For another year in a row, community radio WCOM was voted a finalist in the “Best Local Radio Station” category for IndyWeek’s Best of the Triangle 2018. Our co-finalist was megawatt MIX 101.5, both beaten out for “best of” by mega station WUNC. We’re proud to be voted in the best-of, and thank our listeners and supporters!
Details are on the IndyWeek website: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/best-of-the-triangle-2018-local-color/Content?oid=14840479
On Saturday, Feb 3 2018 from 10am-noon, a special live on-air remembrance was broadcast on Rocco’s show “The Music Hall”. It was recorded by Tofu Dave and is now available for listening online:
On January 21, 2018, WCOM lost its most generous and sustained supporter and long time program committee member Cat Devine. She touched the lives of most of our hosts and, it seems, most of the citizens of Carrboro. She was a founder of WCOM’s parent non-profit, the Public Gallery of Carrboro, formed in 1997 for an amazing public art project on Weaver Street, some of which remains today.
Andrew George found this column by Cat from 2005:
Not Built in a Day – WCOM 103.5 FM
The artist in each of us has least one gift to share with others. Take this notion home and dial your radio to WCOM 103.5 FM while you cook, garden, work on a car, paint, write, or entertain.
The artists at WCOM are gifted in all kinds of ways – creative, technical, logistical, and rhythmic. Their special talents, along with a desire to share them with others, brought volunteer-powered community radio home to Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
This particular work of art started with a lofty idea and some uniquely raw material. The raw medium takes the form of a new class of low-power FM radio stations created by the FCC, making room on the dial for legally inventive broadcasting. A small consortium of community-minded locals decided to get in on the action. The rest isn’t history yet.
WCOM broadcasts from the heart of downtown Carrboro in quarters that functioned originally as a bank drive-thru – more raw material to work with. The studio designers turned the space 90 degrees and preserved all of the building material, including the drive-thru window with its external visibility and internal countertop now facing the main drag. Cool!
103.5 FM is a hairline on the dial, but the low-power signal sounds fine within a five-mile radius. This we owe to gifted engineers. They had a year to comply with the FCC license. They equipped and configured the station and plowed through a ton of obstacles to launch WCOM last September. Bravo!
Then the fun began. With computer-generated music airing 24/7 and a thorough studio shake-down underway, the call went out for volunteer DJs. Yahoo!
Aspiring radio personalities lined up with program ideas to pitch in a juried selection. The chosen few exhibit the most passion for music, the most extensive and/or exotic personal collections, and the most eagerness to share their current favorites with a live audience. Each of them curates a weekly program put together in their “other” spare time. All of them have day jobs. Not all of them live within listening distance of WCOM.
(Case in point: I live well within listening distance. In fact, I live so close to the station that I could almost broadcast by sticking my head out the window. But loving the sound of your own voice will only get you so far. My quirky talk show didn’t make the cut.)
WCOM’s volunteer DJs fill the programming schedule with mighty fine offerings on weeknights and weekends. Colorful show titles like “Roots Rampage” by Bob Burtman and “Planet In My Kitchen” by Richard Klecka decorate the calendar. Cabot Dixon ‘s “Random Acts of Music” inspires me on Thursday nights. Ann Parrent named her show “This Is Easy.” That lets her keep reminding us how easy it is to run the board, juggle CDs, and have a general ball at the mic. Jayson Tanner airs “Wrecking Ball” at noonon Sunday – good timing. Likewise Mark Edwards’s “Psykick Dancehall” at 10:00on Monday nights — what the heck, the week is young.
Nuts for jazz and old standards, I go for “Saturday Morning Music Hall” by Ron (Rocco) Nittoli and “Breathing Room” by Fred (Fred) Wasser following Rocco. Melva Okun (“Musings With Melva” at 6:00 on Sundays) confides that she wants to be known as the Marian McPartland of Carrboro. Just between us, Melva’s got it nailed. She flies the whole plane.
“Y’alternative” makes for tricky spelling and a darn good show by Joe Swank on Saturday afternoons. Berkeley Grimball regales local singer/songwriters on “The Hook.” John Howie Jr. shows up at 10:00 on Tuesdays with all of his country music influences and golden tones.
My favorite announce of all time comes from Andrew “Furious” George. “Furious” airs on Saturdays at 5:00. Andrew plays funny infuriating stuff and then says, “You’re listening to WCOM 103.5 FM. I’m Furious.” Makes me laugh every time.
