Chris is an undergrad who wears bowties and sweaters and threatens to leave a trail of energy on the floor behind him.
I work two days a week behind a desk at CIUT and when I hear the sound of someone scurrying, the odds are high it’s him. He calls the office for last minute studio bookings to record things and is typically found tweaking the buttons of a soundboard or pounding things on a computer keyboard with his glasses halfway down his nose.
-Chicago violin genius Andrew Bird.
-New Pornographer, and accomplished solo artist, AC Newman.
-Premier alt country producer, and half of ‘She and Him’, Matt Ward.
-Husband and wife indie rockers Mates of State.
-Omaha dance party-ers The Faint.
-Earthy roots-rockers from Oregon Blitzen Trapper.
-The wildly entertaining Eagles of Death Metal, and Rich Aucoin.
He is a one-man media force and when he asks me to come on-air with him again for CIUT’s spring membership drive, I say yes for reasons going beyond the chocolate cake he promises to provide.
For the membership drive, he has to get 25 people to call in and donate $25 or more to his show to keep it on air, and if he doesn’t, he risks losing his show.
When I come by for the second half of his show at 1:00pm on Friday, his arms are close to his sides and his head is bent down over the audio dials. The cake is half finished in its box behind him with plastic spoons sticking out of it.
“This isn’t going as well as I’d hoped.”
All week, Chris has been helping other shows pitch, and during the second half the host of Beaver Lodge and a Take 5 member are sitting with me in the recording studio with headphones on and microphones in our faces.
We go over the reasons to donate, we list out the number to call, we discuss the station’s future move.
“The money you donate clearly goes to basic day to day functions. I mean, we’re broadcasting from an attic here. The bathroom has a huge hole in the roof…now, I’m used to a hole in the roof because there’s one just like it in my bathroom at home so I’m totally cool with looking up into the great beyond when I’m on the toilet, but that can seem weird for others…”
In July the building on 91 Saint George is getting demolished and the Rotman School of Management is taking over the space. Moving to Hart House is going to cost money, just to make the space adequate for sound recording and production. The fundraising this year feels a bit intense.
The station itself maybe isn’t as recognized on campus as it should be.
During the summer, spring and warmer days of fall, 89.5 has live concerts outside it’s building, where bands who are getting recorded for Take 5 (the morning show) play in public while doing this. The station offers Bridge to Broadcasting, where students (and anyone who is interested) can come in and get training on everything from news research, to working the sound board, to speaking on-air and essentially help put a news show on the air.
Chris’s show is one part of a unique station.
But it’s a recession and it’s not always easy to convince listeners to “give over the phone.”
In the last 10 minutes of the show, he asks one more time:
“How many more pledges do we need?”
The phone rings a couple more times.
When the show is over and the clock hits two, there’s a dip in the room’s energy level and Chris bites his lip.
“You know I’m a volunteer. I put like 15 hours a week into this thing. And I’m a student. There are other things that I should probably be doing…but I don’t.” The uneaten remains of the cake sit quietly in the corner
“They won’t take me off the air for this though, I mean, yeah, they couldn’t…”
When I leave Chris is still in the studio.
A day later, I have a message in my inbox from Chris. It’s an e-mail a listener sent him:
Hi Chris,I am listening to your show from London UK […] and been listening to CIUT a lot these days. Your show comes across a lot of fun; I really dig the choir in the background
shouting the phone numbers. I have been listening for a while, and that hour
with the audience was my favorite!