WRPR returns to the airwaves with a new tune

In the purple lighting of the WRPR studio, junior English major Ashley Martucci sits behind the soundboard with headphones on, broadcasting her show “Get Inside My Head” Wednesdays from 8-10 p.m. As a recent transfer student, Martucci was anxious she wouldn’t be able to get involved on campus, but WRPR took that fear away by giving her an outlet to express herself and her emotions through music.

“You can kind of bare all. If I’m having a tough week and there’s a few sad songs scattered throughout, I feel like that’s my way of… letting it out,” she said in an interview with The Ramapo News. “I like connecting with people but without any judgment of face-to-face.”

WRPR – also known as Ramapo People’s Radio – has officially returned with 11 new student-run shows this semester. Listeners can tune in on 90.3 FM in the Mahwah area or on the website from anywhere. While they vary from music radio to talk shows and everything in between, these radio shows have given students a new medium to connect with others in ways that they haven’t since the start of the pandemic.

Ramapo students use the radio station to express themselves and bond over shared interests. Photo by Care Granholm

WRPR started in the mid-’70s and received its call sign – a unique set of numbers and letters assigned to every radio station – on Oct. 9, 1979. This led to an increase in power for the station, from 10 to 100 watts. While 10 watts was only enough to reach students on campus, 100 expanded the reach to 10 miles beyond campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced WRPR to take a hiatus for a few years. As campus slowly reopened, it took time for the club to regain its footing and return to normalcy.

Senior visual arts major Ian Henry has been with WRPR since 2020 and has seen the club through all of its changes. He even started his first radio show in 2021, at a time when no other students were hosting shows.

“I… found out [from WRPR president] Agrim [Gupta] that I was not supposed to be on the airwaves but they [let] me off the hook,” he said in an email. Now, Henry is a veteran DJ, hosting his show “Da Hotspot” every Friday from 9-10 p.m.

A majority of the current WRPR DJs only joined the station this year when the club was revived. Elementary education major Brian Pinna happens to be one of them. His show, which airs Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m., focuses on rock and metal music. Despite his short time with the club, he has brought some friends in, including Canaan Sharon.

Sharon, a senior music production and performance major, has only been hosting his show, “Fret Frenzy,” for two weeks, but he’s already having a blast.

The show, which airs Fridays from 2-4 p.m., focuses on music from jam bands, funk bands and underground artists. He plans to bring indie bands from Ramapo onto his show soon to provide them some visibility.

Before Sharon emailed WRPR to express his interest in hosting a show, along with meeting one-on-one with the e-board and getting a tour of the studio, he truly got his start with the station by co-hosting Pinna’s show.

“It’s definitely the most fun to co-host with people because not only are you giving your input, you have other people giving input, and it makes the show more enjoyable,” he said.

As Sharon walked through the studio, he explained what the weekly process is like for DJs. Prior to their shows, DJs prepare a playlist of songs they want to air. Throughout the show, they must log each song they play and break up the music by announcing the radio station’s name at least once hourly.

In the event of any mistakes or inappropriate slips of the tongue, there is an eight-second delay before whatever is said or played in the studio is broadcasted on air, allowing DJs to make use of the “dump button.” This button erases the previous eight seconds and keeps the airwaves clean.

When there are no shows on air, there is a constant loop of preset, radio-friendly music that plays from the computer. This protects the station from FCC fines for dead air – which is a period of silence that disrupts a broadcast.

Freshman music major Ethan Custer prepares similarly to Sharon for his show, “the twzzl show,” by creating an hour-long playlist of his favorite songs with some of his creations occasionally mixed in.

For Custer, hosting his radio show is a dream come true. “Broadcasting has been something that I’ve also been interested in alongside music since I was really young, so it’s pretty surreal that I’m finally able to put my voice out there on the airwaves,” he said in an email. “I’m really proud of the episodes that I’ve put together thus far!”

Martucci shares a similar sentiment. At her former university, she had wanted to host a radio show, but the studio was inaccessible physically for her as a wheelchair user and culturally as the club was cliquey and unreceptive to her interest. Her experience with WRPR has been vastly different.

“So far, the community at Ramapo is so welcoming and great… I didn’t think I’d be able to do much coming into college,” she said. “I’m happy that I could be able to do this.”




Featured photo by Care Granholm