Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Other Side with WHFR's Operations Manager Lara Hrycaj

Lara Hrycaj, the Operations Manager of WHFR at Henry Ford Community College (HFCC) in Dearborn, Michigan, first got her start in radio as a student in the Mass Communications Program at HFCC in 1992. After graduating with an Associate of Arts in the winter of 1994, Lara’s passion for education led her to the University of Central Florida for a B.A. in Radio and Television before landing at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she is currently working on her dissertation (a study of popular music in film, focusing on the music used in Wes Anderson films) to earn a PhD in the Media Arts and Studies program. In addition to finishing her PhD, Lara currently works at WHFR, hosts a radio show, and serves as an adjunct faculty member at the community college.

Lara notes that WHFR could not function without their student and alumni volunteer staff. Since WHFR is almost completely volunteer run, they have a wide variety of shows to reflect the wide variety of people from all walks of life, backgrounds, ages, and experiences that are involved with the station. At any given time, WHFR may have anywhere from 50 to 70 volunteers helping out. The requirement to become part of WHFR is to take the WHFR Staff Training course that is offered by Henry Ford Community College, either for college credit or for non-credit. Anyone who lives in metro Detroit, is interested in radio, and has a love of music that they want to share with the masses, has the opportunity to become a part of WHFR.

Lara explains that like everyone else on staff at WHFR, she has always had a passion for music. Citing her all-time favorite band as Duran Duran, Lara’s experience with alternative music in high school led her to discover My Bloody Valentine and Unrest. Although Unrest broke up in the mid-90’s, she continued to follow Mark Robinson’s related projects. On Christmas Eve of 1998, Lara fused her love of Mark Robinson with the film The Graduate and created “The Mrs. Robinson Show” on WHFR. Although Mrs. Robinson is still Lara’s on-air name, “The Mrs. Robinson Show” has evolved into the “One Plus One” show that Lara currently hosts to expose listeners to The Hounds Below, the Suburban Sprawl Records’ bands, and the other Detroit artists that are continuously blasting through her iPod.

We were able to catch Lara in between radio shows to find out what it’s like to be on The Other Side:

Green Light Go: WHFR first began as a radio station club in 1962 and has come quite a long way since then. What do you consider to be some of WHFR’s greatest accomplishments since you’ve been the Operations Manager?

Lara Hrycaj: We have several things to be proud of at WHFR. First, we provide an outlet for DJs and listeners to hear music that cannot be found on the Detroit radio dial, focusing on local and independent artists.

We have also been involved in several different [local] events that celebrate our mission, such as the Blues Benefit that we host every year to create awareness for local Blues musicians. We have also released the Uncut Detroit CDs, which feature a number of local artists, such as Alberta Adams, Thornetta Davis, Howard Glazer, RJ’s Rhythm Rockers, Mudpuppy, and Johnnie Bassett. We also started the Mitten [State] Transmission project, which focuses on local noise, electronic, space rock, and electro-acoustic music. M[S]T is a 4 CD compilation that comes with a DVD featuring our last Ear Candy Festival concert, held at Stormy Records in Dearborn, MI.

Last February, we had the honor of being selected as the host station for the 13th Annual Homelessness Marathon that took place in Detroit. This program, founded by Jeremy Alderson, gives a voice to the homeless and allows them to share their stories. The marathon was broadcasted on over 100 radio stations in the United States and Canada, to make people aware of homelessness around the world.

Last spring, we hosted our 2nd Annual Holistic Fair: The Festival of Enlightenment, featuring a variety of different vendors, psychic readers, and body workers. The Holistic Fair is organized by Mike Holloway, the host of the monthly talk show “Metaphysically Speaking.” We have also co-hosted a few lectures featuring UFO experts Stanton Friedman and Peter Robins with Michigan MUFON, in association with our monthly talk show, “We Are Not Alone” hosted by David Twichell.

Recently, on October 9, 2010, we had our 3rd Annual WHFR Record Show. The Record Show, which was created by Mike D, the longtime WHFR staff member and host of the “Skrockin’ Yr Butow” radio show, invited vendors from all over the Midwest to sell records and celebrate music.

GLG: Since Detroit is such a major hub for local and national music, how involved is WHFR in the Detroit music scene?

LH: We have always been proud to play local music. In fact, it is part of our mission to play new releases, independent labels, and local artists. While all of our DJs are encouraged to play local artists on their shows, there have always been a few shows on WHFR specifically dedicated to local music.

The most current local show is “Motor” which is on every Thursday from 4-6pm. This show features the “Motor Live Drive @ Five” segment which invites a different local artist each week to perform live on WHFR. The “Motor Live Drive” is available as a podcast for people who cannot listen every Thursday. Some recent local artists who have performed on “Motor” include October Babies, The David Gerald Band, The White Ravens, The Chris Canas Revolution, and The Ruiners.

In addition to “Motor” listeners can hear local artists on many of our blues, jazz, folk, hip-hop, and indie rock shows. To encourage all of our DJs to play local music, we keep our permanent local music library in our main on-air studio, Studio A, so DJs have easy access to local music from all musical genres.

