Florida's newest college radio station will be launched later this month at St. Petersburg College, complete with shows about country music, hip hop, reggae, campus news, talk and sports.
It hasn't gone live yet, but students and instructors have been working behind the scenes for eight months to make the station good.
The station is called MYRA, an acronym for "Make Your Radio Active." It draws from the pool of talent residing in SPC's Music Industry Recording Arts program, or MIRA. With the name of the station, the students are looking to borrow a bit of brand equity from the recording arts program and its reputation for production quality.
The station's going to be eclectic, said program director Rollin Covell, 25, who DJs and works as a sound engineer when he isn't at MYRA's editing console. Students have been recording shows, enlisting would-be producers and figuring out what's good and bad in college radio.
Student Rashad "Shadcore" Harrell's show "Hip Hop Uncovered" is like "hip hop Wikipedia," Covell said. In one upcoming episode, Harrell dissects rapper Ice Cube's song It Was a Good Day, cutting to the Isley Brothers' Footsteps in the Dark, showing where the former samples the latter. "I don't know where he gets this stuff. I didn't even know that one," Covell said.
"We're playing what we want to listen to," said program director Chelsie Smith. The goal is to create unique radio, different from the syndicated, homogenous, broadcast-from-nowhere sound of most modern stations.
The station is headquartered at SPC's Gibbs campus in St. Petersburg, but students from all over are eligible to participate.
With nine campuses and a student population of nearly 65,000 that dwarfs most Florida universities, it has been difficult for SPC to foster a campus culture. MYRA's goal is to address that issue, said MIRA program director Mark Matthews.
"The mission statement of MYRA is not just to communicate with students and the college, but to communicate with the community at large," he said.
The station is student-run, but Matthews lent some of his 25 years of experience as a Hollywood composer to help guide its creation. "We want to run it like a business, not a student club," Matthews said.
From CEO to quality control, the station will be a totally hands-on, process-driven experience for the students.
Along with music and news, the station will run information useful to the many students who have returned to school for job training. One show already in the can is called "The Do's and Don'ts of Interviewing."
When the station launches in late September at http://myradio.spcollege.edu, all of the shows will be pre-recorded. But as the crew gains confidence and experience, Matthews hopes to see some shows airing live.
The radio station also will be a laboratory for students in the school's recording arts program, where work will need to be produced on a consistent, timely basis. All the equipment is industry standard: Shows are mixed, edited and mastered on Avid digital audio consoles running Pro Tools digital audio software — not a cheap investment at about $10,000 a console, but essential to produce industry-ready sound engineers, Matthews said.
With STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — being the current focus of higher education, finding money to start new arts programs can be difficult, Matthews said. But SPC president Bill Law has made sure the Music Industry Recording Arts program has everything it needs to be successful. In the two years the program has been operating, it has increased from 12 students to more than 300, and grads are already starting to see success in the industry.
"If you get trained properly, you get a pass to the front of the line in high-skill, high-pay jobs," Matthews said.
Back in Matthews' day, parents used to say, "Why not get a teaching degree as a backup" for their aspiring young rock stars. Now, he says, "Why not get a recording arts degree as a backup?"
"If you train yourself to be ready when you get that shot," Matthews said, "you can have a long career in the music business."