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Greece Jazz Station Hitting The High Notes

28 July 2004
The Democrat & Chronicle

Report ranks WGMC radio as best in nation for medium-sized markets.
by Bennett J. Loudon

(GREECE, NY) — Not only is WGMC one of the few 24-hour jazz music stations in the country, it’s also one of the best.

Jazz Week, a weekly report of the top 50 jazz and smooth jazz recordings in the United States and Canada, named the station as the best among medium-sized radio markets – those ranked from 26th to 100th by the Arbitron media and marketing research firm.

The rankings are based on the metropolitan population of residents older than 12 years old.

Rochester is ranked 54th with a metro population of 932,000 potential listeners older than 12.

WGMC-FM (90.1) beat out rivals in Buffalo, which is ranked 52nd; Syracuse, ranked 80th; Tucson, Ariz., ranked 61st; Louisville, Ky., ranked 55th; and New Orleans, ranked 46th.

“It’s a huge deal. . . . This is a big honor for us because it’s an award bestowed by our peers. It’s people who do what we do every single day and who know how important radio is to jazz, who’ve decided that in 2004 . . . the station in our market size that they felt was really bringing the jazz message forth the best was Jazz 90.1, which is a real honor,” said station manager Jason Crane.

“The criteria was basically what have they done for the industry in their market size,” said Tony Gasparre, publisher of the Rochester-based Jazz Week and a weekend volunteer DJ at WGMC.

The award, which was presented on June 5, was decided by music directors at the 85 stations that report their playlists to Jazz Week, plus 12 promoters and 35 recording industry executives.

“What they liked is the way that WGMC delivers its presentation of music and how it does it. I think some of the best comments that were given about it were that WGMC didn’t sound like a true noncommercial station. The way that the music is delivered, it’s delivered almost like it’s a top-40 station,” said Gasparre, who was the station’s music director last year, when he won Jazz Week’s music director of the year award.

“It’s important that people are not only playing the classics and respecting the tradition of the music, but also that people are treating jazz as a living music and really trying to get the word out about the people who are out there playing jazz now,” said Crane.

“We play about 55 percent new music, music by living artists. That’s really important to us because if we don’t play that music, no one is ever going to hear those people,” he said.

WGMC, promoted by station officials as Jazz90.1, operates out of a studio on the third floor of Greece Apollo Middle School. The studio and the station’s license are owned by the Greece Central School District. WGMC has been presenting a jazz format since the mid-1990s.

The district charges no rent for the use of the facilities. The station’s staff includes Crane, the only full-time employee, and a part-time office worker. Volunteers provide most of the on-air talent. About 80 percent of funding needed for salaries and other expenses is provided by membership donations from listeners. The remainder comes from business sponsors.

A new studio will be part of a new library and multimedia center at Olympia High School, which is expected to be completed in January.

“Once we get in there, we hope that’s going to give us even more of a chance to show kids what radio is about and bring students over to have them see some in-studio jazz performances,” Crane said.

Students are not involved with the operation of the station, but the station staff teaches about jazz and broadcasting in the Greece schools, and they interview students involved in performing jazz.

The station now operates with a 7,500-watt signal, but federal approval to operate at 15,000 watts is expected soon. Listeners can hear WGMC within about 40 miles – as far east as Lyons; Batavia, Genesee County, to the west; and Penn Yan, Yates County, and Geneseo to the south.

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