Radio free Reno
Wolf Pack Radio raids the airwaves
Wolf Pack Radio was started by University of Nevada, Reno students in 1999. It took them two years to begin broadcasting and, at first, it was an internet-only radio station. The students ran their operation out of a small office on Sierra Street. Six months after they started broadcasting, the station could be found on the radio airwaves at the frequency of 1700 AM.
The station still broadcasts from the same frequency, but a lot has changed over the years. Highly motivated student workers with a vision have taken charge, and Wolf Pack Radio is becoming more of a campus—and a community—presence.
“I have seen the station grow a lot since my first day working here in 2001,” says Amy Koeckes, the associate director for marketing and media and the only non-student employee. “The station was added to the AM channel for coverage around the campus, and the station went from one manager to five staff members.”
The radio station decisions are entirely made by the student workers. They do have a boss—Koeckes, who oversees all of the student publications through the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN)—but ultimately, the students rule. Students create the programming, figure out the budget, do all of the public relations work, and make the calls to bring bands and get music to the station.
Wolf Pack Radio’s new digs are in the Joe Crowley Student Union, room 331.
“The recent move to the Joe Crowley Student Union has provided for a more stable location and will allow the station to grow even more in the next 10 years,” says Koeckes.
Troy Micheau, former disc jockey and current music director for the station, started his career in radio by volunteering as a DJ three years ago when his girlfriend found a flyer saying that the station was looking for students to DJ. Micheau has been with Wolf Pack Radio as music director for two years.
“Usually, at most radio stations, there are 10 people who do my job,” Micheau says. Essentially, he’s in charge of every bit of music that comes through Wolf Pack Radio. He talks and coordinates with the industry promoters who network through College Music Journal. They send him CDs, he listens to them (with the help of other student workers at the station), and then he puts the music into the system so the DJs can use it. Micheau also coordinates the streaming radio that plays on air when there are no live DJs.
The radio station revamped itself with new equipment when it moved into the new building.
“Once we moved here, there were so many more opportunities to do stuff. The programs we have now are nicer in some cases than the programs you would find at professional radio stations—FM stations across the country,” says Micheau.
Students who work for Wolf Pack Radio can take the skills they learn here out into the real world if they are interested careers in radio. Van Pham, the manager of the station (and an occasional contributor to the RN&R), says the station is developing an initiative to bring area high school students to the station to learn how to use the equipment. They would be given the opportunity to experience every aspect of radio hands-on.
An irregular stream of students and DJs come and go from the station—it’s a gathering place for the campus community. All in all, the station has 30 hours of airtime with live DJs—all volunteers—encompassing a large range of subject matter and music. “NFL Hour,” for example, is a sports show that focuses on UNR and professional football. On Wednesday evenings, there is a three-hour block of political talk shows. The first, “It’s All Gravy,” hosted by a political science graduate student, focuses on current events and attempts to be objective. It is followed by “The Voicebox,” a debate-style show where hosts Dan and Donnell discuss both sides of the issues. They have interviewed Jill Derby, Sig Rogich, Matt Gonzales and other local political figures.
There are DJs who specialize in hip hop, ska, reggae, punk, indie, rock and dance. Steve M., a house DJ at a local bar, does a regular show on Wednesday nights for Wolf Pack Radio. A full schedule can be found on their website, www.wolfpackradio.org
Radio is a sound salvation
The student workers who oversee the operations of the station have been working hard to make changes at Wolf Pack Radio. Their main goal is to create a more professional station overall.
“We want to lay down a foundation to establish the radio station as a programming entity,” says Pham. “And FM is always a goal on the horizon.” Unfortunately, it can take up to 15 years for an application to become an FM station to go through the Federal Communications Commission.
“If we are going to have an FM station, we have to act like an FM station,” says Micheau. Right now, the 1700 AM frequency can be heard mostly within a mile radius of the campus. Having an FM station would truly allow Wolf Pack Radio to become part of the larger community and to present an alternative to the mainstream stations in town. The station is making efforts to form partnerships within the city. They are in conversation with the city of Reno, the Holland Project and other local businesses to try to gain support and form working relationships. In November, Wolf Pack Radio and the Holland Project will bring Ian MacKaye, frontman of Minor Threat and Fugazi, to campus for a free question-and-answer session on Nov. 16.
Recently, Micheau and Pham returned from the College Music Journal Music Marathon, a five-day event in New York City, where they had the opportunity to attend forums and discussions about college radio. They also got a chance to talk to people who have experience in the business. Micheau, a member of the post-punk group Panic Opera, was nominated by CMJ for “college radio music director with a band that doesn’t suck.”
Donnie Musgrove, the web designer for the station, has created a well-rounded online presence for Wolf Pack Radio. There is a 24-hour live stream as well as a blog where DJs and staffers write about their shows and upcoming events. The station is in the process of creating an archive of all of their shows and interviews that will eventually be accessible online.
What these students have done is remarkable. Bringing live shows to the university (from local and international bands), creating a place for students to voice their opinions and express themselves, and reaching out into the surrounding community are just a few of their accomplishments.
At the end of the next semester, Micheau and Pham will graduate and leave the station. “We want to plant as many seeds as we can right now before we leave so that things can continue to be in motion,” says Micheau.
Stay tuned for more on Wolf Pack Radio and upcoming events. This isn’t the last you’ll hear of them.