The College of William and Mary’s radio organization, WCWM 90.9 FM, hosted a celebration of its 60th anniversary Sept. 27 at the Earl Gregg Swem Library’s Special Collections, where a plethora of artifacts were showcased to highlight the station’s diverse history. Everything from show posters to old photos to letters from the governor were brought out and put on display for students to look through, and every piece told its own part of the WCWM story.
Airing 24 hours a day, WCWM currently offers students a chance to gain experience DJ-ing in a broadcast environment, allowing them to play music of any genre or style. Additionally, it publishes the music magazine Vinyl Tap and organize free concerts for students. At its creation in 1959, however, the station emulated a professional contemporary broadcast outlet. The station has grown and changed over the last 60 years.
“We now have our live shows, we’re always bringing in new artists, and our records collection has grown to be one of the largest college record collections on the east coast,” Senior Station Manager Varvara Troitski ’20 said. “The nature of radio has definitely changed, and that’s definitely a big factor, but we are stronger than ever.”
Troitski, along with Junior Station Manager Corey Bridges ’21, were primarily involved in collecting the artifacts and organizing the event.
“I was a historian last year before becoming station manager, so I was really interested in finding out more about the past,” Bridges said. “I made it my mission to kind of find out what was going on in WCWM’s history. I then thought it’d be cool to have a celebration event where we could talk about radio, WCWM, and all the history that comes with that.”
After uncovering many interesting artifacts, the idea for a special collections showcase began to materialize.
“We actually figured out totally accidentally that it was the 60th anniversary,” Troitski said. “We thought, what if, for this anniversary, we organize an event that showcases not only what we just donated, but also the whole history of everything that came before.”
Among the artifacts were two standouts that Bridges felt compelled to speak about. The first was one of the original demo tapes for one of the most famous musical alums of the college, according to Bridges. Titled “Twin Fantasy,” it was recorded and kept in WCWM’s station by the lead singer of Car Seat Headrest, Will Toledo ’15.
“It’s apparently very coveted by a lot of people,” Bridges said.
The second is a poster advertising an event where WCWM hosted Wu Tang Clan live in the studio. Though it drew a lot of attention, the staff knows little about it.
“Knowing WCWM, it could be fake, but it’s probably real, so we like to talk about the mystery of it,” Bridges said.
According to Special Collections, the poster was donated around the time of when it took place, leading many to believe its validity.
Similar to the Wu Tang mystery, the WCWM staff made discoveries about other important events in the organization’s history.
“I’m still learning about the past,” Bridges said. “There are so many events that I had no idea happened. Prince, Bruce Springsteen, and we even broadcasted a presidential debate.”
Troitski also enjoyed the ability to look through a window to the organization’s past.
“I really have liked looking through the past show posters,” Troitski said. “You’ll see a lot of these bands with weird names that only college students could come up with, and then suddenly you’ll see Prince. It’s those kinds of things that make me hopeful that what we do is important.”
The showcase made tangible all the noteworthy moments in WCWM’s history, underlining the fact that it has had an impact on campus ever since being founded. While a lot about the culture of radio and organization itself has changed, there are several things that have remained the same, according to Troitski.
“There’s always going to be people who are going to want to be in WCWM because it’s a certain sub-culture, it’s a certain group of people who are interested in music, or live music, or the alternative crowd,” Troitski said. “There’s always going to be someone who wants to join, and as a station manager I’m here to facilitate that, so I think that’s really how we’ve stayed the same over the years.”
Troitski also feels that the future of WCWM depends heavily on the direction its members decide to take it.
“That’s definitely the mindset that I want to uphold in the station manager position,” Troitski said. “Going on with Corey and whoever becomes manager after that, the organization depends on what you and your fellow members want to do with it. Corey and I try to put in as much energy as we can to make it thrive.”
This anniversary granted the WCWM staff a chance not only to reflect on the past, but also to speculate about the future of WCWM and how it might evolve going forward.
“It’s definitely going to be changing logistically in the next few years, but I think all precedent has shown that radio, while it may change a lot, its core is going to stay pretty much the same in that it’s going to be people who want to be on the radio, finding a way to share to their love of music,” Music Director David Lefkowitz ’22 said.
Troitski is excited to see how the station will progress looking far into the future.
“60 years is a long time, so I can’t wait to come back and see what the 100th anniversary looks like,” Troitski remarked. “I know, though, that people are always going to want to have the ability to show their connection to music, and I think that will stay at the heart of what we do.”