Alumni DJs Keep the Music Playing at WMSC

That blast from the past on WMSC 90.3 FM might be a song, or it could be the voice of an alumni DJ filling in at Montclair State University’s radio station for the summer.

Ten alumni DJs who hosted programs during their undergraduate days at Montclair State are back on the radio while students are away. “They’re thrilled to be on the air again. They’re having the time of their lives,” said radio station manager Dick Hinchliffe.

The idea grew out of the station’s third annual Alumni Takeover Week (May 5-11, 2011) when 65 alumni returned to the campus to host a week of shows. Hoping to keep the station on the air during the summer when few student DJs are around, Hinchliffe got an enthusiastic response when he asked the alumni volunteers if they wanted to continue doing their shows.

In addition to student DJs and community volunteers, the alumni fill 30 hours of air time each week and span generations in age, from their early 20s to their 60s. “It’s a fascinating multi-generational mix,” Hinchliffe added. “Some play music from the 60s and 70s, others from the 80s and 90s, and some feature hip hop or new music.”

Father-and-son duo Joe and Chris Pszonek are on the air Mondays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Their show, called “Father2SonRadio,” reflects their cross-generational musical tastes. Joe Pszonek, who went by the moniker “Crazy Joe” when he was a student DJ in 1976 and 1977, likes listening to classic rock, rockabilly and singer-songwriters. His son, Chris, 21, prefers unsigned indie alternative artists and country rockers like Ryan Adams and the Cardinals.

“My son said if we could trade off each other—play a little of mine and a little of his, it might be interesting,” said Joe, who owns a Mad Science of Morris and Sussex franchise of after-school science enrichment programs based in Denville, New Jersey.

According to Hinchliffe, the banter is “like they’re at the dinner table having an animated conversation about the music they love. It’s very high energy.”

“Dry Run with Kris and Ken” from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays is hosted by Kristen Ferraro (‘93) and her boyfriend, Ken Struck. “I play punk, new wave, alternative, and a lot of cover songs. He plays blues, jazz, rockabilly, and spoken word pieces,” said Ferraro, a social worker who calls being a DJ her “passion.”

“They’re an interesting mix,” said Hinchliffe. “They have a very good rapport with each other.” An ongoing theme in their on-air and off-air relationship is how they incorporate their different musical styles into their lives, Ferraro added.

Tom Kaminski ’84, the helicopter reporter for WCBS News Radio 880, broadcasts on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. He plays a broad mix of music, but he’s always been a big fan of The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

The last hour of his show is a specialty segment called “Just The Beatles,” a program he inherited as a student DJ from 1982-84. “It’s been great to bring it back, even for a short number of weeks,” Kaminski said. The segment features Beatles history, rare tracks, and interesting trivia about the Fab Four.   

“Tom’s in love with radio. He loves being back on campus. He loves his music, he loves his listeners. He’s a natural,” said Hinchliffe.

The alumni DJs’ shows have generally gone smoothly. Occasional flubs include a few seconds of dead air, an open microphone that caught one DJ talking when he didn’t think it was on, and another who got accidentally locked out of the station before her show started.

The station has a broadcasting range of 4.5 miles and no ratings data, but Hinchliffe said there has been strong feedback from listeners, including many alumni, who recognize the former DJs. The station can also be listened to from anywhere in the world on a computer via www.wmscradio.com —just click on the cassette icon.

Hinchliffe hopes the alumni DJs can stay on until mid-September at least, although Kaminski’s last show is Tuesday, August 16. “We couldn’t have made it through the long, hot summer without them,” said Hinchliffe, “and, with their help, we’ll get off to a good start when students return in the fall.”