And you thought YouTube killed the radio star.
Not so true at Suffolk County Community College where students on Wednesday launched the school’s first-ever radio station — the result of five months of converting a storage room into a fully functioning, live internet radio station on the Ammerman campus in Selden.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Joseph Panzarino, 19, a second year radio and television major from Sayville. “We built a radio station from scratch.”
Panzarino and about 100 other students working toward an associate degree will spend 150 hours staffing the station as part of a credit-bearing internship course. The internet-only station will stream commercial-free music 24 hours per day at scccir.com.
The mission is mostly academic and, Panzarino said, already he’s learned how to be a part of a functioning radio station staff, “most importantly how to work together to accomplish a goal.”
The college partnered with the radio industry and uses a lot of donated music. The equipment is estimated to cost about $125,000, said Shaun L. McKay, president of the college, a 27,000-student public institution.
“This is run by students — the programming will be created by students — and they are going to put in the hours to keep it running,” McKay said “The mission of the school is take them where they are and to give them the tools they need for the future.”
The station’s general manager is Bill Terry, who spent more than 40 years in nearly every function in the radio business at WBLI 106.1 FM and WALK 97.5 FM. The equipment, including the automation system, music scheduling system and audio software editing program are current industry standard, he said.
“It’s not just going to be a jukebox,” Terry said. “The students will program and edit all of the radio spots, and there will be a wider variety of songs. It won’t just be ‘go to your playlist and pick one.’ ”
New college radio stations are certainly unusual, as young people born after 1995 move away from AM/FM radio toward YouTube, Spotify and Pandora, according to an August study by the Steinhardt School of Music at New York University .New college or independent stations stream internet only.
“Accessibility is the key to our station,” said Alan Bernstein, assistant academic chair and professor of radio and television production.
Major genres will be adult contemporary, Top 40 and oldies — music that Suffolk County residents like to listen to. There are also opportunities to request a song online.
The station went live at 11:15 a.m. with its first song, “Beginnings” by the 1970-80s band Chicago. As the song goes, “Only the beginning. Only just the start.”
Panzarino, the student, said Terry and Bernstein picked the song last week but kept it a secret from the students until it was time to go live.
“It was like opening up a gift on Christmas,” Panzarino said. “It was the perfect choice. I think they really nailed it.”