The first time I ever heard the University of Tennessee public radio station WUOT on 91.9FM, was as a college undergrad. College was an endless sea of paper writing. I imagine that every student has his or her own routine for studying or writing a paper. I quickly found out that the only way I could focus was to have the classical music playing in the background. I don’t know what it is about classical music. I think studies show it increases brain function or something – don’t quote me on that. Frustrated from wearing out “The Pianist” soundtrack (and boy did I wear that album out), I began trolling radio stations. To my surprise, I stumbled upon WUOT which had the most beautiful classical music piece emitting from the speakers. I stood there amazed as my frustration lifted, and I was overcome with desperate determination to finish this 20 billion page paper. It was like magic or something. I immediately had brilliant thoughts that I began typing furiously on my enormous Dell laptop. Yes, it weighed about a hundred pounds. You remember the ones I’m talking about. Well, turns out I was listening to Afternoon Concert. After that, WUOT became my “study station.” I quickly found many other programs that I fell in love with: Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Improvisations, and of course, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Becoming a regular listener took no effort on my part because I was just drawn to the stories, the humor, and of course, the magical music that helped me study. Still to this day, I have the station lightly playing in the background in my office all day.
So this year marks the 60th anniversary of the radio station and boy do they have it packed with some amazing great events – many are FREE. Already, Carl Kasell, longtime NPR news anchor and currently on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and Senator Howard Baker have stopped by the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy for a wonderful evening. They talked about public radio as a true service to communities, a place to hear about real issues and real people, and give back to the listeners. I was squirming in my seat toward the end of the evening. I just wanted to have my picture taken with Carl as I’ve been a long time listener of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. Luckily, I was granted that wish!
I got to help out a little at this year’s Spring Fund Drive. WUOT is a listener supported station with no paid advertisements. So I got to help out manning the phones for taking listeners’ pledges. Everyone kept telling me how much fun it was to volunteer, but I kept thinking, “Uh, you’re just manning a phone. How fun can it be?” Well, I was wrong because I ended up having a blast! My 3 hour time slot went by in what seemed like 30 minutes. In between phone calls we got to chat with each other and nibble on some rockin food from Tomato Head and Nama. During our chat one guy was telling us he had just moved to Knoxville from Dallas, Texas a little over a week prior to the Spring Fund Drive. He was listening one day decided to volunteer when he heard the call on WUOT. Our jaws dropped when we heard this realizing he had been in Knoxville about 10 days and was already volunteering for the station. The loyalty of public radio listeners really runs deep.
So back to the party. There are some amazing events scheduled for this anniversary year including a FREE concert with David Northington at the Clayton Center for the Arts – Monday, May 24th at 8:00pm and even more surprises to come which I can’t share just yet. Wink, wink. I encourage you to check back on the WUOT website as it is updated regularly with sponsored events. You can even listen to the station from your iPhone or iPod with the new application on the App Store. I actually tested this out today when I took my lunch down to Sequoyah Hills Park. I was listening to the interview with journalists Lisa Ling and Laura Ling about Laura’s capture in North Korea when I arrived to my destination. Rather than just sitting in the car, I took my phone with me and listened while having my lunch by the water. Couldn’t have been more perfect. You’ll really enjoy this app the next time you find yourself sitting in your car in the driveway to finish listening to an interview or news story (admit it, we’ve all done it). Now you can take it with you!
So if you’re a WUOT listener, what’s your favorite program?