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The Daily Tar Heel

Students find creative outlet in WXYC radio station

Elizabeth Holland is a DJ at the student run radio station, WXYC-Chapel Hill.

Elizabeth Holland is a DJ at the student run radio station, WXYC-Chapel Hill.

With a whole world of music at your fingertips, students who thrive on new beats listening to your every remark, and a whole show to foster your sound — the power of the radio is yours.

UNC gives students the opportunity to express and explore their music interests by being a DJ at the WXYC radio station

The life of a DJ is not one that many students get to experience. WXYC is a free-form radio station as opposed to a block programming station, so none of their shows are automated, not even the late night and early morning shifts (aka the graveyard shifts). When DJs are hired, the first shift they are required to take is the 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. time slot. 

“It takes a special kind of person to want to come into the Union at 3 a.m. and do a radio show,” Grace Bowman, DJ coordinator and UNC junior, said. 

Sophomore Mary Glenn Krause has been a DJ at WXYC for three semesters and is now a specialty coordinator for the station. 

Krause’s show, Hell or High Water, explores the music and culture of North Carolina from the turn of the 20th century to the early 1980s. All of the music is taken from the Southern Folklife Collection

As a nursing major, Krause wanted an artistic outlet that allowed her to express herself.

“It was an opportunity to be (an) outlet for me to get that public speaking and public interaction,” she said.

And it's true that the public interacts with the station.

Sophomore Jessica Abel said she has tuned into the station before. 

“I like how students can DJ their own stuff,” she said, “and each student has like a different kind of genre vibe usually.”

Despite having worked at the station for almost two years, Bowman makes it a goal to pull things that she’s never heard of for her shows.

“You could spend hours browsing just one section of our library and just barely make a dent,” she said.

Krause said that WXYC tries to have a really wide identity and not play the radio’s top 40.

“It’s a musical experiment — you have to get in there,” she said. “Even if you don’t appreciate what the music sounds like, you learn to appreciate other aspects of it.”

Abel typically listens to acoustic singer-songwriter genres but has taken an interest in becoming a DJ through her friendship with Kate Fialko, a DJ at WXYC. 

“I’ve been actually thinking about getting involved just because Kate likes it so much,” she said. “So maybe I’ll look into it next semester.”

The community of DJs is one of Krause’s favorite parts.

Much of their audience and callers comes from DJ alums who have been listening to the station and call to reminisce about their days in the booth.

With alumni like Stuart Scott, many of the young and current DJs are inspired to continue searching for music the whole time they’re a DJ. 

“It’s as Tar Heel as the DTH and as the Yackety Yack,” Krause said. 

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Bowman didn’t know about WXYC until the end of her first year at UNC, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing this newfound interest.

“I didn’t consider the act of performing as a DJ until I was one,” she said.

Now, she doesn’t know if she can — or wants to — count the number of hours she’s spent in the station.

“It’s about a willingness to explore and an open mindedness,” she said.