WUML DJ Connor Summers logs the playlist for Live from the Fallout Shelter from the renovated studio. (Hannah Manning/Connector)
Up until a few weeks ago, WUML broadcasted from a tiny room beside their office for 24 hours a day.
The closet that held some of the radio station’s extensive music collection had an irrigation system that spurted water mere weeks after they moved. Radio staff and interns sent out their programs over the airwaves on equipment out of storage with a board that looked straight out of the 1980s.
Every day from last May to late March of this year, WUML had to make do with their temporary home, crowded into the small, white room. Unable to turn on the air conditioning lest the noise be heard on the broadcast, the staff toughed it out through the sweltering summer.
“It wasn’t ideal,” said Kyle Clapper, one of WUML’s chief engineers. “We tried to personalize it the best we could.”
Since March 20, WUML has settled back into its original home, albeit with some new perks: a clean, well-decorated lobby and a state-of-the-art renovated studio.
UMass Lowell paid for the upgrades that WUML made to its studio and provided furniture on top of other accommodations.
Clapper, who worked on the renovations, said that he and WUML were incredibly grateful to the university for helping the process.
“The university was very kind in that they had to kick us out of our space for so long. They got us new paint, new carpet, new lighting,” said Clapper.
And the studio is not even all of the way finished yet.
Clapper refers to the return to the original studio a “soft opening,” saying that WUML is still actively working on the space to optimize and decorate it to their liking.
The lobby has crimson carpeting, and posters from events in WUML’s past adorn the white concrete walls. The room is clean and impressively designed, incorporating the station’s history and updating it for an ultra-modern studio.
The station waded through its archives to find items to hang on the walls, things from the time that WUML was WLTI and later WJUL. Tapes from old shows, an interview with Arlo Guthrie dating from 1982 and a letter from a fan in Poland hang in the entryway, giving weight to the station’s legacy.
Clapper found it awe-inspiring to wade through the archives during the decoration process.
“It was surreal, to me, to find transmitter logs from 9/11 and big events like that. It’s weird to think that the radio station was a thing back then. You wonder what it was like for them,” he said.
WUML moves into modernity with its renovated studio. The room boasts improvements such as three computer monitors, more studio space, new sound reflectors and a brand-new sound board.
The renovations have made broadcasts much easier and better for the WUML crew, said Clapper.
“It was incredible for us to get to do this. We were a fantastic radio station before this, and we’ve always been incredibly blessed. The university is incredibly kind to us. But with this upgrade, it basically means that we are on par with all radio stations of the 21st century,” said Clapper.
New mic arms provide hosts with better sight-lines so they can see their musical guests better in the post-show interview, which makes for a much more personal conversation, which leads to a more engaging show.
Machinations in the new studio are much more simplified. In a system that Clapper referred to as “idiot-proof,” lights on the mics flash red when the mics are on air, blue when the station receives a call and white in its resting state.
With a more user-friendly environment that will prove helpful in training new interns, WUML looks to future broadcasts in the new studio eagerly with new equipment that will last them for at least a decade.
“Our station is blessed and is probably one of the best college radio stations in the country because we have so many wonderful tools at our disposal,” said Clapper.