Monday, March 14, 2011

WDFH FM 90.3 Launches New Studio

WDFH volunteer program host Vinny Cohan
preparing for a show on a recent Saturday evening

WDFH-FM 90.3, community public radio for the lower Hudson valley, inaugurated its new studio with a special broadcast of live performances by musicians from our region. The broadcast took place on Saturday, March 12, starting at 8:00 p.m.before an enthusiastic, standing room only crowd.

WDFH’s long history has resembled a roller coaster. Marc Sophos, the station’s founder, spent about 20 years — starting in 1973, when he was a student at Dobbs Ferry High School — to secure the station’s broadcast license from the FCC. Since WDFH’s first broadcast in 1995, the station has built studios and then lost them twice, most recently in 2006. Its transmitter has been shuttled from location to location. The station was even forced off the air entirely for nearly a year in the late 1990s.

New WDFH Studio
But recent events have enabled WDFH to rise from the ashes. In January 2009, the station completed a 7½ year project to expand its FM signal, increasing the number of potential listeners to 400,000, forty times more than it could reach earlier. In 2010, a donation from a community minded supporter enabled the station to acquire space to build a new studio. The studio, completed in September, includes vastly upgraded equipment from the studios of WQXR, donated to WDFH in 2010 by The New York Times after the legendary classical music station was sold to WNYC.

This is the first time in the station’s entire history that it has had a viable signal and a studio at the same time. Mr. Sophos started training volunteers in the studio during the fall, and just recently, the first live broadcasts on WDFH since 2006 took place.

Licensed by the Federal Communications Commission as a noncommercial educational FM radio station, WDFH broadcasts on 90.3 MHz. Our newly expanded signal — the result of a 7½ year expansion project completed in early 2009 — can now reach about 400,000 potential listeners in the lower Hudson Valley. You can also listen online from anywhere in the world.

WDFH Signal Coverage Map

WDFH volunteer Dave Foster filing records

“This is a very exciting time for us,” said Vinny Cohan, a longtime WDFH volunteer who hosts a music program on Saturday evenings at 9:00. “We’ve spent the past few years laying the groundwork, and it’s thrilling that the pieces are finally coming together to create this new beginning.” Mr. Cohan and fellow program hosts Dave Foster (Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.) and John Dyer (Thursdays at 8:00 p.m.) share their deep knowledge and play music from WDFH’s library of more than 100,000 recordings. These programs are repeated at various times during the week. The station broadcasts a freeform mix of rock, folk, blues, and jazz, and plans to introduce new music hosts in the coming months.

Mr. Sophos said that in an age when musical entertainment has moved to computerized radio stations and online services, it’s refreshing to hear the occasional crackle of vinyl records and to realize that there’s a real human being choosing the music personally. “It’s a rarity these days,” he said. “Many radio stations today broadcast a song rotation chosen by a computer and played off a hard drive. That’s part of the reason that many people have turned to online music; they figure that if radio isn’t giving them music chosen thoughtfully, they might as well customize their own playlists. But something really important has been lost, and I think that a lot of people are starting to realize that. We’re a proud throwback to an earlier age, when radio meant records and CDs and a real person carefully choosing what music to play. We curate our presentation of music in the way that a museum curator creates an exhibit — with a human touch. Computers can’t do that.”

While the station is working to increase the number of volunteer music program hosts, it is also creating new public affairs programs. On January 19, it launched Village Green, a new weekly program about environmental sustainability hosted by Maxine Margo Rubin.

It has just started work on a program that will give voice to LGBT youth. More original programming is in the planning stages. Continuing public affairs programs include Recovery Talk, hosted by journalist Robyn Leary; the show explores recovery from addiction, trauma, illness, domestic violence, and more.

In Focus, a local news discussion program hosted by WDFH veterans Jane Botticelli and Mr. Cohan, features in-depth reporting by Gary Cahill, the publisher and editor of The Gazette. The show focuses on Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, and Croton. WDFH is now exploring possibilities for the expansion of the program to cover a wider range of communities.

The station also carries public affairs programs from independent producers and the Pacifica Radio Network, including the daily news programs Democracy Now and Free Speech Radio News.

