Felix Mitchell Radio Prep WCSU

Chicago State’s WCSU radio station is school’s hidden treasure

By Branden Hampton

Chicago State University student and campus radio personality Thomas Hibbler says the station plays a unique role in the radio broadcasting arena.

“We’re not locked into a specific genre of music. We’re not stuck into the same rotation in the music that we play,” Hibbler said. “Here at WCSU radio, we also have the opportunity to kind of be a platform for new independent artists that are coming up locally. National artists that are not signed, but are looking for an opportunity to be heard.”

Hibbler said that WCSU helped a local female artist named Tink gain fans and she is now a national artist on music producer Timbaland’s Mosley Music Group Label. Giving new artists exposure is just one of the reasons WCSU is unique.

CSU’s Department of Communication, Media Arts and Theatre established WCSU in 1994 and it is one of the few college iHeartRadio stations in the State of Illinois, according to WCSU station manager Troi Tyler. iHeartRadio is an Internet radio platform that streams stations live.

WCSU has been on the iHeartRadio signal since 2012, but originally started off as an AM radio station on 610AM.

“I have 30 students that are on the air. The radio station plays every genre of music. So you’ve got jazz, rock, R&B, hip-hop, classical, sports, talk radio, you name it. It’s on the air at WCSU,” Tyler said.

Recruit, Register and Retain

In a campus radio station meeting, Reginald Miles, a broadcast instructor at CSU, told students that in addition to entertaining, the primary responsibility of WCSU is to recruit, register and retain students–both for the station and for college in general.

“The three Rs. You never forget that. You want to hook that next student,”  Miles preached. “The first thing that you’re doing is being a recruiter while you’re on the air. We need people in your seats. A degree here is still a great degree here, that they can also use to go further at our sister institution Governors State University.”

WCSU Radio Banner
The WCSU radio station banner hangs on the wall in one of the radio production studios at Chicago State. (Branden Hampton/MEDILL)

Miles also mentioned that college radio stations should be innovators and creators of new formats instead of duplicating commercial radio formats. He cited his own experience as a college radio disc jockey in the ’70s, where he created a format called ‘The best variety of hits and dusties.’

“I want to teach them the structures of commercial radio, but I think the development of that student’s individual personality should come first,” Miles said.

Accomplishing dreams with new technology

With a new automation system from Broadcast Software International called Simian, WCSU’s staff will be able to run the station on a 24-hour basis from a single location with both live and automated programming.

“We have a main studio and we have a remote studio that’s located in the rotunda building. We will be in a network where from a single location, we can look and see what’s on the hard drive of both machines. Both of those machines will have the same things on them and they’ll be loaded from one place,” Miles said.

 

Some students at WCSU expressed why they got involved with radio and their future career goals.

Kadeen Wheeler, program director for WCSU and also a senior communications major, said that after working on the student radio station at Kennedy-King College, he kept pursuing his passion for radio at CSU and wants a successful career in broadcasting.

“My best moment was when someone hit me up on Facebook and told me that they were listening to the show,” Wheeler said. “I just felt like that was a good moment for me when somebody told me, ‘Hey I’m listening to you right now,’ and I don’t even know who that person was. That kind of made my day actually,” Wheeler said.

An audio snippet of Kadeen Wheeler’s past radio show broadcasted on WCSU. Wheeler’s current show ‘The Naked Truth with Kadeen Wheeler’ is aired on Mondays from 2 p.m.- 4 p.m. on WCSU and streamed live on iHeartRadio. (Audio Courtesy of Kadeen Wheeler)

 

WCSU President Marsha Johnson said that being involved with the radio station allowed her to conquer her fear of being able to talk and also to live her dream of becoming a broadcaster.

“What I like about this radio station is the diversity. We have my show, which is called ‘The Half Mix Show.’ It’s me, someone who is over 40 [years old] and my co-host who is like 20 [years old],” Johnson said. “We play a genre of music that is geared toward her side as well as mine, as far as age goes.”

Johnson also mentioned that being able to work with legendary industry professionals at WCSU, such as local V103 radio personalities Troi Tyler and Herb Kent, and also broadcast instructor Miles, makes her experience at WCSU invaluable.

Johnson cited the success of former WCSU program director and recent CSU alumni Sam Franklin as motivation to work in the radio industry. Franklin is currently board operator and co-producer for ‘The Chicago Morning Takeover Show,’ which is aired on WGCI’s 107.5FM and Herb Kent’s weekend show on V103, which is aired on 102.7FM.

“That gives us hope as radio personalities like, ‘Oh wow, look at what he’s doing.’ That’s success right there from him starting here at WCSU radio,” Johnson said.

Photo at top: Chicago state student and radio personality Felix Mitchell sits in the WCSU radio studio preparing for his show. (Branden Hampton/MEDILL)