Since its inception, WMFO has featured a number of community member-hosted radio programs run by residents from all across New England. The station hosts shows like “On the Town with Mikey Dee,” this year’s nominee for the Boston Music Awards’ Radio Show of the Year, and “Something About The Women,” one of the longest running women’s radio shows in the country.
These are just a few of the numerous community-run programs nestled into Tufts Freeform Radio’s weekly lineup. The shows comprise a variety of decades-old radio programs that showcase nearby musicians, niche music genres and forgotten artists. Many of them have been on the air longer than WMFO’s student-run executive board has been alive, and several are grandfathered into three hour-long programs that are no longer offered.
Senior Rose Smith, general manager of WMFO, highlighted the draw to Tufts’ radio station, which she said welcomes the interests of local residents looking to share a wide array of music and thoughts with listeners.
“One of the things that we pride ourselves on is being freeform radio. As long as you’re within FCC [Federal Communications Commission] guidelines, you get to do whatever you want,” Smith said.
She emphasized that WMFO has had a longstanding commitment to and embrace of the nearby community.
“A lot of other student stations tend to close themselves off from the community, whereas we actually have them involved,” Smith said.
Belinda Rawlins, one of the station’s community member hosts, worked in community and public media for over 30 years before coming to WMFO. Her show, “Bubbles in the Think Tank,” has aired from radio stations in Cincinnati, Ohio; Albuquerque, N.M.; Mendocino, Calif.; and, since 2008, WMFO.
Rawlins said she initially considered her time at WMFO to be a temporary stint, but instead she decided to continue the show once she moved to Boston.
“I thought, well, maybe I’ll just go ahead and do the show for a while until I get my legs under me because I had just moved to town. And here I am, 10 years later,” Rawlins said.
“Bubbles in the Think Tank,” which she described as a “silly little radio show,” is more of a standing date between her and her audience than anything else. Many have followed her show since she started in 1986 and remain avid listeners to date.
“We have an extremely active and long-time following … I still have people who listen now who predate me on that radio show,” Rawlins said. “During the show, the listeners are talking about the records, and they’re very active with one another. It’s really great.”
Her Saturday night time slot, from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m, suits the program she has hosted for decades well.
“I do a lot of cocktail comedy from the 1950s and ’60s, a lot of adult party records that aren’t far out these days but at the time were quite saucy. It’s nice to be on at a time slot where I can play that kind of stuff,” Rawlins said.
Other locally hosted shows have resided at WMFO for decades. “Something About the Women,” a weekly radio program that features music by women artists, began in 1973. It is the longest running show on WMFO.
Kirsten Chervinsky, who joined “Something About the Women” in 2016 as one of four rotating hosts, said she listened to the show for years and begged them to let her go on air when they announced they were searching for another host.
Now in her third year at the station, Chervinsky explained how each host showcases their distinct style during the weekly program.
“The first set is really anything goes, people that I love or love to play. They tend to be musicians that are [from] more independent labels,” Chervinsky said.
She added that she reserves time to specifically showcase upcoming local musical talent.
“I have at least two sets of music by women who are going to be performing locally, so that somebody might like what they hear and go out and hear the live performance. We have some [local venues] that are particularly good at supporting women in music, so I tend to go to their websites and see what’s coming up,” she said.
“On the Town with Mikey Dee,” another longtime program on WMFO, has showcased live artists in the New England area since 1989. Joel Simches, the show’s producer and one of the hosts, said “On the Town” has dedicated itself to highlighting local bands since its namesake first began hosting the show.
“Mikey Dee, who the show is named after, was a champion of local bands. Everybody wanted to play on the show, and everybody wanted to be on his show … Mikey was one of those people that gave a lot of musicians that voice to be heard,” Simches said.
Dee passed away in 2003, but the show has continued to host live musicians with the same spirit since it first aired. It is now hosted by a number of rotating hosts, all dedicated to continuing the local focus and the program’s live performances.
Simches said that while the nature of music sharing and exposure has changed since the show began, “On the Town” still provides a platform for new and upcoming artists, like it did when Dee hosted.
“I think it’s very important that shows like ours continue to light the way to all the different kinds of music and art available in this city,” Simches said. “To be able to curate your own music and your own ideas of expression, and see how they combine with the resources of the station, and the resources of the people that come through your door with music — there’s nothing that can compare to that,” he continued.
Despite their long standing presence, not all community members involved with WMFO are long-time hosts. Patrick Clerkin, host of “Man V Mob Radio,” started hosting his program on WMFO this summer.
Clerkin started the show after quitting his mechanical engineering job earlier this year, instead opting to pursue what he called a more fulfilling career. He began hosting his call-in, open discussion-style podcast during an open slot on Saturday mornings at 3:00 a.m. — “the doldrums of the morning,” he called it.
“My idea originally was — 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning — you might get some really fascinating stories,” Clerkin said. “Then I was thinking, nobody’s awake, anybody who is is trashed … and nobody knows that my program exists.”
His program has moved to Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. this fall, where he features a guest and takes call-ins from listeners hoping to discuss nearly any topic they can imagine. The freeform style of his show, which Clerkin described as an “open-source podcast,” is intended to entertain people and challenge their worldview.
“When I tell people I want to have a radio program, they say ‘OK, well what’re you gonna talk about?’ and I go, ‘well, anything’ and people go, ‘well, that means nothing then.’ No, it doesn’t mean nothing. It means I’m open to talking about all sorts of things,” Clerkin said.
The loose structure of his show, he said, allows him to delve into a variety of topics and inspire interesting conversations with his listeners.
“Audiences are looking for authenticity, sincerity, what’s genuine. You give people an invitation to be a part of something like this, and they light up … Just giving people an opportunity to share their ideas when it comes to the guests and calls-ins or to participate in the ideas,” Clerkin said.
Amid a constant rotation of student-run shows and changing executive boards, the locally hosted programs provide continuity, stability and consistency for WMFO. Smith emphasized the integral role that community member hosts have played for decades at WMFO.
“Even though they can’t necessarily vote [on decisions], they still, at least with policy, [are] really important parts of how we make decisions,” Smith said.
She emphasized their accumulated knowledge and experience at the station, crediting the hosts for their contributions and meaningful roles throughout the years.
“Students come and go, interest waxes and wanes each year … but they provide a lot of programming and cultural significance,” Smith said.
Many of the hosts, including Simches, echoed Smith’s sentiments and highlighted their commitment to WMFO over the decades.
“It’s a student-run organization, at the end of the day it’s their place. We’re there … to advise, to help them, to keep the station going when school is not in session — there are community members that have been there for decades. And we’re there to mentor people,” Simches said.
Rawlins, who described her official title at WMFO as the “old woman who tells people to do their FCC paperwork,” agreed. She said the hosts’ knowledge of the ins-and-outs of broadcast radio and regulations has helped WMFO run more smoothly.
“I try to be the sanity check. To make sure the public file is always there, the paperwork gets done, we’re not breaking any rules. All of that good stuff,” Rawlins said.
Rawlins said she owes her continued presence at WMFO in part to her love for community radio.
“I have a true romance with radio. It’s a real thing,” Smith said. “We just want to help them do the best they can do, and learn a lot, and learn to love radio, and to be able to make sure it stays around,” Rawlins said.