An unassuming one-story brick building on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus at Princess Anne is the source of the only traditional jazz radio station on the Delmarva Peninsula – WESM 91.3, a subsidiary of NPR and a public radio station supported by listeners.
The music – punctuated by NPR reporting – airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is the 30th year that WESM has aired, and there has been quite a bit of change over the decades.
For example, thanks to automation technology, radio staff no longer need to argue over who will come to work on weekends or holidays. Everything is pre-recorded and a generator ensures that the station is on the air even in the event of a power failure.
Gerry Weston recently took office as CEO, after Stephen A. Williams moved in 2016 to a station at Western Michigan University.
Weston is no stranger to Delmarva, having served as General Manager of the WSCL from 2007-2011 before returning to his native Massachusetts for a few years.
“I’ve been here for about six weeks now,” Weston said. “Other stations broadcast NPR programs, including WSCL and WAMU, but what separates us is the music. Jazz is what will propel us to greater success, as an alternative to all that exists. .
“Jazz is one of America’s art forms,” he said. “Not the only one, but perhaps the most popular. Somewhere on the dial, jazz should have a home. That’s why I took on this job, and I’m delighted to be here.”
Weston said he plans to step out of the office and visit the beach areas, businesses in Salisbury, Easton and the Delaware Coast, to build personal connections.
Background:UMES named one of the top 20 HBCUs by US News & World Report, its highest ranking ever
“Local advertising companies should also take a look at us,” he said. “There are many businesses in the region that would really benefit from subscribing to WESM. “
The station has a strong signal, he said, covering Easton and St. Michael’s, across the Lower Coast and into southern Delaware.
“Jazz is great for people who want to get away from what’s going on in the world for a while, that’s what I love about it,” he said. In addition to its broadcast area, WESM is broadcast from its website, www.wesm913.org.
This ability to broadcast anywhere in the world is why WESM is able to say that it is heard around the world – in California, Chicago, New York, as well as Japan, Canada. , in Germany, Spain and South America.
Yancy Carrigan, Brian Daniels and Angel Resto share on-air personality status with other key station functions.
Angel Resto, 61, is an operations manager and has worked at the resort for 17 years.
In addition to jazz shows, he hosts Radio Mundo, a world music show, on Sunday evenings. One of his shows features Latin jazz.
“I use the name Luisito Ortez for the Latin show,” said Resto, “and people don’t seem to realize it’s me because I’m using a different name, even though the voice is the same. “
Resto said he enjoys both aspects of his job – troubleshooting and hosting on-air music programs.
“I coordinate all of the station’s programming and promotions. And because I’m in charge of the automation, I have to come in if it breaks and fix it,” he explained.
“I love working here,” he said, sitting in his small office, clad in well-worn jeans and Converse sneakers.
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“I hope people here realize how much of a gem it is,” he said. “I have had visits from people in New York State who have told me they would like to have a station like this where they live. They have a station, but it broadcasts from Newark, New Jersey.
The life of Resto has revolved around music and radio.
“I did radio in college, but when I was in high school in Pemberton, New Jersey, I skipped high school and went to community college, where I hosted a radio show,” did he declare. “I pretended to be a community college student and they gave me this show.”
Carrigan, 72, has worked full time for WESM since June 1998; prior to that, he volunteered at the station for seven and a half years before accepting a part-time position which took him after about a year to his full-time position as Music Director.
“We report our playlists to Jazz Week magazine, where we also follow the current jazz that is being played and also chat with radio promoters who are trying to persuade us to play their CDs,” Carrigan said, alternating between picking the next one. CD to play, sporadically injecting messages on the air on the album which has just ended, and reporting the date, time and temperature as well as a short promo from the station.
Carrigan doesn’t work from a pre-planned playlist while on air.
“I work out of spontaneity,” he explained. “When you make plans, things go wrong. That’s how it works a lot, so rather than spending time planning, I just go with it.”
Once he’s changed CDs, he enters the previous CD into a playlist that appears online, allowing listeners to look up a number they might be interested in rather than calling the station to find out.
“I know what kind of music we’re playing here,” Carrigan continued. “So far this year we have received 470 jazz CDs. I am reviewing and trying to choose which ones are released for us.”
Carrigan is on the air five days a week.
Saturday afternoons from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., he hosts the R&B Music program at the Wax Museum, followed by the Blues Train
Brian Daniels, 47, has been at the station for 17 years. He started listening to WESM when he was in high school, in 1987 when the station opened.
“One thing I remember is how different this station was from other stations I had heard on the radio,” Daniels said. “The music I heard and the information it played felt different from other stations I listened to.”
Back then, the station would go offline at midnight and come back on air at 6 a.m., gradually shifting to the 24-hour broadcast format it uses today.
He started as an on-air host for several programs after a stint as a volunteer. His job title is now Program Specialist. He served as interim general manager for just over a year, until Weston was hired.
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He has hosted Music from the Wax Museum, Evening Jazz and currently does afternoon jazz Tuesday through Thursday.
“I got hired as a local host for Morning Edition for NPR News,” he said, adding that for him being on air is the best job at the station.
“Several years ago,” he said, “I ended up inheriting the job of curating our website and social media. I created a Facebook page for WESM probably around. six or seven. Currently we have up to 583 likes and about 548 subscribers. “
It posts on social media and also engages page visitors quite regularly. Some of the followers are jazz artists, some of national renown, and so he befriended.
Daniels, like Carrigan, said the only thing that hasn’t changed in three decades is jazz, explaining that the focus is on traditional jazz (as opposed to urban or smooth jazz), blues and a comeback. recent to gospel music after a short hiatus.
“These are the three things our listeners gravitate towards,” he said.
The station is also looking for community partnerships, like the one with a Rehoboth Beach organization known as True Blue Jazz that promotes mainstream jazz performances on Delmarva.
“Sadly, many people who live here still don’t know we exist,” Weston said. “We have to do a better job of marketing ourselves. That’s one of the reasons I got hired, to get the word out.”
Weston regrets the lack of development positions at the station.
“It’s a challenge, not having any development members or staff at all,” he said. “I would love to have a membership director.”
Maybe one day.