Student-driven radio station offers real-life, hands-on experience
Tucked away on the second floor of Washtenaw Community College’s Technical and Industrial building is a soundproof room with tight quarters, but everyone there manages just fine. It’s where Orchard Radio operates.
Founded in 1998, the internet radio station streams live at orchardradio.com through a phone, computer or any device with internet access because unlike traditional radio, internet radio doesn’t rely on airways. The station is driven by students, about 20 per semester, who are enrolled in WCC’s Broadcast Arts program. Streaming a variety of music genres, including rock, hip hop, pop and gospel, its audience reaches listeners around the world from Germany to Sweden to England. Needless to say, Orchard Radio is one of WCC’s best-kept secrets.
Initially, it was the affordable tuition that attracted Benjamin Demory, a native of Plainwell, Michigan, to WCC’s Broadcast Arts program, which he describes as “unbeatable.” However, the state-of-the-art equipment is what kept him interested.
“The studio is simple but sophisticated. If you have any audio idea or dream, it can be realized in that room,” Demory said. “Being on air is unlike anything I’ve experienced yet.”
When students enroll in WCC’s Broadcast Arts program, they have two options: They can earn an associate of arts degree with a concentration in radio, or they can transfer to a four-year university, where they can earn a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of what path they choose, students gain hands-on experience, while learning how to write, produce and edit a variety of recorded and live productions.
Orchard Radio is an important element within the program because students have the opportunity to hone their craft in a real-world setting. All students are required to participate in Orchard Radio for one semester at some point during the program.
“The improvements that students experience and demonstrate from the first time they open the microphone to their final shows are transformative and amazing,” said WCC Faculty Member Dena Blair, who is in charge of the Broadcast Arts program. “They gain the adeptness and confidence needed to work in the industry. By doing a weekly radio show, they get to practice their hands-on artistry live in an educational environment, in which they can grow.”
Read the rest of my story in the January/February issue of On the Record here.