Located in the lower level of the Quad, the Barnard College radio station headquarters shines brightly and mysteriously into the corridor connecting Brooks and Sulzberger Halls. The studio doors spell out the station’s call letters, WBAR, with red tape, inside are two rooms lined floor to ceiling with hundreds of CDs and vinyl records. Passersby – primarily the first years who reside in the Quad – can only hear the slightest beat of whatever song is being blasted across the airwaves.
Since the 1990s, WBAR has provided community and a form of expression for music-loving Barnard College and Columbia University students seeking a free-form radio station. It has proven to be a community where students, faculty and staff are free to explore their musical tastes through their own radio shows. Because it is free-form, there is no limit to how the nearly 150 DJs who host shows on WBAR fill their time slot. From talk shows featuring interviews to an hour devoted to Slavic pop music and Latin psychedelic garage, DJs are in complete control of their content. While DJs are primarily students, members of the Italian department host Radio Italia on Monday nights, a show dedicated to Italian music and culture. The schedule changes each semester as hopeful DJs apply for the coveted two hour slots, which are distributed to represent a diverse range of auditory experiences. WBAR broadcasts 24 hours a day and is primarily listened to online at WBAR.org. In addition to an eclectic range of music, listeners are treated with frequent ticket giveaways for shows in the New York area. Recent giveaways include admission to concerts by They Might Be Giants, Kaiser Chiefs, and The La's.
Beyond the airwaves, WBAR DJs also provide soundtracks to college events like Glass House Rocks, V-Day, the Barnard Bike-a-Thon, and Relay for Life. The station also puts on events of its own, including collaborations with many clubs and organizations. Joanna Barnett, WBAR’s personnel director, outlines some of these projects, “Last semester we produced a combination concert/art exhibition with Postcrypt [the student art gallery] and this semester we published a zine in conjunction with Barnard Zine Club.”
WBAR is perhaps best known for the free concerts hosted on campus throughout the year, the biggest one being WBAR-B-Q on April 28. The day’s line-up draws from campus bands as well as up-and-coming New York City musicians. Much like radio station itself, WBAR concerts are as likely to attract an audience ranging from Brooklyn hipsters to members of Barnard’s Art History department.
To learn more about WBAR, this year's WBAR-B-Q, and to tune in, please visit wbar.org.
- Tina Tsuchiyama '13