The live inaugural broadcast on March 12 marked WDFH’s official celebration of its new beginning. Musical guests included the critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Jann Klose, who made his debut on WDFH. He has performed with or opened for Annie Haslam and Renaissance, Marty Stuart, Willy Porter, Pete Seeger, Melissa Ferrick, Marshall Crenshaw, Rosanne Cash, and Les Paul. Also performing will be Starnes&Shah, the duo of Zilpha Starnes and Dania Abu-Shaheen, joined by bassist Nick LaBate and drummer/percussionist Heinrich Kruse. Ms. Abu-Shaheen has performed several times on WDFH, first with her three-piece combo including Sarah Nurbhai on violin and Matt Noble on bass and later with her band The Antics.

“We’re delighted to have this chance to showcase musicians from our local area,” said Mr. Sophos. “We have some very good public radio stations with signals that can be heard in our area, but their programming focus is elsewhere. WDFH is based right here in the lower Hudson valley, our volunteer staff comes from here, and our programming is intended to serve our local interests, not those of the city.”

He added, “Visits from musicians were a regular part of our programming, but when we lost our studio in 2006, everything came to a stop. Now that our new studio is up and running, we’ll be working to regain our position as a leading forum for live performances and in-depth interviews.”

In addition to Ms. Abu-Shaheen, the roster of musical guests who have appeared at WDFH includes the actor and folksinger Dominic Chianese, known for his roles in The Godfather Part II and on HBO’s The Sopranos; jazz musicians Theo Bleckmann and Ben Monder; Rachelle Garniez; David Bennett Cohen of Country Joe and the Fish; Susan Kane, Dave Goldman, and others from Tribes Hill; the Tony Rivera Band; Chicago bluesman Fruteland Jackson; The Almost Original Synthetic Swampgrass Jug-Band; Josh Holmes; Elisa Peimer; The Shermans; Real Live Girl; Alex Sweeton; Bethany Yarrow; Don Brewer; Melanie; synthesizer gurus Richard Lainhart and Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater and the supergroup Liquid Tension Experiment; and others.

WDFH, which is nonprofit, noncommercial, and powered by volunteers, is supported by tax-deductible contributions from the public and local businesses. It is working to develop other funding sources as well, and once it reaches $100,000 in local funding, it plans to apply for grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The live broadcast on March 12 was attended by a standing room only audience of WDFH’s friends and supporters.

About WDFH

WDFH is the lower Hudson valley’s only community public radio station. The station’s parent organization is Hudson Valley Community Radio, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. WDFH is an affiliate of the Pacifica Radio Network and is the lower Hudson valley’s on-air source for Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News. The station can be heard at 90.3 FM in central and northern Westchester and eastern Rockland. It can also be heard anywhere online at A separate audio stream is optimized for iPhones and other mobile devices.

Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to WDFH at 21 Brookside Lane, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. 10522. Contributions can also be made online through:

WDFH is also seeking volunteers to create programming and work behind the scenes. Anyone interested in joining the staff should visit .

About the musicians who performed live at the event and on the air on March 12:

Jann Klose

Jann's critically-acclaimed album, "Reverie," and his new music video, "Doing Time," are his current releases, and continue to build attention with AOL/Spinner just featuring the video on their home page. The Washington Post writes, "Klose wins over the listener with his soaring voice, which may well be a staple of chamber pop for a long time to come." The Advance Newspaper Wire Services praises, "The first thing that's totally unmistakable about Jann Klose is that voice which is just light years beyond that of the typical singer/songwriter — a sound that is classy, distinctive and often irresistible." Jann's music has also been heard on the Grammy-nominated album, "Healthy Food for Thought" and on MTV's CRIBS. Over the past seven years, he has performed 500 shows and has opened for and performed with an array of artists, including Annie Haslam and Renaissance, Marty Stuart, Willy Porter, Pete Seeger, Melissa Ferrick, Marshall Crenshaw, Rosanne Cash, and Les Paul.

Starnes and Shah

Starnes & Shah is a vocal duo comprised of Zilpha Starnes (keyboards and vocals) and Dania Abu-Shaheen (guitar and vocals). The group was formed in Astoria, New York, in 2005. Dania (Shah) writes the music and Zilpha (Starnes) sings the harmony. The songs reflect Dania's interest in rock and roll, poetry, and storytelling. Zilpha's harmonies add elements of exchange and sometimes tension to make Starnes & Shah what it is: an unlikely pairing of a formally trained choir girl from Dallas and a self taught Lebanese rabble rouser.

