The DJ’s of WRAS

One of the most prestigious cultural ambassadors from Georgia State is an oft-forgotten family of ardent music aficionados only known as the humble, disembodied voices of Album 88.

Anthony Simmons | The Signal
Brianna Alvarez, the former host of the Mighty Aphrodite radio show at WRAS, checks the volume levels of the tracks playing.

WRAS Album 88 is Georgia State’s student-run radio station, which is currently entering its forty-second year of airtime. It holds the distinction of having the highest wattage (100,000 watts) of any student radio station in the world.

For many, Album 88 is the first outlet through which potential students discover Georgia State and its affiliates. Some students even choose Georgia State solely for the opportunity to join the ranks of the passionate elite who proudly dominate the college airwaves.

Ana Zimitravich, senior and marketing major, was one of those students.

“Working at WRAS was my reason for choosing Georgia State. I’ve always really liked music; it’s always been a hobby. I thought what better way to outlet my passion for music than to play music I like on the air for other people who may not have heard of it before.”

Like all hopeful Album 88 applicants, Zimitravich started her tenure through a series of trials, which separate the fair-weather fans from the diehards and tests how much sleep one is willing to sacrifice for the honor of curating their own radio show.

“When I was going through the pipeline there were four sit-ins that I had to complete. Next they schedule a legal session where they kind of terrify you with the prospect of all the FCC regulations. And then once you’re fully intimated with the equipment you don’t know how to use, they put you on the graveyard shift.”

One of the most daunting tasks for DJ’s is trying to strike the perfect balance between the conflicting demands of school, work and DJ’ing. Even though most DJ’s have majors unrelated to broadcasting, they constantly find inventive ways to juggle their precious spare time.

“It’s been interesting because I don’t only work but I have another job. I am one of the lucky few that gets paid because I have a management position. The most difficult thing is working two jobs and also going to school and doing DJ shifts. You run out of time to sleep,” Zimitravich said.

Thanks to her fierce dedication to radio, Zimitravich is now Album 88’s general manager and curates her own post-punk show called Dot Dash.

DJ’s who host their own shows have the ability to craft a playlist pertaining to a certain theme or genre, just as long as there is no explicit language in the set. Album 88 has a variety of shows, which cater to every imaginable style: from Western (Cowtipper’s Delight), to Spoken Word (Melodically Challenged), and local artists (Georgia Music Show).

Brianna Alvarez is a nursing major who had an early love for Album 88’s sonic diversity. She said, “I found about WRAS when I was 15, and it helped shape my music taste so it felt like a natural decision.”

In addition to the rigorous course offerings of her nursing major, Brianna worked two jobs and was involved in student government when she began attending her first meetings for Album 88. “It can be a little bit stressful when you’re juggling school and work and you’re constantly wanting to bring something fresh to the radio,” Alvarez said.

She now hosts the popular program Mighty Aphrodite, a show completely dedicated to the aural offerings of female musicians and vocalists.

Perhaps the most understated power of hosts is the ability to control what music potentially tens of thousands of people are listening to at that moment in time. Alvarez described the feeling as an honor.

“You get people that call you and they’re so excited about what you’re playing and you feel like you’re doing something really good.”

Zimitravich shared a similar affirmation in her chance to broaden the musical horizons of her listeners.

“The fun of music is sharing it with other people and feeling like you have a similar connection with a song that means a lot to you.”

Neuroscience major Jenine Ampudia is the PSA director, and handles hosting duties of two shows: the lo-fi folk focused Deviltown and post-rock program Post-Script. Ampudia has to work hard to supply her fans with consistently engaging set lists while simultaneously managing her course load.

“You have to be really disciplined. Making a show takes about four hours for me at the least. I manage both by setting aside certain times to do my shows. It’s always fun to put together set lists; you have to have a good attitude about it and just get it done,” Ampudia said.

An unofficial rite of passage for DJ’s is getting introduced to the band of loyal late-night pranksters and stalkers who gleefully badger any unlucky graveyard hosts.

Anthony Simmons | The Signal DJ Jenine Ampudia takes calls while hosting her radio show, Deviltown.
Anthony Simmons | The Signal
DJ Jenine Ampudia takes calls while hosting her radio show, Deviltown.

“We have a few notorious callers that call frequently. There was one DJ who got love letters pretty much weekly from this old lady, and she would send him teabags, and she would make cards herself and they would be covered with pictures of kittens,” Zimitravich said.

Alvarez’s favorite was a man who will call almost every DJ at least one point in their DJ shift and request ‘No Scrubs’ by TLC.

“Every ten minutes through their whole shift, he will keep requesting and keep calling. They even have his name written down on a do not answer list.”

Despite the incessant tricksters and seemingly unmanageable scheduling, it is easy to tell that there is a deep sense of camaraderie that runs through the divergent interests and majors of the DJ’s.

According to the DJ’s, one of the most important benefits from sticking through the discouraging FCC lectures and sleepless graveyard shifts was having one of the tightest networks of friends who were able to relate through the simple act of sharing music.

“For me, WRAS is like an alternative to a sorority or a fraternity in the most responsible of ways. If people put in the time, they take a lot from the experience. It becomes more then just a college-run radio station — it becomes a frame of mind,” Zimitravich said.

Album 88 not only provides a 24/7 escape from the doldrums of mainstream radio, but the promise of an impassioned community which is always there to welcome any eager listener into its ranks.