Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
In a more ideal world, we’d be packing our bags shortly for the drive down to nearby Ithaca, New York for a return visit to the annual “WVBR Symposium,” the gathering where the Cornell University students who run WVBR (93.5) spend a weekend learning from station alumni and other friends of this unique station.
Last year, I had the pleasure of joining the WVBR/Cornell Media Guild family as the keynote speaker for the symposium (you can hear excerpts of my talk on this episode of the Top of the Tower Podcast) – and I also had the opportunity to stop by and see how the station is settling in to the studio building it inaugurated back in 2014.
This building was, rather famously, made possible by a donation from one of WVBR’s most prominent alumni, Keith Olbermann, who named it for his father and for one of his Cornell colleagues who died too young, Glenn Corneliess. The dedication plaque still hangs in the building, of course, where the big “Studio A” with its vaulted ceiling has been home to lots of live music within these walls lined with the station’s vinyl collection.
This is a commercial station run by a board made up of students and alumni, not a college-owned station, and so there’s a long, proud history here of homebrewing technology. Within the “tech pit” room behind the main air studio at the opposite end of the building from Studio A, one of the student engineers is proudly showing off the monitoring system WVBR built to keep tabs on its new transmission system – and after a quick look around upstairs at some of the station’s history and the studio for the student streaming outlet, CornellRadio.com, we’re off to see the new tower.
This was a big project for WVBR in the fall of 2017, as the station’s aging 1960s-vintage tower was replaced with a stouter new version able to carry the 93.5 signal well into the future.
That’s a piece of the original tower sitting on the porch outside the studio, and you can see pretty clearly why a replacement was in order!
We didn’t get inside the transmitter building on this visit, but there’s a new Nautel transmitter in there replacing the aging Energy-Onix that powered WVBR (the “Voice of the Big Red”) for many years, and a new 4-bay ERI antenna up on the tower helping the signal to get out better across the southern Finger Lakes.
And if you like that snowy dusk picture of the new tower, it’s one of the featured images in Tower Site Calendar 2020 – and we still have a handful of copies left in the Fybush.com store.
(As for the Symposium, it too has been cancelled in this most unusual spring. Here’s hoping it’s back to normal and we can return next year!)
Thanks to Mark Humphrey and the WVBR staff for the tours!
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
And don’t miss a big batch of Ithaca IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: McKeesport, PA, 2019