Guest Column: New community radio station plays great music

Among the clatter of pounding drums, blazing electric guitars and repetitive thumping baselines, there now exists on the Rockford radio dial an easy-listening station that plays ear-pleasing sounds and tunes with familiar melodies. It’s 99.3 FM WTPB-LP. The LP stands for “low power,” a new class of FCC-licensed operations that allows private individuals, small companies and churches to own small radio stations.

WTPB-LP is owned by Third Presbyterian Church, which has wasted no time in recognizing what format was missing from the Rockford radio dial. “It has been a long time since entertainers like Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Glenn Miller have been heard on local radio,” says Music Programmer John Russell Ghrist. “We’re bringing back the good songs.” John hosts Musical Memories on the station. The show’s announcer is Connie R. Brown.

WTPB-LP’s new format also includes playing area artists such as Mike Williamson, Dorothy Paige-Turner and accordionist Mike Alongi, along with jazz groups headed by Val Eddy, Guy Fiorenza and Harold Smith. An occasional tune by Homer Carlson, or the late Ken Flodin singing with the city’s oldest dance band, the Bill Engberg Orchestra, can also be heard on the station.

The city’s new community radio operation also features four religious programs including The Lutheran Hour and sermons by the church’s pastor, Dr. Murray Hanson. The station also has started airing information updates and community calendar announcements about area events. The 24-hour operation is hooked up to the National Weather Service to provide storm alerts.

The station can be heard around Rockford, Loves Park and Machesney Park with a quality set or car radio. Future plans include more local programming and eventual live shows. For information about WTPB-LP, listeners should contact the church at (815) 962-7889.

John Russell Ghrist is a volunteer program host at College of DuPage’s radio station WDCB, and Rockford’s newest community radio station, WTPB 99.3 FM.

from the May 16-22, 2007, issue

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