Running a small community radio station is a hands-on affair. Recently, at Delgado Community College's new radio station "The Dolphin" (1610-AM), Bob Dunn multitasked in the back office of its two-room studio, soldering a small transmitter while ripping reggae CDs onto a server. Delgado journalism professor Susan Hague came up with the plan for a college radio station 10 years ago, and The Dolphin is now up and running (as of September) thanks to Dunn and a host of volunteers.
Dunn is a veteran of WWL-TV, but after Hurricane Katrina he took a job at Delgado teaching courses on TV and radio production. Recently, he took on the title of station manager and worked with students in electronics and technology programs to construct The Dolphin's studio in a hallway in the Student Life Center. Grants helped pay for some equipment, other gear is on loan, and Delgado's TV department donated an old audio console. The Dolphin's signal is generated by a 10-watt transmitter (WWOZ broadcasts at 4,000 watts ) with a 9 foot antenna. It isn't glamorous, but it works.
"It was kind of like the old Mickey Rooney quote," Dunn says with a laugh. "'We've got an old barn out back and a few costumes, let's put on a show!'"
Dunn, Hague and The Dolphin's current staff of seven students have pooled their music libraries to fill the computer currently serving as DJ. The station has featured a few guest shows by student DJs, and Dunn hopes to entirely replace the computer-generated programming with DJs within the next month. So far the station has received roughly 70 applications. Musical director Jude Matthews has ripped 5,000 records onto the server so far.
"Jude's musical tastes run from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons to what sounds like explosions inside a grain silo," Dunn says.
That's how Dunn wants it. "Delgado has the largest enrollment in New Orleans and the second largest in Louisiana," he says. "We want the music to reflect that and be as diverse as the Delgado campus itself. We have a huge amount of international students, so we will be playing music from around the world. And since our school is largely urban, there will be an emphasis on hip-hop, in particular a lunchtime hip-hop show."
The Dolphin's tiny AM signal is not governed by the same Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules as larger local independent stations, so staff DJs can choose from a wide variety of music. "The word 'bitch' I will let slide," Dunn says. "But we will stop short of 'motherf—ker,' or anything violent." Dunn describes his ideal as, "Tony Bennett followed by Led Zeppelin followed by Lil Wayne."
"We also have a great music department with a recording studio," Dunn says. "We hope to feature the work of Delgado musicians recorded here on campus." The Dolphin also plans to broadcast live performances.
"We will have a sportscaster," Dunn adds. "And many students from the theater department have shown great interest in performing old-school radio plays. It will be a truly unique station for this city."
The Dolphin's signal reaches up to a three-mile radius, but anyone can listen to the Internet stream on www.live365.com/stations/dolphinradio.