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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Radio Mitchell: A judgment-free space for budding student broadcasters

    Radio Mitchell IT Director Colin Steinberg, a Mitchell College junior, checks to make sure a mixer is connected to a computer, while group Treasurer Paige Cornetta, a freshman, looks over the financial records while working at Mitchell Radio on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Mitchell College in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Alex Nardone, a Mitchell College sophomore, in the studio for his sports broadcast airing on Radio Mitchell on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at Mitchell College in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Radio Mitchell Operations Manager President Joshua “Jay Bar” Bar-Nadav, a Mitchell College junior, checks staff and programming information Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at the student-run radio station’s Montauk Avenue headquarters in New London. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― Inside a sound-dampening booth on Wednesday morning, a red “on air” light flicked on as Mitchell College sophomore Alex Nardone launched into a half-hour sports update program while his colleagues fiddled with analogue mixers and their modern digital equivalents in an adjacent room.

    Welcome to Radio Mitchell, the student-run radio station, right above the Michael’s Dairy ice cream shop on Montauk Avenue, that every minute of the day broadcasts music, musings, live-event coverage and other programming to the nearby campus and beyond.

    Nardone, a 21-year-old communications major and one of the organization’s two dozen student DJs, joined the radio station’s club in September and soon after had a regular, hourlong Tuesday night show ― “Sports Knowledge” ― of his own.

    “I used to film my little brother’s football games and talk to coaches,” Nardone said. “It’s my passion.”

    That kind of devotion to a niche subject is reflected in the offerings of his fellow broadcasters. For Jared Hague, 23, it’s sharing his opinions on politics, current events and governmental minutiae that brought him to the station last year.

    “I like social studies and history and sharing my voice,” the 23-year-old junior said. “I want my voice to be heard.”

    The station, which broadcasts its content globally through the Radio FX app and is piped into the campus dining hall, began in 2011 as an academic program run by Assistant Professor Luke Walden, a Mitchell College communications instructor.

    “But over the years, it became a student-run organization,” he said. “A student can basically get on-air after a half-hour of training on things like FCC regulations and how to use the equipment.”

    Broadcasts could initially only be found on the station’s webpage, but were expanded to a college radio app, RadioFX, in 2018.

    Walden said the station did boast a true FM radio presence in the 1970s, but that incarnation faded out. There’re also persistent rumors of an even earlier student “pirate” radio station involving a student hacking into professional New London station’s radio waves from his dorm room.

    The station’s roster of 50 or so student volunteers mimics the college’s enrollment demographics, Walden said. College officials said about half of their 500-student body identify as neurodivergent, an umbrella term for a wide range of cognitive or behavioral issues that can manifest as autism, dyslexia, depression and anxiety.

    For William Dreir, a self-described autistic student and DJ, the station has given him a literal microphone to share his story.

    “In high school, I’d put on puppet shows on a local television channel and here I have a half-hour show interviewing teachers and staff ― and do a one-minute trivia segment,” the 23-year-old senior said. “It’s given me a whole lot of new social skills.”

    Walden said the student enthusiasm for the organization waxes and wanes depending on the interest of students enrolled in any given year. He credited the station’s current operations manager, Joshua “Jay Bar” Bar-Nadav, with reinvigorating the club and building up its membership.

    In addition to handling the day-to-day running of the small station, Bar-Nadav also serves as its main booster. The 20-year-old junior joined the group three years ago after hearing about the opportunity from a friend. He said the station seemed a good fit, especially with his DJ and business background.

    “But I knew in my heart it could be so much better,” Bar-Nadav said between giving fist-bumps to fellow station members as they trickled in on Wednesday. “We only had something like two people when I started and how we have 50.”

    Bar-Nadav, who hosts regular weekly staff meetings complete with power point presentations, credits his policy of extreme inclusion and a climate of mentorship for the uptick in staffing, along with an ethos that puts a premium on student’s individual interests.

    “We have one DJ that just comes in and talks about her day,” he said. “Others spend time talking about video games, sports, mental health ― about a fifth of our people are special needs ― or music. Basically, anyone that interviews for a job here will get a position.”

    Bar-Nadav, who’s exploring a post-college career in business or at NASA, said he was able during his tenure to upgrade several pieces of station equipment and expand programming and is especially proud that a listener in Germany or Jamaica can activate an app and listen to his crew’s broadcasts.

    “A lot of my people felt they weren't being heard and now the world hears them,” he said.

    Bar-Nadav, who’s keenly aware his time at the station will end with his graduation, said he’s laying the groundwork for additional station improvements, including merchandise offerings, and encouraging Mitchell alumni to get more involved with the organization.

    “I want us to have our own ice cream flavor, Radio Mitchell Red, downstairs,” he said. “When I was a younger Jewish kid growing up in Philadelphia, I looked up to older kids who ran their own businesses and I dreamed of running one, too. And changing the lives of others.”

    The voice of senior Antonio Nattucci, 25, can be heard in two-hour increments every Wednesday via his “Dream Catcher” show, a program he conceived in reaction to the lack of a creative writing class.

    “The show’s about finding your passion and not having others judge it,” Nattucci said. “There’s some motivational talk about a person’s potential, but nothing negative.”

    For some student DJs, sitting in a room with just a microphone and the knowledge that a worldwide audience is the other end can be daunting, but surmountable.

    “I do sometimes get anxious and nervous when I meet people,” said Matthew Schwartz, 19, the freshman co-host of the station’s “Sports Knowledge” show. “But I love talking about sports. If I had to talk about math, I’d crash in about two seconds. But when I’m in the booth doing improv on things like the playoffs, I’m locked in.”

    j.penney@theday.com

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