WXYC wants to take you out of your comfort zone

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Sophomore psychology and statistics major Joanna Zhang works as a student DJ at WXYC.

For Joanna Zhang, better known on air as DJ Spilt Coffee, WXYC is about much more than what song is playing.

“I think college radio is really cool because it’s more than just music, it’s the community that is also part of it," Zhang said. “It creates a space for creativity to flow, like I've met some of the most creative people here.”

Zhang said the station's managers are looking for people who are willing to learn. All of the new DJs’ love of music are put to the test during their first year, where they cover the early morning shifts to keep the 24-hour station going.

"You're not going to be a DJ for a local radio station if you don’t genuinely love music, and you're not going to go through the terrible shifts at 3-6 a.m. and 6-8 a.m. unless you actually genuinely love music," Zhang said.

This love of music has united the station’s DJs into a stable community under a shared interest. The WXYC community clearly has been strong enough to bring back alums, such as Drew Millard, for weekly sets.

Millard got involved with this “community of DJs” in his junior year. 

“I’ve always been into music," Millard said. "I wanted to write about music, and I wanted to learn more, and this station is this utopia of billions of records. Something a lot of people need is a community with shared interests.”

The 24-hour, 40-year-old local radio station prides itself on being free form. This means each DJ's set is  composed of a very wide variety of songs rather than a set theme, Millard said. Each DJ is required to add five songs on rotation to their set. 

“I personally love rotation because it exposes me to a bunch of new stuff,” Zhang said. “If it’s on rotation, then somebody probably wanted it to be on rotation and wanted DJs to listen to it."

Zhang said rotation is designed to put people out of their comfort zones. Through the rotation system, WXYC tries to broaden the musical perspectives of its DJs and, therefore, its audience.

“You can do a show for 10 years and not play the same record twice,” Millard said.

Zhang makes it a goal to find a new song, album or vinyl every time she performs her set. 

“A lot of people come in with pre-made sets, especially after their first semester, but why would you do that especially when you have so much access to free music in here?” Zhang said. 

Zhang queued up a track of spoken word poetry on rotation. 

"Like this is weird, this is undoubtedly weird," Zhang said. "It's not pleasant, but if you mix it with some sort of classical music, it’s probably going to sound better.”

Bevan Therien, the assistant station manager, said the station is looking for people interested in expanding their musical preferences rather than people with amazing taste in music who are not willing to find new things.

"We usually look for a lot of people who really have an open mind to all genres of music just because they're willing to learn," said McKinnon Brown, the general manager for WXYC. "There's a lot of people who come in with a really vast array of tastes in music, but sometimes people like that don’t benefit as much from it as people who come in and are incredibly open-minded."

The management board at WXYC is in charge of keeping someone in the booth at all times. Sometimes, it's up to them to cover shifts that DJs cannot make. On top of that, they hold weekly meetings over the state of the station and plan events, such as the 2000s Dance. 

Despite the decrease in people listening to the radio every day, Zhang said she has a personal connection to it.

"I think there's something really unique about being able to put in a vinyl or isolate yourself for a while," Zhang said.

@david_saff

arts@dailytarheel.com

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