On November 30th, WDAV Classical Public Radio invited the community to celebrate the station’s 40th birthday. In addition to cookies, cake, hot chocolate and cider, guests enjoyed live performances by Davidson ensembles, both in the station’s Boswell Community Room and on air from the John Clark Performance Studio.
In December of 1978, Davidson College transformed the cultural landscape of the Charlotte region by launching a 20,000-watt radio station. Since then, fans across the region have been tuning to the steady source of Bach, Beethoven, and other great composers. 40 years later, WDAV is one of the leading classical music stations in the country, transmitting now at 100,000 watts as well as streaming on the Internet. By building a community focused on classical music, WDAV models the Davidson College values of excellence, leadership and service.
Although professional staff manage and operate WDAV, student workers are engaged in a variety of meaningful and important jobs. Currently, there are six students working at the station.
Olivia TenHuisen ’20 has the critical administrative responsibility of preparing invoices and payments, even as she answers telephones and greets visitors. Also on the front desk is Emma Wilbur ’19, who in addition formats content for the WDAV website and blog, and is the student representative to the station’s Community Advisory Board. Charlotte Mackenzie ’22 prepares social media posts, as does Marisa Mecke ’21, who also assists WDAV’s membership department with important tasks related to record keeping and donor services. Tucker Craig ’20 maintains the station’s HD2 channel and Internet stream of archived episodes of Concierto, the nationally distributed, bilingual classical music series spotlighting Spanish and Latin American composers and performers. Ross Hickman ’22 contributes to WDAV’s blog, and is developing a podcast series on Music and Power. He is also the voice that welcomes listeners to the weekly broadcast of the service from Davidson College Presbyterian Church. All pitch in as needed with a variety of activities and events, such as the 40th Anniversary Open House and Party.
Even Wildcats who don’t work at the station get a chance to contribute. For example, over the past two years, students in music department seminars have written a series of articles for the station’s blog about musicians with disabilities, as well as the iconic American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein to mark the centennial of his birth. And when the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth was observed, WDAV broadcast a performance of The Merchant of Venice from its studio, performed by students in the English department’s Radio Shakespeare class taught by Cynthia Lewis. In addition, students and townspeople who are part of the Davidson College Choral Arts Society are heard occasionally on WDAV’s Carolina Live program performing under the direction of the college’s director of choral activities, Christopher Gillam.
Of the scores of students who have benefited from work at WDAV, many have gone on to jobs with other public media organizations, including NPR. The station’s highest profile student success story is Rachel Stewart ’86, currently WDAV’s midday and Sunday morning host, as well as Associate Content Director. About the anniversary she says, “We may be turning 40, but by no means would I say we’re over the hill. Classical music and public radio are as vital and vibrant now as they were 40 years ago, arguably even more so.“
Wildcat parents don’t need to be visiting their students to listen to WDAV. In addition to the regional station of 89.9 FM, WDAV streams its signal at wdav.org, and there is a free app for smartphones and tablets available from Google Play and the iTunes app store. You can also tell your smart speaker to play WDAV Classical Public Radio on TuneIn.