Jazz Radio Station Seeks Greater Groove

January 7, 2004

WGMC expanding broadcast power to reach more than 430,000 listeners.
by Lauren Stanforth

GREECE – Rochester resident Jason Crane, 30, is station manager at WGMC-FM (90.5, 105.1), the area’s only full-time jazz radio station.

The station is located in space owned by the Greece Central School District, but WGMC is independently owned and supported by community donations.

The signal the tiny radio station emits from atop Greece Athena High School can’t even be picked up at Crane’s home near Cobbs Hill in Rochester.

“I guess it’s good for the staff,” Crane joked about his inability to listen to how the station is run from his home.

But it hasn’t been good for a station that is itching to be heard on more home stereos and car radios.

That’s why WGMC applied for, and received, a Federal Communications Commission permit in 2000 to expand its broadcast power from 2,000 watts to 15,000 watts. The station had three years to erect the new 199-foot tower and antenna, and has attempted to raise the necessary $120,000 to cover the costs.

“(The station) is great for the local jazz music scene,” said Pittsford resident and jazz guitarist Steve Greene. “Not too many people know there are very few 24-hour jazz stations in the country, period.”

The station has raised about $40,000, through mailings and on-air fundraising, and $50,000 from the nonprofit group Greece Community Broadcasting. Although there is $40,000 to go, the station has to erect the tower before the license runs out in January.

So all the antenna and transmitter equipment will be functional in January in hopes that the station will reach more people, and therefore have more people to ask for donations. The station took an advance on its 2004 budget to pay for the equipment. It will have to raise the funds to cover the loss this year.

“It’s easier if you can ask 10 times as many people for the money,” said Crane, who is also chairman of the Monroe County Green Party.

The radio station estimates it will now be able to reach 433,000 listeners, as opposed to 299,000 listeners currently. The range of the station can currently reach to Canandaigua, but mostly it is limited to Greece and other westside locations because of the current small wattage the station runs on. With the new antenna equipment, WGMC will now be heard in the city of Rochester and parts east.

That’s important, says Crane, because the station is the only one in the Rochester region that showcases new jazz talent. National Public Radio and other stations might play jazz, but not nearly 24 hours a day such as at WGMC.

“One of our functions is to give (new jazz musicians) a fighting chance,” Crane said.

The station is in an interesting location – in the third floor of Greece Apollo Middle School. The district used it as a student radio station starting in 1973, but gave it over to to be used as a community radio station in the 1980s when the district had budgetary problems. The school district allows the radio station to use its studio as a public service. WGMC has existed as a jazz station since the mid-1990s.

With a new antenna and more listeners, Crane hopes the station will also be able to grow. The station has about a $120,000 budget per year and employs Crane, one half-time employee and a few disc jockeys. Jockeys who work from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and on weekends are volunteers.

Another step toward that goal will be the new studio the radio station will have in December 2004. The school district, while constructing more space for the Greece Olympia High School library, is donating a leftover room for a new WGMC studio. Crane hopes the new space will allow for more programs to get Greece students involved in the radio station. Currently, Crane brings some students into the studio to see how the radio station works, but there is no formal program for students to intern there.

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