Radio casts broader

LITTLE whpk1_small.jpg

Moira Cassidy's radio show, National Public Rumpus, is heading out of its first hour, with two more to go. The program broadcasts on WHPK from 9 a.m. until noon every Tuesday during the summer—during the academic year shows are only two hours long, but the paucity of summer deejays means more work for those who stick around.

Cassidy, '11, who is also WHPK's station manager, is ready to take it on. "You're listening to WHPK, 88.5 FM, the pride of the South Side. It's 9:53 in the studio, so I hope that means it's 9:53 out there as well," she quips. "Sometimes I get worried that there's this radio time warp." After a plea for requests from “the real world” Cassidy cues her next song, experimental-pop band Deerhoof’s “Kidz are So Small,” and goes to pull albums from the station’s record library.

The WHPK record library, with its thousands of vinyl records and cds, looks predictably lived-in—deejays peruse the area 24 hours a day to find tunes for their jazz, rock, hip-hop, classical, folk, and international shows (WHPK also has a public-affairs format). To fill her additional summer air time, Today has been designated for J, K, and L, so she only plays songs starting with those letters—from All Girl Summer Fun Band’s manic “Jason Lee,” about nursing a crush on the actor, to the sweet, simple “Like Castanets” by Bishop Allen. Though some deejays manage to play 20- or 30-minute tracks, the challenge for Cassidy and her pop-inclined taste is finding 50 or 60 songs a week. She says, “I’m getting through it.”

The station’s rock-devoted hours, midnight until noon on weeknights, require students to give up sleep in favor of playing music through the wee hours of the morning. The effect is a station with a diverse group of rock shows ranging from indie-pop metal to experimental stoner rock. Having so many deejays with different tastes has earned the station accolades. In June alt-weekly Chicago Reader named WHPK as the city’s best college radio station. The Reader joked that WHPK “‘broadcasts’ from the University of Chicago on 100 watts of sheer willpower.” While the 100-watt station doesn’t even reach Chicago’s North Side, the station does stream to the entire world on its Web site.

Rose Schapiro, '09

Photos: Moira Cassidy pulls albums from the library; during her show she plays a 7-inch record in the studio.

Photos by Dan Dry.

July 25, 2008