KWCW Recommended section at Walla Walla's Hot Poop music store.
For several days in late October, Matt Bachmann ’11, an economics major from Oak Park, Ill., found himself in a metropolis of music – a festival four times larger than the city of Walla Walla, featuring more than 1,200 live performances and 70 panelists. He was among 120,000 music fans from 30 different countries who gathered in New York City for the 30th Annual CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival.
But as the manager of KWCW, Whitman College’s radio station, Bachmann was not merely there to enjoy the music. He and Cecily Foo ’11, KWCW’s head music director, represented the station and the college as other Whitties have done for four of the past five years. By day, Bachmann and Foo discussed the music business, production, criticism and other topics with college students and important music figures involved in a series of panels. By night, they attended shows all around New York City, being “exposed to new music to bring back to the station.”
The event, which is “one of the world’s most important platforms for the discovery of new music and film,” and New York City’s largest film festival, according to the website, has had an immediate impact on Bachmann’s plans for the station. Within the last month, he has begun to collaborate with the local music store Hot Poop as well as with the Walla Walla Union Bulletin, and is working to establish a monthly music magazine and campus community listening parties before the end of the semester.
“I can't express in words how important this trip was for the station,” Bachmann said.
The most vital day of the festival, he says, was College Day, when representatives from college radio stations from across the country shared their approaches to sharing music.
“It's a really inspiring day because we get to see what we are doing right compared to other stations and what we could improve on. This year, we decided that we needed to focus on providing our deejays and the community with more new music,” he said.
Both the music magazine and listening parties stem from College Day discussions; the former is an idea from Boston University’s WTBU, and the latter from New Mexico State University’s KRUX. Whitman, too, offered the country its own radio innovations – such as its “free format” radio. Instead of controlling what the station plays, as is typical of most college radios, Whitman offers more autonomy to its deejays.
“I believe that [the free format] allows for much more creativity in programming and also allows deejays to play or talk about what they know, rather than being forced to play what we dictate to them. KWCW shows such as "Channeling Ashtar," that features poetry, French critical theory and other great literary readings, would not be possible on these fixed rotation stations,” he said.
Cecily Foo agreed. “The free format gives KWCW more character and is a better representation of the voice of the college and Walla Walla,” she said.
The first edition of Whitman’s radio magazine will be released this month and feature the staff’s favorite albums of the year. Pending funding from the Associated Students of Whitman College, the magazine will be published monthly throughout the spring 2011 semester. Each magazine release will coincide with a listening party designed to “give students and community members an opportunity to hear the music that we will be writing about,” Bachmann said.
In downtown Walla Walla, Hot Poop now features a “KWCW Recommended” section, which Bachmann hopes will simultaneously support the store, the radio station and the growth of music in Walla Walla. Bachmann also hopes to reach more of the community beyond campus by publishing KWCW’s top rotation charts and record reviews in the Walla Walla Union Bulletin.
“I think that it is important for KWCW to be involved with the community because KWCW is a community radio station,” he said. “Some of our best and longest lasting shows are hosted by community members. KWCW is not just Whitman's station. It is Walla Walla's station.”
— Eleanor Ellis ’13