UMass-Boston’s WUMB kicks off push to make its renewal a winner

WUMB, the University of Massachusetts Boston’s official radio station ,known for its folk and singer-songwriter music, kicked off its “Preserving the Past, Building the Future” Capital Campaign earlier this month with a fundraising gala.

Since its inception in the late 1960s, WUMB  radio has evolved from a closed circuit on-campus collegiate radio station to a five station  radio network that reaches most of central and eastern Massachusetts as well as parts of Rhode Island. The station’s web broadcast boasts listeners in all 50 states, 103 countries, and seven continents.

Now the network—which began to broadcast publicly in 1982,  making it  the last Boston- area FM radio station to receive a Federal Communications Commission license—aims  to raise $7 million  over the next five years to further expand its programming, upgrade its technology and  relocate to a new facility.

WUMB, has operated from a cramped office in the basement of UMass Boston’s Healey Library for the past thirty four years. The basement office serves as the headquarters for the radio station’s multi-faceted operation, including its  24-7 live broadcast and community programs, such as The Big Read and music summer camps.

Pat Monteith, WUMB’s general manager, says that the network’s current facility limits the radio network’s ability to provide community programs.   

“As NPR’s music station in Boston, we are Boston’s public music station, and we are holding capital campaign so WUMB can even better serve the surrounding community,” says Monteith, one of the station’s founding members.

With a larger space, WUMB could create a music after-school program for local children and a studio with seating for a small live audience, according to Monteith.

WUMB’s tight basement quarters can sometimes hinder the radio’s general operation. For example, John Laurenti, a former resident of Cedar Grove, showed The Reporter the back-door entrance in the campus parking garage artists performing at the station’s studio use to avoid the circuitous route through the Healey Library to the station’s main entrance.

WUMB would also like to digitize its music collection, which currently lines the back hall of the station’s office.

Many current and former UMass administrators, including University Chancellor J. Keith Motley,  and community officials attended the gala,  which also served as a celebration for Monteith’s 60th birthday.
“WUMB is much more than just a typical radio station,” said Chancellor Motley in his speech at the gala. “Its staff engages the community...But WUMB wants to do so much more.”

The gala, which raised more than $75,000 in ticket sales and donations, featured performance by American singer-songwriters Judy Collins and Tom Rush. Collins and Rush, along with singer-songwriter Vance Gilbert, will head the capital campaign.

Soul and gospel singer Carolyn Waters, who has attended WUMB’s adult summer music camp for the past nine years, also performed at the gala.

“WUMB’s adult music program has made such an incredible difference in my life,” said Waters. “I feel like I was meant to be a singer, but I would never have come to that realization if not for the care and guidance I received from WUMB’s program. It helped  me find my own voice.”

In the hopes of attracting a wider audience and update its sound, the radio station, formerly the nation’s only folk music station, shed its folk image  and  adopted the broader genres of folk and roots and singer-songwriter about a year and a half ago.

 Monteith says that the revamp has been quite successful with the station’s devoted fan base, despite some initial hesitancy from listeners.

“I can definitely tell from when I started working at the station four years ago to now that students are  listening to WUMB more since we shed the folk logo,” says John Pellerito, a student employed at the station. “I think having a new facility will only help on campus listenership as well as listenership around the world.”
 
If readers would like to make a donation to WUMB, please visitwumb.org.