High School DJs Dial Dallas Back To The 1970s Although it has a signal that reaches most of Dallas, KEOM-FM broadcasts from Mesquite, Texas, just east of the city. Owned and operated by the Mesquite school district, KEOM exists for the sole purpose of training high school students in the art of radio — through '70s music.
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High School DJs Dial Dallas Back To The 1970s

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High School DJs Dial Dallas Back To The 1970s

High School DJs Dial Dallas Back To The 1970s

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now, another program training kids for a different kind of career in the arts. Instead of learning to dance or sing, students in one Dallas area school district are learning to play music over the airwaves.

NPR's Wade Goodwyn has their story.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Keeping you in touch with your community, 88.5 KEOM.

WADE GOODWYN: Although it has a signal that reaches most of Dallas, KEOM broadcasts from Mesquite, Texas, just east of the city. The first time you happen to land on it driving in your car, it takes a while before you begin to notice it sounds a little different.

Ms. ELIZABETH(ph): Now let's head over with Bailey for your traffic.

Ms. BAILEY WILSON: Thanks, Elizabeth. In Dallas on I-35, Stemmons Freeway, northbound between…

GOODWYN: What is this, bring your kid to work day?

Ms. WILSON: Keep it here on KEOM for more Metro Networks' traffics updates.

Unidentified Man #1: This is Mesquite Schools Radio, 88.5 KEOM, Mesquite, Texas.

(Soundbite of music)

GOODWYN: Owned and operated by the Mesquite School District, KEOM exists for the sole purpose of training high school students in the art of radio. 17-year-old seniors Bailey Wilson and Lauren Green man the microphones 11 to one weekdays. For Green and Wilson, speaking to 200,000 fellow Texans at any given moment is both exhilarating and, as any practitioner of live radio will tell you, occasionally mortifying.

Ms. LAUREN GREEN: Okay, so Bailey had to go on for traffic, and so I put her traffic stuff into the computer, and it disappeared. So, you know, I put it in again and put it in again. Yeah, it turns out, like, all of them registered. And so, once she did the traffic, they, like, kept going back to the traffic desk because I had put it so many times. And so Ms. Brooks(ph) and Mr. Frazee(ph) were in here panicking, like, pressing buttons, and I'm like, sorry.

GOODWYN: Listening to KEOM can be a bit like watching NASCAR: something spectacular could be just around the next corner. But Wilson says their audience, mostly age 30 to 50, rarely complains. Instead, listeners call in and tease and laugh.

Ms. WILSON: People know we're student DJs. They know - basically, they know we're bound to screw it up.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #1: I bet that you haven't had your fill of fun American facts today. Well, if you tune to KEOM every day at 7:45 and 11:45 a.m., I will guarantee that you'll learn something quite interesting about your country.

GOODWYN: To get on the air, you have to audition, and if you pass, you're off to a class called Radio 1.

(Soundbite of dog barking)

Ms. CAMILLE TURNER (Teacher): Okay, what was that?

Unidentified Man #2: That was definitely a promo for one of the features that we've got.

Ms. TURNER: Okay, what makes you think that it was definitely a promo?

GOODWYN: Camille Turner takes her students through their paces, but in the age of the iPod, does terrestrial radio still have any relevance to young peoples' lives? Isn't this like training them to be steelworkers or something? Peggy Brooks, the station manager, says no. KEOM students are still going on to successful careers in broadcasting, iPod notwithstanding.

Ms. PEGGY BROOKS (Manager, KEOM): Most don't, but they will tell us that this benefited them in their current career. If we were to average it out, I would say probably at least one student for every year that we've been broadcasting has gone on to do something in the industry.

GOODWYN: There's no advertising. KEOM's air is thick with community bulletin board announcements, the Texas State Radio Network news, weather, traffic and that old-school groove.

(Soundbite of song, "(Every Time I Turn Around) Back in Love Again")

ATLANTIC STARR: (Singing) Every time I move I lose. When I look I'm in. And every time I turn around, I'm back in love.

GOODWYN: The music is a cornucopia of the 1970s: Motown, rock, folk, disco, from Karen Carpenter to Parliament Funkadelic, a mishmash that ironically would never have been played together on a single station back in the '70s. The student DJs say they absolutely would not listen to this stuff of their own volition, but being forced to day after day. Bailey Wilson describes its insidious effect on her musical tastes.

Ms. WILSON: Some of it's like, oh, I know this song. And then you're singing it, and pretty soon you like most of the stuff on here.

Unidentified Man #3: 88.5 KEOM.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Coming Out")

Ms. DIANA ROSS (Singer/Songwriter): (Singing) I'm coming out.

GOODWYN: For individuals of a certain age who might have embarrassing pictures somewhere that involve four-inch heels, tight-fitting polyester and a certain John Travolta pose, KEOM is a missive from their youth.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Coming Out")

Ms. ROSS: (Singing) I'm coming out.

GOODWYN: Teenage DJs spinning the songs their parents listened to when they were teenagers.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Coming Out")

GOODWYN: I'm Wade Goodwyn rocking to the '70s in Dallas.

(Soundbite of song, "I'm Coming Out")

Ms. ROSS: (Singing) I'm coming out. I want the world to know, got to let it show. I'm coming out. I want the world to know.

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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