Described as psychedelic folk, the music ranges from pared down acoustic ditties to rock anthems complete with choral arrangements and layered guitar effects. As a live act, Starnes & Shah believe that it only gets better with time and experience. They have played shows in Northeastern cities including Burlington, Portland, Boston, Philadelphia, and their current home city, New York. Starnes & Shah released an acoustic EP titled "Here Again on the Island" (2006) and two full length albums: "Summer in the Woodshed" (2007) and "Pink White Blue Green" (2009), featuring full band arrangements. Starnes & Shah continue to play regular shows in New England and New York. Dania has performed several times on WDFH.

Nick LaBate

Coming from a musical family which includes operatic vocalists, classical instrumentalists, and composers, it seemed as though music was in Nick LaBate's blood. While he now occupies the low end of the sonic landscape, Nick got his start in music on the saxophone. Classic sounds captured his ear from an early age, and that has carried through to the present. College brought on a new way of life and new musical directions, and soon the bass came calling. Nick soon got involved with fellow student musicians as well as experienced pros, and was gigging steadily within a couple of years of picking up the bass. After graduation came a succession of original projects in the New York City area that ran the gamut.

In styles ranging from post-punk (Programmed Response) to power pop (From the desk of Sally) to alt rock (The Jeff Gaynor Band) and Americana (ShoeMania), the gig and recording credits started to mount. And with that experience, a style started to emerge that drew from the blues, the Beatles, classic soul of the 60's, and rock from the 70's. Nick began playing with Starnes&Shah in January of 2010.

Heinrich Kruse

Heinrich Kruse is a drummer/percussionist from Cape Town, South Africa. He was appointed principal percussionist of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (1999-2001). During this time he was a member of various jazz ensembles and drummer for the U.C.T. College of Music Big Band. He worked in the Caribbean and Mediterranean on cruise ships and performed in Turkey and Tunisia with the Andrew Young Band.

He became first call drummer/percussionist for various musical theatre productions in South Africa, including Annie, Evita, Cats, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, We Will Rock You, Hair, High School Musical, and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

In 2006, he moved to London where he played on Chicago The Musical in London's West-End and on the U.K. touring production of the same show. He was the drummer for the London-based folk/Americana band Laetoli Steps and Scottish indie/rock band Oswald. Heinrich currently resides in New York City and joined Starnes&Shah in February 2011.

WDFH is the only community public radio station in the lower Hudson River Valley. Community radio stations are noncommercial stations that are owned by independent, non-institutional not-for-profit organizations. There are only about a few hundred community stations in the United States out of, what, about 15,000 radio stations altogether? Most of the rest of the country's noncommercial stations are licensed to schools, colleges, universities, and other institutional organizations — so community radio is a rare breed in several ways:

WDFH is powered by volunteers from the community — your friends and neighbors, not a staff of "full-time professionals" who may or may not have any real commitment to the communities the station serves. Get info on joining the staff as a community volunteer or student intern).

WDFH is local and focused so they can be much more responsive to the needs and interests of our communities.

WDFH is noncommercial and not beholden to the corporate drive toward the lowest common denominator (info on making your pledge to support WDFH).

WDFH's music programming includes a freeform mix of progressive and alternative rock, jazz, blues, and folk. We regularly feature in-studio musical guests. We also broadcast a significant schedule of news and public affairs programming (schedule).

Community stations are institutions in their communities, and they are working to build WDFH so that it can be worthy of that description.

WDFH is a member of the Pacifica Radio Network, the Grassroots Radio Coalition, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and  the New York State Broadcasters Association.

   Listen Now 

Support WDFH-FM 90.3 Become a member of WDFH today and help support your local community radio station — the only one of its kind in the lower Hudson valley.

Visit the WDFH pledge page for donation options, including automatic monthly subscriptions. Or make your one-time donation here by credit card or Paypal. For donations of $100 or more, please contact us directly at 914-674-0900 ext. 60 or send a check made out to WDFH or Hudson Valley Community Radio, Inc. to:

WDFH-FM 90.3
21 Brookside Lane
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
Attn: Marc Sophos, Executive Director

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