For the past 12 years, Lowell High School has had a student run radio station. Originally an internet station, the call letters were WLHS. Three years ago an application was submitted and approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) giving the high school a permit/license to transmit on 92.3 FM. Listeners can tune in via radio or online. Al Eckman has been the Station Manager, guiding students since the station was created.
The FM signal reaches those in the Lowell Area School District and a little beyond. Those listening online can tune in from all over the world. Eckman is an amateur radio operator with an interest in radio since 1982 when he obtained his license. He takes this interest and skills to the Lowell Amateur Radio Youth Club as an adviser.
In 2005 when Eckman started, then WLHS, it was an internet station. “I wanted to see if we could provide the citizens of Lowell with programming different from what they were receiving from commercial radio stations.” he says. And this has been accomplished over the years. The WRWW call letters came in 2014 when the FM station was established.
The most popular content for listeners is sports coverage. Football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, wrestling, baseball, and softball games are covered by the station. And they’re looking to add girls’ volleyball. Additionally, concerts from the Lowell Performing Arts Center, located at the high school, can be heard on air and online.
During live football broadcasts having over as many as 400 households tune in is common. Eckman says many of the listeners are alumni or relatives of current players who live outside the Lowell community. This is an easy way to hear what’s happening at a game if being there in person is not an option.
During the week, on-air shows are hosted by students, typically from 2:45pm – 5:30pm. When a student show, sporting event, or other live broadcast isn’t happening an automated program generates music from whichever genre is set to air. At first the station had only 200 songs in their Music Media Library. Currently there are approximately 30,000 selections taken from 2,270 original CDs. The CDs have been donated by members of the community and students over the years. If you have any you’d like to give to a good cause the station is still accepting donations, especially for more current tunes.
Eckman enjoys working with students who are interested in the radio station. The experience gives students the opportunity to learn and grow personally, as well as a group. “It is interesting to watch, and listen to, students doing their on-air shows as they mature. Most begin by being a little timid, but after some experience behind the console and microphone, develop confidence in themselves and what they are doing, becoming more professional.” he says proudly. He has also seen students become more disciplined, gain self-esteem, create a positive attitude, and learn how to set and reach goals. He feels all of these things can also lead to academic success.
Roman Rozell is one of the veterans at the station. The senior has been involved with WRWW since spring of his 7th grade year. With a fascination with radio from a young age, taking on roles as an on-air DJ, Technician, and Sportscaster has given Rozell opportunities which will help him in the future. Currently pursuing a degree in Broadcasting or Sports/Media, being part of the WRWW team has put him at an advantage when it comes to experience in the field.
When asked why he thinks a radio station at a high school is important he responds, “I think a radio station at the high school is extremely important because of the job and learning experience that every participant gets. This radio station for me personally has already put me a step ahead of others trying to compete in this field.” Listeners can tune in every other Tuesday from 2:30 – 4:00 pm for Tuesday’s Top Hits with ‘Roman the Showman’ and the ‘B-man’. You’ll hear top hits and sportstalk from these two seniors.
The ‘B-man’ is Brendan Sanders, a senior this year. He thought it would be fun to be part of a sports show with his friend Roman. At the end of 8th grade, there was an opportunity for the pair to work together. In addition to being on the airwaves with ‘Roman the Showman’, Sanders also helps out as a technician at some of the sporting events.
Sanders enjoys being able to talk about topics that are relevant to him and his peers and enjoys working with the team. “It gives students another outlet to discover what their interests are. They can figure out if they want to go into broadcasting or be a radio technician as a career. Plus it’s extremely fun to be able to pick your own music and talk about whatever you want.” he says. He of course suggests listeners tune into Tuesday’s Top Hits, but also encourages checking out some of the other shows.
Hailey Boggs and Emily Brown are both seniors who have been involved with the station for four years. The two are best friends and co-host a show together. They are also both on the Board of Directors. Brown also adds the role of Music Director to her list of responsibilities.
Boggs and Brown co-host the show Bandtalk every other Wednesday from 2:30 – 4:00 pm. With a concentration on rock music they play music from the genre and talk about various rock bands, with a focus each week on one band. The duo also inform listeners about upcoming band concerts.
Brown has a passion for music. She was a shy student who decided to get involved with WRWW to step out of her comfort zone and find confidence. “Any of the students that have an on air show are great to listen to. A lot of students put in a lot of time and thought into their show before it’s produced.” she says. The Board of Directors and students involved with the station continually work to make improvements and appreciate the opportunity to have a school radio station and are proud of what they accomplish.
Eckman and the students he works with are always looking to add new programing. He works with a six student Board of Directors which offers suggestions and input for current and future content the station puts out. The station would like to become more community oriented. One step in making this happen is attending City Council meetings.
In September, WRWW started broadcasting City Council meetings live the first and third Monday of each month. A table is set up in Council Chambers and meetings are sent out over the airwaves and online. This gives the community a way to keep informed on what’s happening during meetings from the comfort of their own home.
Eckman also mention the station currently has an opening for a technician position for interested students. This person would help set up and tear down of equipment for remote broadcasts which are away from the studio. During live broadcasts technicians monitor the quality and volume of audio being produced. This is a good way for someone to be involved behind the scenes without being in front of a microphone. The station is also looking for more students to get involved with sportscasting.
Tune into 92.3 FM or online at www.lowellradio.org to listen to music, sports, on-air shows hosted by students, and more. There are currently 35 student members of WRWW involved in 18 regular shows in addition to covering sports and concerts. Working behind the scenes and on air behind a microphone, they all contribute to the programming the high school station has to offer. If you would like to support WRWW donations can be made on their website. The student run station is one of many groups high school students can become involved in which reaches out to people in the Lowell community and beyond.