In the “Heart of the Commonwealth,” WICN (Worcester’s Inter-Collegiate Network and National Public Radio station) has a history of broadcasting some of the finest and best-respected jazz in the area to the ears of New England listeners.
Over the course of 45 years, WCIN established a reputation as the quintessential jazz station for central Massachusetts—indeed, as station manager Gerry Weston puts it: “We are the last remaining jazz station [broadcasting] throughout the day in New England.”
Since its inception in 1969, the station has promoted the cultural well-being of its communities through promotion of music and affiliations with touchstones like Mechanics Hall and Tuckerman Hall, and by presenting several series of live concerts at its own state-of-the-art performance space within the studio.
Strong relationships with institutions like Worcester Polytechnic Institute and The College of the Holy Cross have helped WCIN’s continued success and relevance for over four decades. Although there are natural and obvious limitations to radio broadcast, “We have a great relationship with WPI,” says Weston. “Every smart radio station has to keep technologically up on things. If you don’t keep up with it, you can be left behind.” In fact, Worcester Polytechnic recently developed an app which listeners can use to stream the station broadcast from their phone. Additionally, WPI spearheaded the development of a catalog to maintain WICN’s broadcast database of jazz music, one of the biggest in the world according to Mr. Weston. “They’re a great partner. We love them.”
To celebrate its coming 45th anniversary, WICN has prepared a special lineup of twelve artists with roots in the Worcester and Boston communities. Among them is renowned saxophonist Grace Kelly, who gave WICN her “first radio interview for us when she was ten years old,” Mr. Weston recalls. Additionally, celebrated vocalist Giacomo Gates will perform, as well as Boston-area staple Yoko Miwa.
The 45th Anniversary Celebration will also feature the performances of Michelle Willson and Chet Williamson, who are active WICN hosts, as well as artists like Pamela Hines and Aztec Two-Step, who have deep roots within the Worcester community and a long history with the vaunted station.
The gala promises to be as diverse and progressive as the staff, hosts and broadcast schedule of WICN itself. With artists from so many backgrounds and schools of music, the celebration is bound to please, to say nothing of marking an important milestone in history of this cultural institution.
“You can’t stay rooted in the past,” Gerry Weston is adamant to state. At the same time, the qualities that make radio such a force are timeless. “It’s easy for people to create their own playlists, and listen to what their software throws at them. But there’s nothing like having someone else do that for you, and surprise you with what they like. And I believe that is what radio DJs still bring to the table.”