Celebrating WMNR’s Thirty Years of Classical and Fine Arts Music
WMNR’s Early Beginnings
WMNR began in 1971 when John and Carol Babina founded the station. That year the Monroe (CT) Board of Education agreed to hold the Federal Communications Commission issued license and to provide housing for the station at
. It became a community project and all the equipment was paid for with donations from local individuals and businesses. In early 1974 regular broadcasts were begun with a volunteer staff made up of local students and adults. With 300 watts, the station covered Monroe and the surrounding towns with a mixed format of rock, Big Band, classical, talk shows, children’s programming, town meetings, sports events and church services.
In 1980 a group from
led by Stewart Nazzaro offered to assist with the programming, staff and volunteers. A recent communications college graduate, he thought that WMNR could fulfill a need for public radio in
county. Stewart suggested that the station broadcast classical, jazz and NPR news and increase power to 9,000 watts and eventually his non-profit Monroe Public Radio, Inc. begins operating WMNR. In early 1982 it becomes an NPR affiliate and secured a one-time federal grant for new broadcast equipment to increase power. Before any of this could be realized Monroe Public Radio, Inc. ran out of funds and operation of the station was again handled by its founders John and Carol Babina.
WMNR’s History From 1982
In mid-1982 WMNR began broadcasting classical and fine arts music using an all-volunteer staff and, at that time, operating with just one transmitter: WMNR at 88.1 FM in
It was heard in monophonic sound over low power which covered only northern
county and the most southern portion of Litchfield country.
Broadcasting from 6:00 a.m. until midnight, fourty-four broadcasters played LP and 78 rpm records. Those broadcasters who have been at WMNR for all 30 years include Kurt Anderson, Bea Asken, Carol Babina, John Babina, Ronald Dudak, Rosalind Friedman, Richard Hageman, Jennifer O’Grady, Wendell Rector and James Wright. Some other broadcasters from 1982 that are no longer with us include Bill Conners, Delphine Marcus and Bernard Morse.
In the fall of 1982 Kurt Anderson became General Manager and we began broadcasting NPR news in the morning and evening, while continuing to broadcast classical music during the day and night. In 1982 there was no other source for NPR news in
. In 1983 we added some additional broadcasters including two who are with us on our 30th anniversary, Bill Battista and Doug Fox. In 1984 WMNR began to broadcast in stereo and added two programs: Adventures in Good Music with Karl Haas and live broadcasts from Tanglewood of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We also stopped carrying NPR news programming. Among those broadcasters who joined us in 1984 are Mike Shakinovsky and John Carle, both of whom are still with us today. In 1984 WMNR went from a lower power 600 watt station to a 9,000 watt high power station and Jane Stadler joined our administrative staff.
1987 was a very busy year for the station. After two years of fundraising and planning WMNR built a new 300-foot tower for our 88.1 FM signal in
As a result listenership and financial support from members grew by 50% due to increased geographical coverage from the new, higher tower. