“That last one, ‘Rewind’ by Amazing; before that, you heard the Dead Tongues Rising with ‘Won’t Be Long.’ Up next is ‘Burden’ by Bones R Jones; you are tuned to the Freewaves, 91.3 FM, WUNH, Durham.”
With those words, WUNH-FM DJ and sophomore civil engineering major Daniel Page, host of “DJ DP” on Tuesdays, introduces a new set of alternative tracks to the local Durham, N.H. community and the nearby Seacoast over half-an-hour into his two-hour long program. As he cues up the next song, Page smoothly slides a volume slider on the right side of his mix board and raises another that welcomes Jones’ voice into the dimly-lit studio. Surrounding him are multiple dark-grey XLR microphones, black Sony MDR-7506 headphones, a central console to his right loaded with CD and record players, as well as screens that, among other functions, showcase various functions, commands and the weather: a frosty 22 degrees coupled with snow.
All the while, Page monitors the sound levels, occasionally glancing at the clock to make sure he has enough time to cue up the next song without prompting dead air. Despite his numerous duties, Page fails to show signs of worry or stress.
“I definitely enjoy it; it’s something that I can, you know, come and spend two hours of my week [on]. I can play music that I like; I like that it’s beyond just campus… it reaches the community,” Page said. “I’ve had folks call in and talk for five – ten minutes at a time and just talk about really anything music-related; or if I say something funny, they’ll talk about that.”
Part of that enjoyment comes from the fact that he can choose to play whatever he wants on his show, so long as it fits his theme of alternative/indie/folk vibe he typically leans towards. This week’s show takes a turn for the acoustic, due to his hopes to help people “chill out” despite the inconvenient winter weather.
Despite this flexibility, WUNH mandates that 60 percent of the music he airs must be “new” music, sourced from the current “stack” of tracks spanning the past 10 weeks; he must also avoid airing Top 40 hits and tracks with swears and other questionable language, as mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As a result, much preparation goes into preparing a weekly broadcast. Not only does he have to consult the “stacks” for over half his music selection, he must also preview his playlist, which he typically sources from the WUNH servers, CDs or streaming services, to ensure that no vulgarity makes its way onto the airwaves.
The work continues even when Page is live, as he must take time between groups of songs to interact with his audience, often through talkbacks alerting them to upcoming tracks and through occasional phone calls from more active listeners. Through these and other challenges, however, Page finds chances to stand out from his other fellow presenters.
“I think I talk more than others,” he tells me. “I definitely think the DJ gives the show personality, and nowadays, any DJ or any computer can play music in order, play a playlist. But there isn’t that commentary in between; you don’t get to hear the side-conversation, so I think that’s something that’s unique about radio that you don’t get anywhere else.”
Page’s own unique experiences with the station date back to the get-go of his college career.
“Before I came here as a freshman, I saw it on Wildcat Link,” he recalls, “and I thought it was really cool that they had a station here. There was an info session that they held in one of the MUB theaters, and I went to it because I had time and really liked it.”
From there, Page took part in the traditional WUNH training montage, with the main feature being shadowing fellow DJs on their shows, coupled with a checklist of various tasks ranging from running a soundboard to playing CDs and queuing up vinyl records on select occasions. The same FCC guidelines he takes to heart today were also a key part of his orientation, taught through a manual and a major component of his final clearance test.
Even after winning his certification, Page’s journey remained far from finished: he next had to pass through several “clearance levels” consisting of two-to-three 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. shows, followed by a non-drive time and, should the busy schedule allow it, a lucrative “drive-time,” which could land between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. or between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. As difficult as a 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. show sounds to Page, however, it was an equally late show that, in his previous spring semester, gave him little to no time for error.
“I had a 12 to 2 a.m. show all spring semester last year, and I had an 8 a.m. quiz the next day, so it was kind of tough,” he said; “like, you’d try to sleep an hour before and then try to fall asleep after.”
Time also plays a role even when off the air, as Page works with the DJs that come before and after him to smoothly transition between shows, though interactions between DJs in times like this remain minimal.
“You kind of just meet them for 10 minutes and then you work together to transition between shows; and then, really, you don’t see the other members other than at executive meetings or at general meetings,” Page says.
Despite being the sole host of his show, however, Page’s power to share music he enjoys to the rest of his local community serves as his biggest motivator to continue his hosting duties.
“For me, I really enjoy it because it’s a great opportunity for me to listen to something new and share that with folks outside of this campus and the community,” he says. “It connects with the community…being an alternative station, I think this music isn’t for everybody, and I think it’s really great that we give underrepresented artists a chance for broadcast.”
While having the power to spread his musical tastes beyond the University of New Hampshire campus evokes positive vibes by itself, equally powerful are moments when he discovers how impactful he can be in the greater Seacoast area.
“Last summer, I was home and I heard a band on my Top 40 station back home play one of the songs that I played here, you know, like six months earlier; so I think it’s cool to see bands with… less than 1,000 plays on Spotify and they’re eventually playing on Top 40 stations… I think college radio keeps that alive.”
While he hopes to look for civil engineering and project management careers – experiences like those motivate Page to continue his work at WUNH until graduation and keep radio in the back of his mind all the while. As for advice he would give future DJs:
“I’d say go for it. Like, it can definitely be daunting…it’s definitely a lot to go through, but it’s extremely rewarding; like, you’re always exposed to new music. I really enjoy my time on the radio, like it’s kind of two hours I can escape [to] and hear something [new]… I’d say just go for it, that’s my advice.”