Music: The Common Denominator

“I think it’s really important to do what you love. This isn’t the type of career you go into to make a ton of money. I want to better myself and do what I love,” David Wujek, known by Orchard Radio listeners as The Wuuj, said.

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Washtenaw Community College is home to student-run radio station Orchard Radio. For the winter semester of 2019 the station has 13 DJs. The music playlist is set by station manager Ryan Ehlke but it is up to students of WCC to fill the talk sections however they please.

Orchard Radio is for anyone willing to get behind the microphone. The station allows students to be creative familiarize themselves with working inside the booth and all that comes along with it such as naming their shows. For example, Wujek named his show The Wuuj while another WCC student titled themselves as Dreamcatcher.

“This has been something I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know what it was called,” Wujek said.

Originally Wujek was going to college to study sports medicine. Between working, traveling and going to different schools something always seemed off. There were things that simply didn’t bring Wujek happiness and that needed to change.

“The place I work now is family owned and they treat me like family. I’m much happier here than I was working in the food industry,” Wujek said.

While his current job prepares Wujek for working in the real world and being happy in his current work environment Washtenaw Community College is preparing him for working inside the booth and helping him accomplish his goals.

Students need no prior experience to join the Orchard Radio station. Ehlke teaches students the basics, the ins and outs. When majoring in broadcast arts students learn everything from radio, behind the scenes, editing, tv, teleprompter reading and more. Speech classes can improve any speaker’s confidence but it comes in especially helpful when in the booth.

“This is more of a hobby for me,” Dreamcatcher said. “I love music and I’ve always had a respect for people who do this.”

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Dreamcatcher’s passion for music is what drew them into the booth. After hearing about it at orientation they became interested in experiencing it for themselves.

Wujeck and Dreamcatcher both enjoy a wide variety of music with no specific dislikes of any genre. Dreamcatcher lists class rock, EDM and pop amoung their personal favorite genres. This is beneficial because Orchard Radio can play songs from just about any genre. Those listening in can call the station and request songs they want to hear.

“We were a hodgepodge of everything and now reflects the college staff and students,” Ehlke said.

The station is generalized as adult contemporary the station plays just about anything the staff and students can think of. Over the summer of 2018 a poll was conducted to see what music WCC preferred. Out of 64 artists Justin Timberlake appeared to be crowd favorites. The goal is to play music the staff and students listen to generally while making requests still readily available.

Washtenaw Community College is helping the DJs in and out of the booth. Inside the booth, students get to practice using the technology, sharpen their public speaking skills and nurture their creativity.

“It’s the reason I like being here,” Ehlke said. “That nervous energy turns into confidence as they take over their own show.”

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Every student struggles at the beginning of any new experience. Learning the technology and getting used to talking alone in a room can take time. It can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Ehkle emphasizes the importance of repetition when adjusting to working in the booth.

“You’re sitting in a room by yourself and no one is judging you. That’s what creates good hosts is being themselves,” Ehlke said.

Ultimately Ehlke wants the DJs to make sure they are doing the technical aspects of the job correctly. The rest comes with repetition and experience.

Balancing a full class schedule, work, the radio station, family, relationships and more can be overwhelming.

“I try not to worry about it all. I don’t worry about the station too much because I’m here once a week. It’s more about the music than talking for me,” Dreamcatcher said.

Wujek also tries not to worry much but has a different thought process.

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“Everything is sort of dependent on each other. I’ve helped my girlfriend get back into school, my work schedule works with my school schedule and I’m happy to be doing stuff that makes me happy,” Wujek said.

A typical session inside Orchard Radio station is an hour long. There are three computers in the room with two main screens on the desk. The primary computer has a cued up playlist and scheduled talk breaks. The second is used by DJs to look at weather, articles and whatever else is needed for their show.

Part of Dreamcatcher’s pre-cast ritual is to turn on the computer and immediately look at the weather.

“I like to give people a run down of the weather because you never know with Michigan’s weather. One minute it’s sunny and the next there’s a polar vortex,” Dreamcatcher said.

Wujek is very interested in sports and often reports on current sports news. He often previews what his main talk segment will be about in early pieces of his show. Dreamcatcher has a looser approach and often cites a binder with a calendar and general information to broadcast.

When Dreamcatcher is in the booth she texts her family so they can tune in and submit song requests. In addition to broadcasting through Orchard Radio, Wujek streams through Facebook live so he can reach an even larger audience.

Ehlke encourages the DJs to be themselves. When working in this industry there are people who pretend to be someone they are not and it is easy for Ehlke to tell. He wants to teach students at WCC not to have that voice, a generic voice.

“The difference is the person in the chair,” Ehlke said.