Since its début in 1978, UAlbany’s radio station, WCDB (90.9 FM) – and its AM predecessor, WSUA – have afforded students opportunities for fun and creativity while preparing them for the business world. Here, three alumni reflect on their days in college radio and offer some insights into how the experience allowed them to segue into fascinating careers both within and outside the music industry.
“I had always loved music, even as a young kid,” Holly Schomann says. “My older brother gave me his old portable record player and some of his old 45s for my birthday one year. Mind you, none of these 45s, which included ‘Smoking in the Boy’s Room’ by Brownsville Station and ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ by Jim Croce, were appropriate for a 6-year-old girl.”
In high school, she worked at a veterinarian’s office and planned to major in biology at college to prepare for veterinary school. Schomann reconsidered when “I realized that college would expose me to a focus or career that I hadn’t yet contemplated. Working at WCDB changed my mind. That was my ‘Aha’ moment.”
An “epiphany” regarding her career path occurred when Schomann recognized “that I could work in radio and always be around music. In that sense, WCDB is the reason why I worked in the music industry,” observes Schomann, who began her career at Viacom after earning a bachelor’s in psychology. She went on to hold executive positions in talent, music, and label relations at MTV, Warner Bros., SiriusXm, and Vevo.
At WCDB, Schomann was an overnight DJ. Two hours a week, “I played a lot of industrial bands, like Front 242, NIN, and Cabaret Voltaire, but also more straightforward indie rock, like the Pixies, Jane’s Addiction, Buffalo Tom, REM, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. I really loved discovering new music and working to help make the station run. I spent all my time there; I would go in between classes and eat lunch there, just to spend time with friends and listen to music. I was a part of WCDB all four of my years at UAlbany.”
Schomann recalls “trying to stay awake between my shift’s end and classes. There was a two- or three-hour gap, which wasn’t really enough time to sleep, but long enough to go back to the dorm, shower, and change. After I got ready, I would leave my door open so, in case I fell asleep, one of my hallmates would see me and wake me up to get to class.”
Later, as program director, Schomann was responsible for “creating the on-air schedule, covering any shifts DJs couldn’t make, clearing promos, and making sure that the DJs got the keys to go in and out of the Campus Center.” This experience laid the basis for most of my career, which focused on music programming. It prepared me for working in the real world and helped me get a job at the local commercial station, WPYX (PYX 106), my senior year,” notes Schomann, now senior vice president and delivery manager for Citi’s Chief Data Office in New York City.
The program-director’s position also built Schomann’s résumé – and prepared her well for a career spent “working with people to deliver an end goal.” She explains: “Whether it was organizing a schedule of DJs at WCDB; working with record labels and bands to create unique brand-enhancing content on MTV, SiriusXm, or Vevo; or organizing a development team to produce an application at Citi, the ability to problem solve and produce a deliverable has been consistent.”
“Throughout my 15 or so years in the music industry,” she adds, “I had the chance to work with many of my early idols, including U2; REM; Perry Farrell from Jane’s Addiction; Beastie Boys; Blur; Chris Cornell from Soundgarden; and Nick Cave, just to name a few.”
Schomann has many fond memories of WCDB. They include the “very cool day” that “the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (Michael Franti) performed in our main studio and improvised, using a garbage can or a bucket as a drum.”
She’s also kept a tangible souvenir of her college-radio years: “I still have my WCDB mug!”