What started in the home of Crescent Hill resident Kathy Weisbach as primarily a hobby has turned into a 100-watt, low-power FM station — and now the all-local station has found a new home.
Crescent Hill Radio, now operating as 100.9 WCHQ-FM, began broadcasting from the new space — a former residential home and one-time consignment store at 1641 Mellwood Ave. — in early January after having purchased it back in September.
The two-story space currently has a main broadcast studio, a live broadcast studio with space for live music, a green room and a full kitchen.
The building will be on display to the public as part of an open house on Sunday, April 15, in conjunction with Apocalypse Brew Works, which is almost directly across the street from the studio.
Details are still in the works, but Bryce Gill, a morning DJ at the station, said the event is still being planned, but that live music and tours of the new studio will be on the agenda.
The build out of the new space wasn’t extensive, said Weisbach, who serves as the nonprofit station’s general manager.
“We had a lot of help from the staff,” all of which are volunteers, she said. “Mostly, it was a lot of cleaning and painting.”
One wall, with a window enabling DJs in the two studios to see each other, was moved over from the old studio, which was in the basement of a building at 2520 Frankfort Ave. Weisbach said she plans to sell that building.
But the old broadcast system, which partly centered around manual mixing boards designed for live music, also was replaced by a new, modern system that was designed for radio broadcast, simplifying the process for going on-air with a live show. It also works seamlessly with the automation program WCHQ uses.
“People can actually learn to be real DJs on that,” Weisbach said. “Before, I had to patch together a lot of equipment I had.”
Gavin Caster, one of WCHQ’s DJs, did much of the woodwork, designing doors and window trim on the main floor for the new space. The second floor will be turned into office space and a conference room with Caster’s help.
One new addition is a five-piece Ludwig drum kit bands can play when they perform on air. A guitar amplifier also will be added.
In the old basement space, there wasn’t room for a permanent back line, nor was there room for a green room or conference space. And the old station had a business upstairs, which at times caused issues for broadcasting live music.
“The main reason for moving is that we needed more space,” Weisbach said. “It’s a lot nicer, and we don’t have to worry about noise here.”
The WCHQ database of local and regional music numbers more than 26,000 now. And that’s after a scrub eliminated some songs due to what Weisbach termed “vulgarity issues.”
Not all of the songs make the active playlist, but each one is available for DJs to use during live shows. She said music director Gary Sampson “listens to everything,” referring to music submissions from area artists, and even if many of the songs won’t make the automated list, “It’s an archive for posterity.”
It’s what led Weisbach to build the station after she began broadcasting as a livestream from her computer in 2010.
“I had a lot of recordings, and I just wanted to air that stuff,” she said, and she began announcing on her site that submissions were welcome. The response was, to say the least, unexpected.
“The amount of music that got submitted was inspiring,” she said, so she decided to up the stakes by having bands come in for interviews and to play live tunes. That drew even more inspiration, thanks to the response that move got from the artists.
“Especially the young ones,” Weisbach said. “’Oh, we’re on the radio!’”
She applied for low-power FM status soon thereafter, and the process took nearly three years. WCHQ-FM now broadcasts for several miles around the area, reaching across downtown, into Southern Indiana and, in some cases, farther.
The station continues to grow. A director of marketing and sales, Jennifer Bair, is on board and will have in-office hours at times once the upstairs is finished, mostly for meeting with sponsors. Board meetings also will be held on site.
Weisbach’s hobby outgrew her reach, and she expresses gratitude for the many volunteers who help keep the station going forward. More help is needed, she said.
“We need a program director,” she said. “It’s gone beyond me being able to do all this.”