In 1966, a group of students set up a radio with a 10-watt transmitter on top of their Old Rafuse Hall dorm room in Old Dickinson Community. It was the start of what would turn into WHRW 90.5 FM, Binghamton University’s free-format radio station.
An AM radio station called WRAF had been founded at what was then Harpur College in 1954, but it could barely be reached throughout the campus. The transition 12 years later to FM radio happened in a dorm room, and WHRW, also known as the Harpur Radio Workshop, was founded.
“We are a free-format station, which means there are no restrictions on what we can play,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, the director of public affairs at WHRW and a junior majoring in geography. “If you want to go from playing classic rock, to jazz funk, to EDM, to folk, you can.”
In order to become a DJ and have a show slot at WHRW, all members must go through an apprenticeship in which they shadow a DJ for a full semester. They also must take three courses in rules and regulations, complete a tech class and fill out logs for the station.
Once this is done, and apprentices pass a clearance exam ensuring they are familiar with necessary information learned through training, they can get their own shows. Slotted air times range from 30 minutes to an hour and a half, and show times are determined by availability. There are currently 105 different shows on the weekly schedule.
WHRW doesn’t restrict DJ positions to students, and many alumni and community members have their own shows. Ron Drumm, who enrolled as a student at BU in 1968 and has been with WHRW since 1971, took a job at the University working for customer service, even after ending his education, in order to stay involved with WHRW. According to Drumm, playing music on the radio is an acquired ability.
“There is an art to presenting your favorite music over the air,” Drumm wrote in an email. “You think up segues and decide what kind of information you want to share about the songs and the artists. There is no right or wrong way to go about presenting your music to the listening audience.”
Drumm also met his spouse, Noa Eshkar, at WHRW in 1995. Drumm was the music librarian for WHRW, which entailed organizing, labeling and categorizing music as it comes in. Eshkar said that WHRW also played a big role in her life.
“Before starting at WHRW I used to come there and hang out with friends,” Eshkar said. “I met [Ron] in the summer of 1995, and we clicked immediately, leading to long conversations about music. We got married in 1998 and we’ve been together since then. Living with Ron and being partners have expanded my horizons, and WHRW has been very influential in my life.”
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the radio station, WHRW held various events during alumni weekend. This included a gala on campus, and various events off campus at Thai Time and CyberCafe West.
For students like James Scott, the business manager of WHRW and a senior triple-majoring in finance, economics and philosophy, politics and law, the station has provided him with a network of lifelong friends.
“It’s great to see this group of people who are all unique, like to have fun and come together to put on something worth listening to,” Scott said. “When I came to college, I didn’t have many friends, but once I joined the radio it was nice to get submerged into a group who accepted me and had many different types of people where I felt comfortable being myself.”