Nestled in the deepest corner of Syosset High School's basement is a place filled with creativity and budding talent. Just a few paces from the school’s boiler room exists one of its oldest institutions -- WKWZ-FM, Syosset’s community radio station (heard on 88.5 FM).
Created in 1973, WKWZ is an FCC-licensed FM station run exclusively by students (under the watchful eye of administrative personnel). It is the oldest of four high school stations on Long Island (along with schools in the Plainview-Old Bethpage, Sachem and Brentwood districts).
Today, WKWZ’s staff has never been stronger. With an on-air staff of more than 40 students, the station broadcasts live every weekday from 2:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Listeners are treated to a diverse mix of genres, with everything from Broadway show tunes to hip-hop. The station also airs three sports talk shows throughout the week.
“As a community radio station, we have to be eclectic,” General Manager Dave Favilla said. “I want it to run as closely to the stations that I worked at because that is the most realistic work experience. I want the students to do all the jobs I did.”
Before becoming a teacher, Favilla worked as a producer at WBAB and WLIR.
Select students are chosen each year to act as managers. Those in manager positions, ranging from station manager to sports director, are responsible for maintaining the quality of the on-air product.
“If you don’t show up and do the job correctly, we let you go,” Favilla said. “It’s a bit strict, but it weans out those who can’t work and can’t handle what, essentially, is a job. It’s good for the station and it’s good for the work experience of the student.”
Those involved in the station understand the importance of the experience they are receiving.
“I’ve been able to learn how to network properly in an adult business world,” said music director Marissa Greenberg, who is responsible for maintaining a relationship with record labels and reporting what WKWZ plays to the magazine College Music Journal, or CMJ.
It was through CMJ that Greenberg, a senior, was able to get the station nominated for the “Best Use of Limited Resources” award at the annual CMJ music festival this past fall.
“I thought the award described us perfectly,” Greenberg said. “At WKWZ, we don’t have a lot, but I feel we do a really great job with what we do have.”
Although the station didn’t win, the nomination is a source of immense pride, especially considering the competition, which included stations from all over the world.
“We went to that award ceremony and we were the only high school there,” Favilla said.
The impact of WKWZ extends beyond the years students spend at Syosset High School.
Said Justin Tasolides, a junior majoring in media at Syracuse University, of his budding career in radio: “I owe it all to WKWZ.”
*WKWZ can be heard online at wkwz.org.
Photo: WKWZ General Manager Dave Favilla has taken his experience from the commercial radio world and used it to mentor Syosset High School students.