WPRK 91.5 FM, billed as “the voice of Rollins College,” has good reason to call itself “the best in basement radio.” Many of WPRK’s qualities make it stand out from other local radio stations; it was founded in 1952, making it the oldest radio station in Florida.
It was also recently voted the second-best radio station in Orlando by the readers of Orlando Weekly, most of whom have no connection with Rollins but listen to WPRK simply because they like the mix of alternative music the station plays.
WPRK was also named one of the top five college radio stations in the country by MTV Underground (mtvU), and was mentioned at The Woodie Awards, an mtvU awards show that recognizes standout artists and stations in college radio and other alternative music. Furthermore, WPRK was given an honorable mention by The Guinness Book of World Records for having a 110-hourcontinuous broadcast by a DJ at the station, almost breaking the world record for broadcast length. Unfortunately, if you are anything like the average Rollins student, you probably do not know any of this.
Although WPRK has received nationwide acclaim as a college radio station and is widely listened to by members of the surrounding community, none of the students I interviewed listen to it or seem to know anything about it. Lauren Silvestri ’14, public relations director of WPRK, is well aware of this discrepancy in the level of recognition in the larger Orlando community.
“WPRK has a big following in the Orlando area. People call in with requests and go to the shows we put out, so it’s weird because we’re not necessarily popular at Rollins but we are popular in the Orlando area,” she said. She says that the lack of student interest may be due to this generation’s tendency to use either MP3 players or the Internet to listen to music.
Reneé Fonseca ’15, for example, does not own a radio, and says that if she listened to WPRK she would have to listen to it through other means. “I mostly just listen to my iPod. I could use apps on phones or computers [to listen to the radio], but they don’t work well,” she said.
It is a shame that students do not listen to WPRK more, says Silvestri, because doing so could help them branch out in their musical tastes. “You definitely need to give it a try, and multiple times, too, because every time you turn it on there’s something different playing. We play mostly alternative music, but the cool thing is that we play all types of alternative music. Reggae, dubstep, world music, metal, indie rock, some pop … we have it all.”
WPRK does not confine itself to a studio in the belly of Mills. “We do an event called WPRK Comes Alive a couple times a semester,” said Silvestri. “It’s usually off campus, at venues such as the Hard Rock Café or the House of Blues. We bring in some local music; we get upcoming indie bands to come perform. It’s a way for all of us to get together, and for people from the community to come see us.” WPRK occasionally gives away CDs and other promotional materials from its collection, as it did on Thursday, Oct. 20 at a table in front of the Campus Center. When I visited this table, I walked away with an armful of new music that I did not have to pay for.
WPRK is also celebrating its 60th anniversary in the spring of 2012, and the station is planning events to celebrate it. “You’ll be hearing a lot about that next semester,” said Silvestri. “It will be all over Rollins.”
It would certainly be a shame if the student population continued to miss out on the rich variety of music that the radio station provides, although perhaps some students are just confused as to what, exactly, WPRK is. Several students interviewed thought that the music played in the Campus Center was exclusively WPRK content, which is not the case.
Perhaps giving WPRK the recognition it deserves is simply a matter of it being more visible, or rather, audible, in public areas on campus. Kat Danvers ’15 said that she would listen to WPRK in this case, saying, “If they played it [in public] places, I’d listen to it.”
If you are interested in joining the WPRK team, contact Lauren Silvestri at lsilvestri@ rollins.edu.