For more than 40 years, WVUM 90.5 has called itself “The Voice of the University of Miami,” but its reputation for playing music far off the beaten path has earned few regular listeners from the student body.
Hidden in the back of the University Center, the WVUM office is best known for blasting the experimental sounds of techno, indie rock, classical and jazz from mounted speakers on the building. Passersby are treated to a taste of the alternative sound that has earned the station a unique influence and a large following of Miami music gurus.
So with pockets of loyal fans throughout the Coral Gables area and cutting edge music always in rotation, why has the radio station faded into obscure background noise in the lives of the student population?
“I’m not a fan,” senior Danny Casamayor said with a shrug. “I listen to mostly country and rock. Maybe if the station played more top 40 hits more people would listen.”
Many UM students seem in agreement with Casamayor’s opinion, wondering why the radio station chooses to play songs they haven’t heard before.
“The function of the station traditionally has been to highlight things going on outside of mainstream music,” said junior David Chessrown, the station’s music director and the host of “Profiles,” one of the station’s regular programs. Chessrown describes his choice of music as “music that teeters on the edge of the expected.”
He speculates that different listeners tune in to the station expecting different things. Some listeners are looking for music the station played years ago, while others want to hear songs similar to what they already know and like, but by new bands.
Lauren Yothers, a junior, seems to agree with the WVUM musical philosophy. “Its very eclectic,” she said. “Every time I walk by there’s something different playing on it. I feel like the station is often overlooked.”
Some UM students admit the reason they don’t listen to the station isn’t because of the music played but that the opportunity never seems to present itself.
“I think the music is pretty good,” sophomore Gordon Dale said. “But I only hear it when I pass by, which is not too often.”
Freshman Kate Pryslak admits to enjoying the tunes of WVUM as she walks past the UC once or twice a day. “I’m feeling it!” Pryslak says with a laugh as she dances along to a techno-robotic beat, but also states that the only time she listens is on her way to and from class. “I don’t have a radio,” she said.
Last Thursday, WVUM showcased their newly remodeled office complete with trendy new Macs and a fresh color scheme to liven up the small space. While the office is undergoing changes, the mission of the station remains the same: to bring the love of their work to the student body.
“I’d like for listeners to grasp the appreciation for the station I’ve reached,” Chessrown said. With diverse programming that features everything from a political talk show to coverage of sports to experimental music, the station hopes to appeal to a broad audience, like senior Tymed Aris. “Sometimes WVUM is a little out there, but I listen to all kinds of music so I don’t judge!” he said.
The radio staff strives to give exposure to unknown bands and cultivate an audience for them. “I know that our music may not be what the majority of people at UM listen to, but what we’re trying to do is give a voice to the underground music movement,” said sophomore rotation DJ Julie Zamora. “At UM we’re all trying to find a place to fit in and that’s exactly what these new and unknown bands are trying to do too,” she said.
With this in mind, the staff at WVUM 90.5 encourages its listeners to keep an open mind. “If you pass by the station at the UC and hear something that doesn’t immediately tickle your fancy, don’t dismiss it,” said Chessrown. “But realize everything that went in to making it.”