WLFR veteran recounts college radio glory days, looks forward to future

Written for The Argo by Katherine River Sage

Back before the world, as we knew it ended, Stu Mark had a weekly show on 91.7 WLFR called “Active Listening Exercise.” On Tuesday nights, he would broadcast nothing but fresh, obscure, and exciting music to those interested enough to tune in. The WLFR studios are familiar ground for Mark, as he’s been involved with the station on and off since 1985, only a year after its inception.

Given his veritable backlog of college radio experience, I was curious to get his views on how the medium has changed since he first started, learn about how he goes about hosting his new show, and pick his brain about some of the music he enjoys.

Above: Stu Mark at the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System conference in NYC in 1987. Photo courtesy of Stu Mark.

How long have you been on WLFR? Had you ever been on the radio beforehand?

Stu: I had my first on-air moment in November of 1985, on WLFR, back when the studios were in upper G-wing. I continued every week, several shows a week, until late summer of 1989. 

What were those shows like? What did you play back then?

Stu: It was the same as it is now, freeform. People played what they wanted. Back then, it was a lot of rock-oriented stuff. Grateful Dead, folk, punk, jazz, but the important thing was hip-hop. It was, back then, a new genre of music, and our station was one of the few places that had shows dedicated to it. Friday and Saturday nights were 5,6,7,8 hours of hip-hop. New stuff, different. Independent as well as big label artists. It was groundbreaking. We were politically active back then. 

In your experience, what are some other ways WLFR, and radio in general, have changed since then? 

Stu: The internet killed radio. It shrunk the audience. Radio is still great, but nobody gives a tinker’s cuss. Other than that, radio hasn’t really changed. WLFR sounds the same; young people talking about what they love, playing songs you’ve never heard of. 

Tell me a bit about your current show. 

I play newly released tracks by independent ambient music artists. Every show is filled with ambient music released within the previous 48 hours of showtime. 

How do you discover the new music? What’s the research process? I can imagine it takes some digging!

Stu: It’s a secret. 

What new ambient music are you the most excited about right now? 

Stu: There’s an artist out there from Tel Aviv called Wings Of An Angel. Great tracks by this artist. The kicker is, this artist releases a brand new full-length record… every day! 

Do you have any advice for someone that wants to get on the radio?

Stu: I’d tell them to just do it. Don’t be afraid. First you do the thing, and then you get the courage. Come to the radio station with a passion for listening to other people. 

Upon completion of the interview, I whipped up a Spotify playlist consisting of songs handpicked by Stu from his early WLFR days, some stone-cold college radio classics, as well as some music from Wings Of An Angel. You can find that playlist at HERE.

Keep your eyes out and ears open for the return of programming to WLFR, 91.7 FM.  

Categories: Entertainment