Next up, WCOM has public affairs programming and a twice-daily local news/features hour to develop. The latest call for volunteers goes out to potential hosts, producers, writers, reporters, and broadcast engineers.
Speaking of gifts to share, money works great – cash donations and fundraising energy. This all-volunteer undertaking revolves around a fairly expensive day-to-day operation, and it’s not finished yet. (Hint: Any plumbers in the house?)
CARRBORO, NC: The Public Gallery of Carrboro, which operates WCOM-LP 103.5 all-volunteer community radio, received one of five $5000 50 Forward awards from Coastal Credit Union in a ceremony at its Raleigh headquarters on November 14, according to Public Gallery of Carrboro chairperson Art Menius. 50 Forward enabled participants to nominate a deserving nonprofit to win a $5,000 donation. Entrants are asked to identify a nonprofit within the 16 counties where Coastal does business, briefly describe why the nonprofit is deserving of a donation, and explain what it does that is meaningful to the person nominating it.
1500 people nominated 463 non-profit agencies, according to Menius. Five were selected to receive the $5000 awards. The other 50 Forward recipients were Raleigh Rescue Mission, Chapel Hill High School Philharmonic Foundation, Beginnings, and First NC Robotics.
“We’ve spent the past 50 days looking back on the impact we’ve made in the lives of our members and community over the past five decades,” said Coastal’s spokesman, Joe Mecca. “50 Forward is the kickoff to our next 50 years of serving the community, and lets our members pay it forward to the organizations they see doing great work.
One of the first stations to go on air under the FCC’s Low Power program, WCOM went on air on September 29, 2004. The station, which rents studio space from The ArtsCenter in downtown Carrboro, reaches listeners around the globe through its Internet stream on www.wcomfm.org. It depends on donations, grants, events, and underwriting for its income.
WCOM provides a radio home for dozens of volunteer hosts creating original programming including outstanding talk and current affairs shows and music programs spanning many genres with especial strengths in roots, jazz, and blues. Guests on WCOM over the years have proven as diverse as Congressman David Price, blues star Shemekia Copeland, then State Senator Ellie Kinnaird, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Chris Hillman, the late Elizabeth Edwards, and mentalist The Amazing Kreskin. WCOM has trained and given a first broadcast opportunity to countless area residents.
According to its website, “Our mission at WCOM is to educate, inspire, and entertain the diverse populations of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and nearby areas. We cultivate local music and facilitate the exchange of cultural and intellectual ideas, with particular regard for those who are overlooked or under-represented by other media outlets. We provide a space for media access and education by providing equipment and training to our community.”
New Show starts 11/15/2017: Planet Watch: what’s going down in our part of the universe and what we can do about it: SOLUTIONS to big problems facing humanity today… a great adjunct to our homegrown “Home Power Hour!” Wednesdays 7am-8am.
Show update: “Neverland” on Saturdays 4-5pm is now “The Salt and Pepper Show“, a fun filled hour of music and fun facts about the artists as well as talk about Tween issues and pre-teen chatter.
New show starts 10/30/2017: (Mondays, Noon-1pm): The Radio Survivor weekly show explores the future of community media, with a focus on community radio, college radio, low-power FM and public access TV, along with podcasting and internet radio. Hosts Paul Riismandel, Eric Klein and Jennifer Waits highlight the best and most innovative audio programming and keep you updated on the news that affects our ability to make, create, hear and see great community media. www.RadioSurvivor.org
Come to the Kraken at the White Cross stoplight on NC 54 west of Carrboro on Saturday, September 16. Tell you friends. Six bands in six hours: blues, singer-songwriter, bluegrass, R&B, country, Americana, and whimsy.
Skyler Borgman, CFA, has joined the board of directors of the Public Gallery of Carrboro, the parent organization of WCOM community radio. A financial adviser with Morgan Stanley, Skyler was active in non-profits in his native Philadelphia. He has a particular interest in and vision for building WCOM’s relationships and identity in the greater Carrboro and Chapel Hill community.
Our new broadcast automation system – named Hal is an informal poll of show hosts – is in the studio. Engineering plans to put it online replacing Simian on Saturday, January 7. Although we have to expect the bumps in the road of any technological transition, the new system will eliminate the endemic issues with Simian during the last year and make remote show posting, management of back up shows, and scheduling syndicated programming much easier.
We owe a lot of thanks to Engineering Chair Donald Brumfield for making this happen with the kind assistance of Bill McClymont. We also appreciate the donors to our 2016 Annual Appeal and Orange County for funding Hal.