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WXYC DJs keep the music, community flowing 24/7

DTH Photo Illustration. A DJ plays music at the WXYC station.

The staff of WXYC is working to preserve the station’s culture and core values amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The student-run, nonprofit radio station has been on air since 1977. 

Senior Aysha Diallo joined WXYC as a DJ during as a first-year and is now the station manager. She fell in love with the work and the community. 

“I always wanted to be station manager, but I didn't know I was going to inherit radio in the middle of a pandemic,” Diallo said.

Diallo and her management team had to reimagine station operations to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. About half of the DJs are currently coming into the studio, while the rest broadcast from home through a streaming system set up by WXYC alumnus David van Dokkum. 

“We had to come up with very strict guidelines on station rules,” Diallo said. 

DJs who choose to come into the station for their shifts do so alone and are required to wear a mask at all times. Additionally, the space is sanitized during 30-minute breaks between sets.

WXYC has long prided itself on sticking to tradition while other college radio stations embrace automation, but they now use an automated system – also created by van Dokkum – to play music during the half-hour sanitation breaks.

“It's always been 24 hours a day,” Diallo said. “There's one person in there all day, every day. So it's kind of a shift in a direction that I'm not a fan of. I've always kind of been the old school head that likes doing things the manual way.” 

Junior Tallulah Cloos, a DJ at the station, also misses the days of 100 percent live, in-person shows. 

“The station itself is just this magical place,” she said. “There's just so much physical media that even like doing so many sets, you can’t get through it all and you're just discovering something new every day.”

Cloos is currently going into the station to DJ, but she did some virtual shows over the spring and summer months. 

At first, access to technology was the greatest challenge. DJs need a computer that can support the necessary software, as well as a catalog of music to play.

“The station has been really good about giving reimbursements for people doing remote shows to have that equipment to do it, which I think is great," Cloos said. "I would not have been able to if the station didn't provide that.”

Even after jumping the technical hurdles, Cloos found the virtual DJ experience lacking.

“When I go in the station to do a show, I'm having fun every moment,” she said. “Doing a remote show is torturous, at least for me.”

Sophomore DJ Grace Yannotta, on the other hand, stuck with the remote option.

“I stream remotely from my laptop, which has been so nice because I'm intimidated by going into the studio right now, even though they are taking all the proper precautions,” Yannotta said.

At this point, Yannotta is comfortable broadcasting from home, but she misses the social aspect of WXYC.

“The people you meet through WXYC are such incredibly unique individuals that are all so smart and so witty and so warm and welcoming,” she said.

Despite the disappointments, the WXYC staff haven’t lost the things that drew them to college radio in the first place. They still have a platform to express their interests and identities through music.

Cloos hosts "Orange County Special," which explores American folk music, while Yannotta analyzes film and TV soundtracks during "Your Regularly Scheduled Programming." Before taking on the responsibilities of station manager, Diallo hosted "Free Samples," which focuses on hip-hop and its influence on other genres. 

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All three students said their favorite thing about WXYC is the community, which they cherish now more than ever.

“We’re not around each other, but we've all kept up with one another, through the Slack or the GroupMe or Zoom,” Diallo said. “It's still refreshing to talk to DJs and discover new music.”