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The World of WELT
Fort Wayne's low power 95.7 FM takes off
By Jim Mount
Fort Wayne Reader
It's been little less than a year when WELT — a low-power FM station — hit the drawing boards, and only after a number of organizational meetings and word of mouth did the fuller picture of what the station would become begin to materialize.
WELT was going to be a dream come true for a number of producers in the local area finally being offered a chance to bring their visions to the airwaves and since breaking onto the air, expectations for WELT have been more than met. The demand for a low power FM radio station available to the general public became a reality and the time slots have filled.
As with the initial early days of any developing station or program, it was expected that the slots would be pretty fluid. With a large influx of producers and with the passage of time a decline in the number of those still with the station was expected but that has not been the case with WELT.
“There are not many holes left in the program schedule,” says Erik Mollberg, Assistant Manager for ACPL and station manager for WELT. “I had initially anticipated, oh, within the first four to five months, 30 – 40% of the DJ's dropping out and others coming in but that hasn't been the case. People are doing their shows and we're starting to get some responses.”
According to Mollberg, people are genuinely surprised at how well the station is doing in its first few formative months. “I think they had a misconception that it was going to be like Public Access television, “Mollberg goes on to explain. “Not to disparage Access television, but the thing with Access television is that anyone can come on, we don't make any content decisions or anything.”
But community radio is a different animal. “It's not a free-for-all and open for anybody to come in and do absolutely anything,” Mollberg continues. ”If somebody wants to do a show, they have to look at the web-page first.” For example, WELT already has 80’s and 70’s shows already in production. “It's gotta be something different, something that's not currently on the air.”
One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for Mollberg was the quality that the producers for WELT are putting out and the teamwork and camaraderie they exhibit among their various and disparate programming. According to Mollberg, the productions are top notch and the producers help each other,
“They (the DJs) sound phenomenal, their programs are very good, they're excited, they're engaged, they help each other,” Mollberg says. “If someone needs technical assistance or other such things, as we get more and more DJ's who are doing some of the late night gigs, they're doing some of the training. It's really beyond the scope of what we have asked for Access in the past but these are a very dedicated group of people. I just adore them. They are having a good time, they're living the dream.”
When word of WELT first opened up a year or so ago, the reaction was excited. Meetings were held and a diverse cross section came to WELT with the hope and ambitions of sharing a different flavor of radio to the Fort Wayne airwaves. Two such people who brought their ideas for shows to the mix and realized their ideas are Alan Bengs and Chad Burris, both of whom host their own individual programs on WELT, producing their shows at home and bringing that different flavor of music and sound to the Fort Wayne airwaves. Burris, a Fort Wayne native, brings to the WELT lineup 80's Spotlight, a nostalgic program that focuses on the styles and genres of music that populated the 80's cultural soundscape
For Burris, WELT is an opportunity to launch his listeners back to the heyday of music videos and video games. Burris, an actor and backstage assistant for a couple of theater organizations, also has experience in TV and radio production, but it's WELT that's given him an opportunity to promote the music he loves.
“I have always enjoyed working in radio,” Burris says, “I’ve been involved in commercial radio for the last 20 years, and WELT is an opportunity for me to stay involved, and play the music that I love,” Burris says. His program, 80s Spotlight, happens every Tuesday at 7 PM, and features and hour of music from the 1980s.
For Burris, putting together each show is always learning something new either about his chosen music genre or the work that goes into putting it together, “Each program has a specific theme and includes songs both popular and obscure,” he says. “Each show is like writing a research paper on that week's theme. I'm learning things that I didn't know about the songs that I'm playing, and I feel that my editing and recording skills have improved with each program.”
What Bengs has to offer with his programming is something that hasn't really been heard on the Fort Wayne radio dial — eclectic, ambient, electronic music some of which is known more popularly as “Space Music.” His show “Primeval Voices” takes the Tuesday 8:00 slot immediately after 80's Spotlight. For Bengs as well, a background in radio and TV production helped pave the way for bringing his sound variety to the airwaves and like Burris, Bengs credits WELT with helping him realize a dream,
“I have always loved radio.” Bengs says. “WELT gives me an opportunity to bring a genre of music to my community that can't normally be heard on local radio. It's satisfying to make that contribution.”
Bengs’ show highlight ambient new age music, along with some spacey electronica. “It's an interesting genre of music but it can be very droning and mellow so I decided to add some European electronic music to the mix,” Bengs says. “It's a good pairing. The electronic music adds an upbeat element to the program, but it still has that spacey, mysterious vibe that makes the show work.”
Bengs has thoughts of branching off with different program ideas and is even kicking around the idea of Radio Theater. “My dream is to do an old-fashioned radio drama. I even have some basic story ideas for Buck Rogers-esque sci-fi show set during the Apollo missions.”
Both Burris and Bengs reinforce what Mollberg says about WELTs contribution to the creative and cultural community of Fort Wayne. “WELT is a creative outlet for many outstanding, creative people to contribute alternative radio programming to a great city.” Bengs says, “I am blown away by the caliber of people that have made the decision to add programming to WELT. Despite the fact that I have some professional experience in broadcasting, I feel like some of the programming my cohorts at WELT are doing creatively transcends anything I do!” Burris agrees in his assessment as well, “I think WELT is a great way for the Fort Wayne community to hear things that they can't hear anywhere else,” Burris says, “and is a great creative outlet for diversity and variety of programing.”
Those are just two examples of what has landed on the airwaves with WELT and with each new original program from it's broad diversity of producers and artists, WELT is clearly here to stay.
Both programs from Chad Burris and Alan Bengs can be found on Facebook as well. Chad Burris with 80s Spotlight on WELT 95.7 FM and Alan Bengs with Primeval Voices.