At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Chick-fil-A and Starbucks Coffee are metonymic for the University Center. Long before the smell of waffle fries filled the air, the UC’s first floor attracted burgeoning musicians, wannabe DJs and storytellers into WMBC, the student-run online radio station. Plans are underway for a new generation of UMBC students to build upon the unique opportunity of college radio.
Flyers around campus announce the radio station’s return. New officers have been hired and tentative student show ideas are being accepted. Among other things, WMBC also plans to host band and DJ nights as well as a recording studio.
“We’re very excited to see the shows go on the air!” senior Information Systems major and WMBC Chief Engineer Josh Marciante said. “We want to see [campus community members] find success.”
However, the station itself is still locked. After nearly four years of struggle, that could change. WMBC most recently submitted a five-year plan and is working with campus administration to kickstart the broadcasting process.
“We are ultimately only able to move at the pace they do,” Marciante explained. “We are hopeful to gain approval…this is the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far in our attempts to begin operations again.”
Founded in 1975, WMBC’s broadcasts reflect a rich tradition of student voice and passion. Shows included “UMBC Eco-Hour,” “Wingardium Leviosa” and “Weird Bass.” Students discussed astronomy and comics, and played hip-hop favorites and blues deep cuts. A 2018 Retriever article showcased “CREATIIION,” an “hour guaranteed to affect your entire body.”
“We see WMBC largely as a medium and a service to lift the voices of our campus community,” Marciante emphasized.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced many student organizations into a purgatory of sorts, WMBC’s struggles began in 2018, when a software crash halted all broadcasts. The station was reduced to hosting concerts with other student organizations.
Once campus shut down in early 2020, the WMBC office became physically inaccessible. The challenge of maintaining a (virtual) campus presence was exacerbated by the fact that the radio had only two active officers. In spite of the difficulties, WMBC helped plan Virtual Underground, an online fundraising festival, in March 2021.
“Starting anything new is hard, let alone when that thing is a whole radio station!” Marciante said.
Senior Business Technology Administration major João Veloso, WMBC’s station manager, said that WMBC’s board members are essentially starting from scratch; nobody worked with the station while it was still operating. Recruiting show hosts and building a technology base, the essential tenets of a radio station, top the list of to-dos. The website, wmbc.umbc.edu, currently redirects to the station’s myUMBC page, but will take listeners to broadcasts in the future.
The station is taking note of previous challenges and adapting its operational model for the future. The key, Marciante explained, lies, unironically, in communication.
“We plan to leverage our new relationships with faculty and staff, fellow campus radio stations and our community members,” he said. “We succeed when all feel heard.”
Retriever Music Society, for “musicians of all types and experiences to grow as artists through community, learning and performance,” is one of those groups. While WMBC is a radio station, its office also includes a professional recording and production studio. Although UMBC’s Department of Music regularly hosts community events and concerts, many of its facilities and resources are reserved for students within the department. WMBC plans on opening its studio to non-music majors and thus provide an outlet for, among other students, RMS members’ creativity
“WMBC is forging a whole new path forward,” Marciante said. “We’re all learning together, so we hope for the new WMBC to be much more flexible and attentive to the needs of students, staff, and faculty alike!”
Stay tuned for WMBC updates and listen to past broadcasts on Internet Archive.
Visit wmbc.umbc.edu to submit a show proposal.