GLG: How do you determine what gets played on the radio? Do the DJs get free reign of the airwaves, or are they expected to integrate specific new artists or songs into their shows?

LH: While several radio stations have turned to automation systems, WHFR is unique in that our DJs are able to choose all of the music they play on their radios shows, as long as the music fits into the show’s format and fits our mission to play new, independent, and local music on the Detroit radio dial. Our Head Music Director and our Area Music Directors give DJs suggestions about new releases they should check out. Although we do have a few specialty formats that feature older genres, like our Big Band and Broadway show and some of our Blues and Jazz shows, the majority of our music libraries include only music from the last three years to keep our shows fresh.

As for our format, WHFR is considered an “Alternative Variety” or “block variety” station, meaning we play a wide variety of music, even though we are technically not a “free-form” radio station. So, we have blocks of different shows featuring specific formats and musical genres. One day, you might start off by hearing Classical, then Asian and Anime music, then Rockabilly, then Metal, and then Hip-Hop…or you might hear Americana, then Blues, World, Local music, Jazz, and Techno, and these are just examples of our Monday and Thursday schedules.

GLG: WHFR often asks musicians to come in for on-air, studio performances during radio shows. How are these artists chosen?

LH: There are a variety of reasons why specific artists are chosen to come on the air either to perform or do interviews; it is usually based scheduling, if we have time, and whether the radio show is an appropriate fit for the performers and their schedule. For a show like “Motor” artists are scheduled months in advance, due to the popularity of the show. For a show like “Highway 61”, artists will stop by to talk on the air or drop off a new CD. Typically, the musicians or their managers will contact us to get on the air, but other times, we’ll contact musicians ourselves.

GLG: If an up-and-coming or touring artist wanted to schedule an interview with a DJ, how would they go about doing so?

LH: The best way to schedule an interview is to email us at In the email, it is helpful for a band to note a few different times they are available, which show they’d like to play on (or at least what type of music they play), and any other info we’d need to know. We can do both in-studio interviews and telephone interviews. Sometimes, we have to pre-record interviews, if the DJ’s and the band’s schedules do not align. We also accept CDs and vinyl records for airplay, so artists can send those to:

Attn: Head Music Director
5101 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128

Digital files (MP3s) can be sent to:

GLG: What are WHFR’s future plans for the next year or two?

LH: This December is our 25th birthday, so we are in the process of planning a variety of on air and off air events. In the spring, we will be hosting Radiothon 2011, our annual week long pledge drive. Typically, we have a variety of special guests, pledge incentives, and benefit concerts during the Radiothon. In addition to our Radiothon, we have other fundraising events planned in 2011: The 3rd Annual Holistic Fair: The Festival of Enlightenment will be in March and our 4th Annual WHFR Record Show will be in the fall of 2011. I’m sure there will be a variety of other special events, benefit concerts, and special theme shows in the upcoming year, we are always planning something new, unique and fun.

In terms of the station, we are hoping to expand the different possibilities to listen to WHFR besides just on the radio at 89.3FM or to stream WHFR via our website. We are hoping there will be a WHFR application developed for smart phones, like the iPhone and Droid and for handheld devices, like the iPad. We are currently part of the Public Radio Tuner App, but we would like to have something just for WHFR.

We are constantly updating our website and hope to expand the podcasts we have available to listeners. We currently have all of our locally produced talk shows and the “Motor Live Drive @ Five” available as a podcast. We hope to add video elements to our podcasts and we’re constantly trying to incorporate the new media elements that will complement WHFR’s broadcast and overall mission.

GLG: What have you been listening to lately?

LH: There is so much good music being released all of the time, but it seems like as of late, there is an abundance of exciting music. I’ve really been enjoying the retro sounding all-girl groups, like The Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls, Frankie Rose and the Outs, Warpaint, and The Like. The Little Girls and Crystal Stilts have been on constant rotation in my CD player and iPod as well. I am loving almost everything released on the NYC record labels Captured Tracks and Woodsist. The return of The Vaselines have made my ears very happy too. The Scott Pilgrim vs. The World soundtrack has been a treat of new and old songs, particularly the Beck penned songs for Sex Bob-Omb.


  1. Anonymous11:48 PM

    A great article that could have been perfect were it not for all of the typos! Other than that, great article! But please watch the typos next time, it is very hard to read when there are so many typing errors.

  2. Anonymous3:12 AM

    Great article I noted nothing was sad about local artist music in the Electronic arena, is that played and when, but also I loved that there is a station that recognized local artist.

  3. Anonymous12:03 PM

    Great article! As a longtime fan of WHFR, I can say it is DEFINITELY nice to see them get some recognition. And to answer the previous question about local electronic artists, YES! There is a show on Thursday night from 9-Midnight that has local DJ's spinning LIVE 3-hr sets. It's usually pretty good stuff!

  4. Anonymous2:53 PM

    I've been listening to WHFR for years-fantastic station! Thanks for posting this........ROCK ON!!!!

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