Central State’s WCSU-FM celebrates 50 years

Fundraising concert scheduled Saturday at Gilly’s.

WCSU-FM (88.9), Central State University’s radio station and the oldest station at a historically black college/university, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next Saturday with a fundraising concert at Gilly’s.

Specializing in jazz and drawing admirers as far away as Brazil, WCSU-FM balances musical programming with multicultural issues.

Listeners can enjoy the best of jazz, gospel and blues and also quality public affairs options. “Miami Valley Journal,” “The Tavis Smiley Show,” “Smiley and West” (with Cornel West) and National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More” with Michel Martin are topical pluses intended to highlight various perspectives within the black community. As next weekend’s celebration approaches, organizers are mindful of the station’s impact over the past 50 years.

“This is about legacy,” said general manager and 1969 CSU alum Ed Clay, who joined the station as an undergrad long before a communications department was implemented. “We are very proud to be the first owned and operated HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) radio station. It just shows that those before us had the foresight to understand that media was going to be an important part of the culture. It means so much that they invested in making sure there would be a radio station on our campus that afforded students and others the opportunity to participate. Last year, students put in over 1,500 hours at the station in terms of learning and gaining experiences in broadcasting and media. The fact that we are still continuing to train students and offer the community quality programming indicates that we are still vibrant and vital.”

A Dayton native, Clay’s extensive work in communications includes roles as station manager for WOSU-TV in Columbus and production manager as well as technical director for “The Phil Donahue Show” for WDTN-TV (Channel 2).

WCSU is located inside the Cosby Mass Communication Center and originally launched as WJSC-FM.

Looking ahead to WCSU’s future, Clay feels there is room for growth. He would particularly like to see the station expand its networking capabilities.

“It would be nice to have a quasi HBCU network,” he said. “A lot of our radio stations are involved with National Public Radio and are in tune with what’s happening on a local level, but it would be good to have some sort of network of HBCU radio stations. It would be great to have an exchange of ideas and share from city to city what’s going on throughout HBCU campuses and communities around the country.”

The Gilly’s concert will feature jazz pianist Bob Baldwin and jazz/R&B songstress Toni Redd. Baldwin has received numerous SESAC awards and is also the recipient of the Sony Innovators Award. Redd, a familiar presence on the jazz festival circuit, has performed with such legends as The Temptations, the Stylistics and Angela Bofill. Clay, an ardent jazz devotee, is excited to have both artists represent a genre CSU takes great pride in.

“We looked to see what niche we could fill in the community and jazz became our outlet,” he said. “Most HBCU radio stations have a jazz format. We realize we must be the voice for jazz in our communities when we can. Since we are known for our jazz programming we wanted to create a seamless event. We have access to some of the better jazz artists in the country. You have WCSU’s legacy as the first HBCU radio station and you have Gilly’s as one of the top jazz venues in the country. We are bringing in top jazz artists to help support what we’re trying to do in a way that will simply allow us to raise funds. We receive grants but we must also fundraise. Bob and Toni are very excited to come to Dayton and support us.”

Clay, who came out of retirement in 2010 to spearhead WCSU, recognizes the station’s great gains and purpose. He is fully aware of the station’s significance now and for generations to come.

“This is an important milestone,” he said. “In some ways we are still leading the charge. We don’t want to get behind the wagon – we want to be out in front. This is part of what the university is about. And as a part of the university we want to make sure we’re carrying our weight. There is a void in terms of African-American voices in television and radio. It’s important to prepare our students and others to go out and make sure our voices are heard in a representative way.”

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