Student-driven radio station offersreal-life, hands-on experience
Tucked away on the second floor of Washtenaw Community College’s Technical and Industrial building is a soundproof room with tight quarters, but everyone there manages just fine. It’s where Orchard Radio operates.
Founded in 1998, the internet radio station streams live at orchardradio.com through a phone, computer or any device with internet access because unlike traditional radio, internet radio doesn’t rely on airways. The station is driven by students, about 20 per semester, who are enrolled in WCC’s Broadcast Arts program. Streaming a variety of music genres, including rock, hip hop, pop and gospel, its audience reaches listeners around the world from Germany to Sweden to England. Needless to say, Orchard Radio is one of WCC’s best-kept secrets.
Initially, it was the affordable tuition that attracted Benjamin Demory, a native of Plainwell, Michigan, to WCC’s Broadcast Arts program, which he describes as “unbeatable.” However, the state-of-the-art equipment is what kept him interested.
“The studio is simple but sophisticated. If you have any audio idea or dream, it can be realized in that room,” Demory said. “Being on air is unlike anything I’ve experienced yet.”
When students enroll in WCC’s Broadcast Arts program, they have two options: They can earn an associate of arts degree with a concentration in radio, or they can transfer to a four-year university, where they can earn a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of what path they choose, students gain hands-on experience, while learning how to write, produce and edit a variety of recorded and live productions.
Orchard Radio is an important element within the program because students have the opportunity to hone their craft in a real-world setting. All students are required to participate in Orchard Radio for one semester at some point during the program.
“The improvements that students experience and demonstrate from the first time they open the microphone to their final shows are transformative and amazing,” said WCC Faculty Member Dena Blair, who is in charge of the Broadcast Arts program. “They gain the adeptness and confidence needed to work in the industry. By doing a weekly radio show, they get to practice their hands-on artistry live in an educational environment, in which they can grow.”
Graduates of the program have gone on to work at several local and national radio stations, including W4 102.9 Cumulus Media in Ann Arbor, Q103 Townsquare in Albany, NY, and 97.9 ESPN Radio in Tallahassee, FL.
Having bounced around from various jobs after taking a four-year break from school, Demory doesn’t claim to be a traditional student. But, after working as a golf instructor, greenskepper and assistant, he knew it was time to find a career he could take ownership of and pride in.
“From police academy student to philosopher and now radio, I’ve walked a lot of roads,” he said. “This is one I will see to the end. It’s fun, tough, rewarding and every new moment I discover, I cherish.”
After graduation, Demory plans to stay in Michigan awhile longer to land a spot on Michigan Radio, which is an affiliate of National Public Radio, but ultimately, he dreams of the day when he can create an original Netflix cartoon and viewers will tune in and recognize his voice as the mysterious antagonist named Victor Vulpine.
“It’s my dream to create something original and fun for all ages but kids especially,” he said. “I think of Victor Vulpine as being the cunning thief who has seen many narrow escapes, yet is always humbled by the big bad wolf at the end and winds up on the side of good.”
Radio may be a stepping stone to voice acting for Demory, but it’s also another way for him to perfect his vocal delivery, while keeping him on his toes.
“There’s no script to follow and the flashing five seconds before you’re back live is enough to make anyone’s heart race,” he said. “I never know what to expect and that uncertainty is both exciting and motivating.”
Whether someone has a dream of becoming the next Ryan Seacrest or making an animated character in a popular cartoon come alive, Orchard Radio can help you get there.
“The students at WCC are some of the best I’ve seen,” Blair said. “It’s an honor to be part of their journey.”
To learn more about Orchard Radio, visit orchardradio.com.
By Princess Gabbara
Writer, Public Relations