In November of 1961, Southern Adventist University’s radio station began airing its first live programming. Fifty years later, WSMC Classical 90.5 is celebrating half a century of delighting the classical music lover.
When WSMC began, there was no thought as to how it would grow. Operating on only ten watts of frequency and an all-volunteer student staff, the station began as an experiment under the Physics and Engineering Department, said Scott Kornblum, general manager of WSMC. Over time the station continued to grow, not only in the number of watts but also in listeners.
WSMC is currently one of only five stations, out of 35 in the Chattanooga area, to have 100,000 watts. This coverage area extends to a 90-mile radius.
“God has His hands on the station,” Kornblum said. “Our opportunity to reach [people] is incredible!”
In honor of its 50th anniversary, WSMC will be highlighted during Homecoming Weekend 2011 (October 27-30), with several celebration events planned.
For Chattanooga resident Paul Reynolds, WSMC has been his station of choice for the past 25 years. When Reynolds first moved to the area, he sought out classical music station recommendations, and people kept pointing him to WSMC.
“People I asked said, ‘WSMC is outstanding!’ So I started listening,” Reynolds said. “I’ve been listening as long as I’ve been here.”
One of the features Reynolds loves about WSMC is the variety of classical music. He also enjoys listening to the student announcers at WSMC. These are just some of the reasons why Reynolds refers people to WSMC.
“I’m always in tune to WSMC,” Reynolds said. “I really do appreciate the station very much.”
Brian Lauritzen, ’06, recalls the day when he first landed a job at WSMC as a 17 year-old high school student. Thus began his seven years working at WSMC and the path to his current career. Lauritzen is now a producer and host for KUSC Classical 91.5 in Los Angeles, one of the highest-rated stations and the largest classical music station in the United States. In light of this success, Lauritzen credits WSMC as an incredible training ground for his career in public radio.
“[WSMC] allowed me the freedom to experiment and find my voice as a broadcaster and storyteller as well as hone my technical production skills,” Lauritzen said. “It was this practical work experience that really helped me land my current job at KUSC.”
But it’s not just about what WSMC has done for him that impresses Lauritzen. He’s also seen the community impact of WSMC throughout the years. Lauritzen is amazed at the longevity of WSMC.
“For many in [Chattanooga], their only connection to Southern is through WSMC,” Lauritzen said. “There are folks…who think more highly of Southern because of what WSMC provides for the region. The station is truly a feather in the cap of the university.”
Although he has moved on, Lauritzen remembers his time at the station and the lessons learned there.
“I’m immensely proud to have been associated with WSMC,” Lauritzen said. “It will always hold a special place in my heart.”