Students bring WRIU to life

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 22, 2010 – Katie McGwin couldn’t contain her smile as she talked about the in-studio guest scheduled for the next day.

“Deer Tick is coming tomorrow night, and I can’t wait,” said McGwin, a senior majoring in communications and art. “They are my favorite group.”

As the host of The Mixed Tape on WRIU 90.3 FM, McGwin secured a visit in early November from Deer Tick, the Providence-based band that plays a style of music that can be described as a mix of folk, blues and country. A local favorite, Deer Tick has toured the country and released three albums, including 2010’s The Black Dirt Sessions (Partisan Records). You can here the audio from the interview here.

The band didn’t just visit McGwin in studio, but also delivered an acoustic performance live.

“I love acoustic music,” McGwin said. “You feel like you get to know the artist a little better.”

As the general manager of WRIU – URI’s radio station – McGwin is one of 13 students who serve on the station’s executive board. While the weekly lineup featured several experienced, professional DJs, it is run entirely by students.

Senior psychology major Lauren Kelley is the stations public service announcement and public affairs director. She also hosts Mentholmint Rock along with Harry Bock, and counts an interview with Jethro Tull lead singer Ian Anderson as a major highlight of her radio career.

“We are a bit of a band of misfits,” Kelley said, “and we love it. We are somewhat of the underdog, when you think about it. We are the largest non-commercial radio station in the state, and we are run entirely by college students.”

Found on the dial at 90.3 FM, WRIU is the largest non-commercial radio station in the state, with a signal that covers most of Rhode Island, as well as parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Long Island.

What makes the station even more unique is the variety of programming that can be heard on a daily basis. Starting Wednesday afternoons, for example, you can hear Kelley’s brand of rock, followed by Sterbyrock Radio Warped Wax Wednesday (hip-hop), The Celtic Realm (Irish/Scottish traditional) and McGwin’s The Mixed Tape (rock).

“It’s definitely an eclectic group,” Kelley said. “But we all get along really well because we are passionate about music. That’s why we all do this. We love the music.”

Kelley points out that it’s music the average listener won’t hear on any other local station.

“If you listen to other stations, they may play (Jimi) Hendrix, but it’ll be the same five songs you hear all the time,” Kelley said. “We may play Hendrix, and it’ll be a vinyl from Live at Monterey. There are no set lists and the DJs can pick the artists they showcase, as long as we follow FCC regulations. We offer a lot more in terms of creativity than most stations.”

Now the station is can offer more opportunity for students looking to experience life behind the microphone. Earlier this month, the station re-launched RIU2, an online-only station that operates in WRIU’s Studio B.

With RIU2, there is programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the school year. The DJs are all students, and it serves as a breeding ground for the FM dial.

“RIU2 is a chance for students to get their feet wet without the pressure of being live over the air, which can be intimidating,” McGwin said.

There are more than 40 student DJs with WRIU2, and another 30 on the FM dial at 90.3. McGwin and Kelley stressed that there is always room for more.

“This really is a big family,” Kelley said. “Even when I’m not working, I am here hanging out because I know there is someone here. There is always something going on, whether it’s a live set on the air, or something behind the scenes. There is a rush, and we all love the atmosphere.”

To learn more about getting involved with the radio station, visit or call 401.874.4949.