercial and even public radio stations. Growth continues to be organic, relying on the authenticity of fledgling programs like musician, songwriter and producer Willie Mason's Grandma's Basement to attract programs and listeners.
"Willie plays music he loves, and that he wants you to love," Mr. Lee said. Mr. Mason recruited West Tisbury's Tom Osmers to help him fill his Friday afternoon slot with a fish and farm report, a merger that provides listeners with a chance to hear a piece of music recently uncovered by Mr. Mason, followed by a weekly chat between Mr. Osmers and his friend Ernie, a mink farmer in Machias, Maine. Interspersed with updates of happenings on the land and waters around Martha's Vineyard, it sounds like a throwback. "I remember programs like that in New Bedford 40 years ago when fishing was king there," Mr. Lee said.
Asked for programming he would recommend to a first-time listener to measure the station's diversity, Mr. Lee was hesitant to single out shows but cited as examples Americana music programming such as bluegrass influenced music on Tuesday evening from Greg Marcella with Avalon and the intermingling of folk, R&B and other genre on American music represented on Black Out Thursdays at 6 pm.