On WHHB 99.9 FM, Holliston High School students are able to express their music and
their voice. The radio station has been around since the 1970’s (founded by the now-retired Mr. William Curboy), and has certainly evolved over the years in both technology and membership. Technology affects the station in sound and in management, while the members themselves – though few – have introduced a variety of music and personalities.
The technology for the members is “nothing too complicated,” said recent HHS graduate Bobby Glasier, who was a part of the station all four years of his high school career. “You can plug in your iPod, and hit play.”
Glasier has been co-host for a radio show – known under a variety of names – since his
freshman year. When asked what kind of show they put on, Glasier said that “we just talk about anything.” They play a variety of music, a cornucopia of sound from the 70’s, to the 80’s, to the contemporary underground/independent genre.
New members have joined the team as well. Junior Iza Bushko said she joined at the
beginning of last year because “I was interested, and I felt like I wanted to experience something you usually don’t get to… it’s a responsibility, and … interesting.” Her show plays
mainly korean-pop, foreign music, and other “weird stuff,” as she put it.
For Bushko, the basic technologies were easy to learn, such as powering on, the
soundboard, plugging in, volume control, and other such tasks. When asked what the hardest
thing to master in the station was, Bushko said “it’s the technique – turning on music at the right time, switching songs – you have to get used to it.”
For the students, their time spent in the WHHB station is one filled with music, friends,
and unique experience. Behind the students, of course, are the adults who try to keep the show running smoothly. And the technology either makes their job smoother, or a lot more frustrating.
Mr. Timothy Bailey is the current radio advisor, and was involved with radio
communications in college taking roles in “writing, production, and [being] the voice.” In terms of how the station has evolved, Mr. Bailey said the “quality of professionalism has suffered because of the limitations of technology.”
He explained that the recent use of digital music players has made it more difficult to
transition songs, as opposed to fading vinyls and CDs. For him, the iPod is “not ideal.”
“Students are going to use technology the way they want to use it,” said Mr. Bailey.
Students running the station tend to forget about technicalities such as Public Service
Announcements (PSAs), smoothly transitioning songs, how they approach going on the air…
And it becomes very frustrating for the advisor.
However, Mr. Bailey also said “shows that aren’t technically perfect are still entertaining.” He welcomes and encourages a variety of student shows, from miscellaneous music, to dubstep composers, to sports commentaries. For him, “the best shows on air are really the talk-based.”
When asked about the implementation of new technology, Mr. Bailey said he
was “already overwhelmed by the technology in there!” While the soundboard and music players are simple, it’s with the larger components where things get complicated. For instance, last year the WHHB antenna malfunctioned. Not only was the physical labor of accessing the machinery a lot of work, but a lot of effort was needed to acquire an engineer. WHHB does not have a full-time engineer on hand, and hunting one down and paying one is both time-consuming for Mr. Bailey and a financial setback for WHHB’s funds (the station’s main source of money is the fee students pay to run their show each season).
During the time that Mr. Chris Murphy served as WHHB advisor from 2003-2009, the station
implemented a lot of new technology. The “Big Bro” program recorded and condensed anything that went on air over a live microphone. The use of digital show logs (students legally have to catalogue every song, PSA, and talking segment that go on air) were also implemented. There were also upgrades in security for both entering and exiting the station, as well as a video monitor for the outside door. And near the end of his advisement, WHHB members were beginning the “widespread use of MP3 players and personal digital catalogues.”
The membership itself has also changed significantly over the years, recently
declining in numbers. Mr. Murphy talked about when there used to be a “serious competition for show slots.” Over the course of one year, there would be upwards of a hundred members. “There were 25 shows each week, plus sometimes Sundays, with anywhere from one to three people on each show,” explained Mr. Murphy.
“My favorite part was the show names and show signs people came up with,” said Mr.
Murphy, who still has a folder of all of his favorites stored away. Show genres and themes
ranged “from total 70’s vinyl, to classic rock, to classical, to jazz brunch, to bubble pop, to boy
band, and everything in between.”
The current number of students in WHHB is approximately a fourth of what it has been
in previous years. This fluctuation of membership, while slightly disheartening, hasn’t stopped
the students and faculty from moving forward with this unique club.
“It’s a more than rare, or very rare, luxury for the students of this town to have a radio
station in the school,” said Mr. Murphy. “We’re very lucky to have it and have the support of the community over the years to keep it running.”
Anybody who is interested in joining the WHHB team can contact Mr. Bailey at any
time. “We’re at a unique time in the station’s history – competition for entertainment in this
society at an all-time high,” said Mr. Bailey.
For this reason, it is important to delve into the experience while the age of radio is still hanging on. Pandora, satellite radio, YouTube channels – these are all wonderful new innovations in the world of music. But nothing can win over the excitement you get from turning on the radio and finding your favorite song, discovering a new favorite, or laughing as you and your friends sing along to a classic hit.