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WBER is a listener and school district supported community radio station in Rochester, New York, USA, owned and operated by the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Monroe #1. The station was founded by BOCES in 1985. Andrew Chinnici (also known as Chris Andrews) was the first program director, a position he held until it was taken over by the current program director, Joey Guisto. The call letters are said to stand for BOCES Educational Radio, but the station was once known as WRHR which stood for Rush Henrietta Radio after the original licensee of the station (the Rush-Henrietta Central School District).
|Broadcast area||Rochester, New York|
|Slogan||The only station that matters|
|First air date||1985|
|Callsign meaning||BOCES Educational Radio|
As WRHR, the station was a student-run club operated out of the Rush Henrietta School District. The station was granted a low power license (10 Watts) in 1975. The station operated during school hours under academic supervision, and then after school. The radio format at first was mainly structured- utilizing Top-40 radio formats and the accompanying bumpers and sounders. A handful of DJs spun what was termed "progressive" music, with longer LP cuts. School board meetings were also broadcast on a tape-delayed basis. Eventually, bands such as the B-52's and Talking Heads were aired by WRHR, exposing them to the station's listening area. The school district provided special support for students who broadcast live play-by-play basketball late into the evening from schools within the Section V conference.
In the first year of operation, The Station Manager was Brad Landon, a High School Senior who was stricken by Muscular Dystrophy, and Brad had the first show that was broadcast on the frequency. The first song played was "Beginnings" by Chicago. The first words spoken on-air were those of Mike Morgan, when during initial compressor testing he said "Is this thing working?". Morgan installed and wired much of the production equipment for the station and was the News Director the first year WRHR was on the air.
Some of the most notable announcers from the WRHR days include:
- Doug Emblidge of WHAM-TV in Rochester.
- ESPN producer Patrick Sloan, who got his start broadcasting basketball and football games for WRHR. Patrick also is a member of the Rush-Henrietta Alumni Hall of Fame.
- Paul Jason Kolacki, currently with WLGZ-FM, who has worked as on-air talent in radio markets around the country, in addition to hosting a satellite show heard on over 40 affiliate stations.
- Bill Flynn, who went on to work at area AM radio stations WSAY, WRTK, wxxi, and WHAM. He is a member of the Rush-Henrietta Alumni Hall of Fame and the Frontier Field Walk of Fame.
- Jeff Michaels, host of the syndicated Music Expert Retro Countdown radio show and head of internet station WBME, was a DJ from 1992-1994.
- Andy Anderson is a morning co-host at Rochester's WDKX-FM and has also worked as a traffic reporter.
- Billy Kidd is program director for WBEE-FM, where he hosts the afternoon drive-time program.
- Bob Culmone, under the pseudonym Wulf, tipped the scales of music correctness by playing more punk "hits" of the day(83-84). He went on to co-host the Pain Clinic(WHTK), a pro-wrestling talk show, which led to Bob becoming a pro-wrestling manager locally under the name Maddog Bobby Rogers.
George Michel and Stan Katz, district administrators, and technical assistant Rich Bzura were instrumental in making WRHR a reality.
Partnership with Monroe BOCESEdit
It was taken over by the Monroe BOCES #1 Technology Department renamed and upgraded to 2500 watts under the leadership of BOCES Assistant Superintendent Gerald Cummings. WBER has been serving the Rochester, NY and Western New York area since 1985, as a real life training ground for students in Monroe #1 BOCES Eastern Monroe Career Center (EMCC) Radio and Television Career & Technical Education (CTE) class as well as members of the community interested in learning about radio broadcasting. The station is listener supported, and depends on donations and underwriting to make budget. Most of the on-air staff volunteer their time to the station. A notable quality of the station during the late 1990s and early 2000s was the curious inability to play any two songs at the same volume level. Some songs were recorded with a volume adjustment halfway through the song. While it did not completely diminish the listening experience, it was part of the station's charming identifiable qualities. It also tried to automate itself overnight with less than reliable results, often leading to dead air.
The station tagline was changed to "Rochester's Real Modern Rock Station" in the late nineties to distinguish itself from a commercial station that attempted to tap into the same listener base. As that station's relevance faded, the original tagline "The only station that matters" returned. WBER is one of America's first full-time Alternative Music radio stations. It is also one of the first radio stations, and the first in Rochester, to offer a web stream broadcasting live radio on the Internet. DJ's currently use the identifier "Ninety-point-five FM, WBER, the only station that matters" or the legal ID, "The best in alternative music since 1985, this is the only station that matters, 90.5 FM WBER, Rochester". Other stations have since adopted the slogan "The Only Station that Matters", most notably WBAL-AM in Baltimore, Maryland, which first used it in late 2010-early 2011, but discontinued it after 2013.
The station's playlist is largely listener decided. Periodically throughout the regular programming, a "test track" is played. Listeners are invited to phone in their opinion of the song or visit the website to vote. It is by this process that new titles are added to the regular rotation, which the Selector playlisting program is used. WBER also presents local concerts for popular artists played on the station. Due to the feedback and involvement of the listening audience, WBER has become a notable music outlet for not only the Rochester area, but the surrounding region as well. Broader exposure via the Internet has only expanded the scope of their influence.
In the late 1990s, the now-defunct Red Social Lounge located in the St. Paul quarter of Rochester once hosted "WBER Night" on Friday nights. Proceeds from the door would go to help support the station. Inside, DJs would spin popular tracks from WBER's current playlist. When Red Social Lounge closed in 2002, WBER Night came to an end.
Over the years, funding had been obtained through donations and program underwriting. Recently, these sources of funding have not been as plentiful as in years past. On June 2, 2006, WBER conducted a massive on-air campaign to raise $20,000 to help meet budget goals through the end of the year. The fundraiser would begin early in the morning, only playing music from 1985, the year that WBER first went on the air. When $1,000 was raised, the plan was to continue on to 1986, and continue the process for every year until reaching 2005. The on-air staff expected the campaign to last days, maybe even a week. In an unexpected outpouring of donations and affection, the fundraising goal was met only 12 and a half hours after it started.
On November 7, 2008, WBER held their second fundraising event. It is the reverse of the 2006 event, the station started the event by playing music from only 2008, and backtracked one year for every $1,000 raised. The event, hosted throughout the day by Joey, Sgt. Pepper, and many other station DJ's., not only prompted listeners to donate money, but also share their personal experiences related to the station. The event raised $23,000 in a little more than 15 hours.
New Wave Wednesday is hosted by Jennifer V (former program director at the now defunct WMAX-Rochester) and airs Wednesday mornings. It features New wave music, giveaways, and occasional guests. Jennifer V has won the City Paper's "Best Radio Personality" award, and has been highlighted in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
- "BEST OF ROCHESTER '09: Readers' Choice". Rochester City Newspaper. Retrieved 11 November 2009.
- Wallace, Daniel (June 28, 2008). "'Jennifer V' thrives with people skills and passion". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.[dead link]