Radio for the people

A brand new station is on the dial
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Illustration by Arthur Bond.
The founders of WAYO.

It would be pretty cool to have your own radio station and give all your friends their own shows.

When Matt Werts posted this thought on Facebook in February 2012, he had no idea it would become reality just three years later. It may not have, had Mike Yates not emailed him to ask if he was serious.The two met for breakfast, determined they were very serious, and spent the rest of the year asking themselves,“Can we really do this?”

The timing was right. From the time she joined Congress in 1986, Louise Slaughter pushed for fairness on the airwaves. In 2011, the president finally signed her legislation opening space between frequencies for new, low-power “community” radio stations. Community radio gives the public the chance to participate in radio on their own terms, says Yates. But while starting a radio station for all your “friends,” is indeed cool, it isn’t cheap.

After a few rounds of intense fundraising, WAYO (104.3 FM) should hit the airwaves by March—and we’ve rounded up a few shows to catch:

Reggae Yard, hosted by Mr. Bill

You may know “Mr. Bill” (Colin Thomas) from his seventeen-year stint hosting one of the country’s longest running reggae shows, WITR’s (89.7 FM) Reggae Sounds. “Sista Denise” first headed up the show, which caught Jamaica-born Thomas’s ear. “I called her up. I said, ‘Yo, who is you? What do white girls like you know about reggae?’” Thomas not only married her later on, he stole the show. Literally. He’ll bring the same Caribbean flavor to WAYO.

Who will we hear? Bob and Damian Marley, Capelton, Sanchez, and Spooner Reid.

Listening to right now? Rochester-based Noble Vibes.

The Sound of Tomorrow, hosted by Heather Zaikowski and Ross Johnson

Zaikowski and Johnson both work in cubicles, but they let their inner talk show hosts out every other week through the SoT podcast. Now in its seventh year, the variety show includes live performances, interviews, skits, and plenty of “listicles.” But podcasting has its downfalls: the duo played favorite Valentine’s Day songs one year, but could only play fifteen seconds of each. WAYO’s programmer’s license means they can play “Loving Lovers Love,” in full.

Who will be on the show? Artist Paul Burke, AirWreck Radio’s Stacey Coghlan and Cory Paine, and comedian Del Rivers.

Favorite artist? Zaikowski: David Bowie; Johnson: Michael Jackson.

Music Now, hosted by Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez and Eastman School of Music students

During his twelfth year teaching at Eastman, Sanchez-Gutierrez wants to bring more challenging classical music to the masses. “Classical programming in Rochester is very condescending and limited to works that the stations think will be palatable for a large audience,” he says. By broadening this repertoire and showcasing music coming out of Eastman, Sanchez-Gutierrez hopes to root classical firmly in the modern world.

Who will we hear? Works by John Adams, György Ligeti, and Witold Lutoslawski.

Favorite composer? Himself. “If I don’t believe it, who will?”

Intensified ’68, hosted by Solomon Blaylock 

A self-described dilettante, Blaylock wants to keep his show laser focused on classic Jamaican jazz, rocksteady, and ska. It’s music that never gets old, he explains. “Like the blues, even though the musical vocabulary is finite, there is such a variety of unique expressions utilizing that vocabulary.”

Artists to expect: The Skatalites, Prince Buster, and Desmond Dekker.

Favorite song: Prince Buster’s “Nothing Takes the Place of You.”

Go to to apply for your own show or donate to the cause.

Danielle Preiss is a freelance writer and will be co-hosting an Americana/folk show on WAYO. 

Categories: Current Issue Features, Explore, Music