By Jake PalmateerStaff Writer
ONEONTA — SUNY Oneonta’s student-run radio station is celebrating its 50th anniversary by bringing back alumni DJs this weekend.
From today until Sunday, more than 150 WONY alumni will be at their alma mater to celebrate the occasion, with many manning the DJ booth at 90.9 FM.
WONY was founded in 1962 with $500 and quickly expanded. In 1968, it began broadcasting at 93.6 on a cabled FM system. In 1975, the station completed the FCC applications process and began broadcasting on the airwaves at its present spot on the FM dial.
WONY faculty advisor and host David Ring said so far there will be alumni DJs going back as far as 1970.
“We are going to have people from all eras,” said Ring, an associate professor of economics. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ring has had the longest-running show on WONY, “Roots and Branches,” when he plays roots blues and Celtic music.
Since he began that show in 1996, one of the biggest changes is the transition to digital media. Students who once spun records and CDs are now bringing their iPods and laptops into the DJ booth.
But one important aspect of college radio has stayed the same over the years.
“People’s enthusiasm for music hasn’t changed,” said Ring, who became the faculty advisor around 2000. “College kids have loved music for a long, long, long, long time.”
WONY General Manager Cooper Nelson said he is hoping for some alumni DJs from the 1960s.
“I’m really looking forward to asking questions,” said Nelson, a senior from Coxsackie graduating next month with a degree in mass communications. “It’s totally different now. It’s the digital age.”
But even with those differences, there are some throwbacks to the earlier eras.
Records have been making a comeback, according to Nelson.
“We still spin a lot of vinyl,” he said.
College radio is also known for its independent streak. And that hasn’t changed, according to Nelson.
For many underground bands and musicians that haven’t made a big break in the music industry, college radio is a testing ground.
“Their music goes to the college radio stations,” Nelson said.
In addition to the alumni DJs spinning tracks all weekend, there will be a pizza party tonight, a station tour and barbecue Saturday and an anniversary concert at the Autumn Café on Saturday night.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s going to be a blast,” Nelson said.
Ring said the station is funded through the Student Association, which gets its funding through student activities. The station has also been doing more underwriting recently, and alumni have assisted throughout the years, he said.
“The Oneonta Student Alumni Association has always been generous in their support,” Ring said.