Pandemic Radio Pt. 2: Aggie Radio | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Pandemic Radio Pt. 2: Aggie Radio 

Utah State's team keeps the Cache Valley music scene connected.

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AGGIE RADIO
  • Aggie Radio

For the second part of City Weekly's college radio investigation, we turn northward, up to Utah State University, the home of Aggie Radio and its diverse group of student directors, who help lay out the whole, complicated nature of running college radio—and living as students—through a pandemic year.

Utah State is cozied up in Logan's picturesque valley, far from other large Utah cities, and that contributes to a distinct music scene that thrives in part because of Aggie Radio, the college's student-run radio station. "We don't have a lot of venues, so we're the people that bring the music to everyone," says Station Manager Sierra Benson, who's been with Aggie Radio since her freshman year.

"Usually at the end of the year, we do Logan City Limits—we still don't know if we're going to be able to do it again this year," Events Director Sydney Ho adds. "At the beginning of the year we usually do Big Ag Show, and we weren't able to do it this year."

They have been able to throw one socially-distanced event capped at 50 students so far this school year, where usually they'd already have a big event and a few smaller ones under their belt. "We haven't been able to bring as many of the bigger bands that we usually [would], or even ones outside of the Cache Valley yet," Ho says, adding that though there are hopes to do another small event later in the semester, the process is complicated by the school's event approval process. "We don't know if we can have events even a month or two weeks before [they're] supposed to happen, so that's making everything more difficult."

And though these changes are stressful, Benson notes, "We can't do a lot of events, [but] at the same time there are upsides because we get to focus a lot more on our content creation."

That's been the impetus for the Content Creation Committee anyway, which aims for more written content on the website to supplement the 10 podcasts they have in rotation currently. After closing their radio studio over the summer, they've found the pandemic transition to be rather smooth. "DJs are usually just in there by themselves, [with] usually no more than two people. So already it's a pretty safe activity; we didn't have to make too many adjustments," says Programming Director Darcy Ritchie. "But we used to be able to have as many people as you could fit in the studio come in."

As for what the station's 40-plus DJs are playing, Music Director Brynn Griffiths relies on social media to keep an eye on bands from Logan, as well as SLC and Provo—where she briefly lived—to keep her thumb on the pulse. "That's been the biggest thing, is making sure our locals get heard," she says. "Digital communication has always been a part of music, and I think the music has never stopped, there's always been the kind of constant influx. Now it's just a matter of artists really pushing to have it played [on air] because they can't play it live."

But Griffiths points out that virtual communication isn't all easy going. "It's weird not to go to campus every day, see my friends, go to class physically. But also it's been weird to be like 'hey we're gonna have a meeting, over a zoom call.' Or 'you're gonna meet with your committee, over a zoom call.'" she says.

Benson agrees, recalling a conversation between herself, Ho and another director about the feeling that "we're acting this role that's not real anymore." Benson in particular has struggled as the station's leader and its first woman in the role, as well as someone looking out at her future after college. "It's hard to even find meaning in it," she says, noting that despite heartening virtual check-ins with the podcasters, DJs and others helping to run the station, she still feels a disconnect. "It's been a hard week with midterms and everything, to keep thinking that I'm doing a good job as a leader compared to last year, when we had a leader who would meet with everyone, knew everyone's name, had parties at his house. A lot of imposter syndrome's coming up for me."

Though bent on event planning or artist management after college, Benson's now looking at other options as the future continues to look bleak for the music industry. Ho, too, is dealing with the turbulence of changing her major, but finds comfort in Aggie Radio's survival. "I'm still glad we get to be here," Ho says. "Being part of the team of directors has helped me get through this semester, where I would have felt completely disconnected from campus if I didn't have this."

Benson also finds room to be gracious amid all the uncertainty. "We're doing this through a pandemic. A lot of college radios throughout the nation had to shut down for the summer, had to shut down for the year. I'm just way impressed at what my team has been able to do, on top of what we've been able to pivot to," she says, with all the earnestness of a leader. To get a look at their new fine-polished content, or to listen in, visit radio.usu.edu or tune in to 92.3 KBLU.

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About The Author

Erin Moore

Erin Moore

Bio:
Erin Moore is City Weekly's music editor. Email tips to: music@cityweekly.net.

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