Station manager Scott Morfitt calls the new Blugold Radio at 99.9 FM a “labor of love.”
“This is bigger than us, and this has been a long time coming,” Morfitt said of the station, which launched late last week.
Blugold Radio is a noncommercial station bringing local, national and international indie rock and student-produced programming to the local airwaves.
Morfitt said the format of Blugold Radio will be adult album alternative, similar to KEXP-FM in Seattle or KCMP-FM (89.3), commonly known as The Current, from Minnesota Public Radio.
“What sets us apart from a lot of those is we’re playing 30 to 40 percent Eau Claire music,” Morfitt said.
Local music includes acts that are “currently from here, have been from here or have a tangential relationship,” he said, adding that Chippewa Valley- and western Wisconsin-based musical acts will be in the mix too.
“There’s a little bit of stretching for it, but I think it’s about creating or just showcasing what this scene has really spurred on,” Morfitt said. “… There’s been this flowing connection between Eau Clarie and the Minneapolis and national scene, and we want to showcase that.
“We’re also playing just straight up national music that has no relation to Eau Claire.”
Jordan Duroe, the station’s social media and Web specialist, said listeners can expect to hear music from a lot of different genres, including folk, rock, pop, Americana, hip-hop, rap, punk, metal and R&B.
“Whatever your music tastes, we think you’ll find something to like on Blugold Radio,” said Duroe, a nontraditional student majoring in English for technical writing.
Besides music, the station will feature UW-Eau Claire Forum speakers, Blugold sports, and news, research and spoken word programs that run from about 15 minutes to an hour, as well as other specialty and student-hosted programs, Morfitt said.
“Starting in the fall we’re going to be producing those spoken word pieces … and then doing some small student vignettes and getting more of that formatting in place,” he said.
“We are also focusing on different ways we can build student engagement. There’s on tap things we can do with even data sciences and the theater department; so we want to work cross departmentally to create student opportunities that are different form the classic ‘pick out all the songs and host the show.’ ”
The station will share content from the university’s campus station, Blugold Radio on WUEC-FM (89.7), to give it a broader reach.
“We’ll be rebroadcasting their work on our station as well, getting them much farther to the north using our signal than they are right now, and we’ll also be streaming their programming,” he said.
Morfitt said 99.9 FM is separate and different from 89.7 FM, despite the similar names and UW-Eau Claire student involvement.
“They serve a much more journalistic and campus function than we do,” he said of WUEC. “We’re kind of like the Confluence Project. We’re that bridge between the university and the community, and we take that very, very seriously.”
He also stressed that while Blugold Radio 99.9 FM will be student-produced, it isn’t “student radio.”
“It’s going to be professional radio produced by students,” he said. “So one of the things WUEC provides is that necessary experience. We’re really looking to emphasize experience in a lot of community media.”
Both Morfitt and Duroe said they’re incredibly passionate about what Blugold Radio has to offer.
“Getting to have a hand in hopefully bringing some of the local music that I love to a wider audience is for sure my favorite part (of working at Blugold Radio),” Duroe said. “There are so many artists from here that I love and want the world to know about, and getting to actively work toward that is really gratifying and exciting for me.”
Audiences seem to be enjoying the new station so far.
“I had to dig out a radio for my house to make sure I can listen to it and get the reception just right, but we’ve had it on at our house pretty constantly in the background,” said Kyran Hamill of Eau Claire.
Hamill said he enjoys the mix between national, international and local that the station focuses on, noting it isn’t really represented anywhere else.
Morfitt also noted the station has gotten numerous positive Facebook mentions and emails.
“The response has been great, and I think we have a really warm connection with the community,” he said. “One of the things that’s really great is people have been starting to ask who’s playing when it’s Eau Claire bands, and that makes me really happy.”
Blugold Radio 99.9 FM was made possible thanks to a gift to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation from Mid-West Family Broadcasting.
“They wanted to move their greatest hits 99.9 to 98.1 and then made a very generous donation of the transmitter, station frequency and kind of all of the basics to be a radio station,” Morfitt said. “… In both materials and in-kind, it’s a $1 million donation.”
Madison-based Mid-West Family Broadcasting — which owns six Eau Claire area stations: WAXX-FM (104.5), WIAL-FM (94.1), WAYY-AM (790), WISM-FM (98.1), WEAQ-AM (1150) and WECL-FM (92.9) — has gone above and beyond with its donation, Morfitt said.
The new Blugold Radio station is self-sustaining through underwriting and donations and not funded by any student fees or state funds, he said.
“I think a lot of college radio is funded in some way, shape or form through the students,” Morfitt said. “We’re unique because … we want to build as much student engagement (as possible), but we want to do it without already taxing their expensive (segregated) fees and tuition. We don’t want to add any expense to the overall student experience.”
Currently the station is operating mostly out of Mid-West Family Broadcasting studios in Eau Claire and will move permanently to Hibbard Hall at UW-Eau Claire by Aug. 1, as well as begin streaming online.
There’s a lot of excitement about what’s to come for the station.
“This is a community that cares a lot about local arts in general, and it’s no mystery at this point — what with the national and international successes of artists from the Chippewa Valley and the formation of the Eaux Claires festival — that we have an incredibly vibrant music scene here in particular,” Duroe said. “There’s a lot of interest and excitement and pride here, and we think that Blugold Radio will tap into that and hopefully help it continue to grow even further.”
Morfitt said he hopes people stay tuned.
“There’s no other station like this, and there’s no one blending student news or even news in the way that we are,” Morfitt said. “We’re going to be a lot of music in the beginning, but it’s going to develop, and it’s going to grow, and I’m so excited for what’s ahead.”
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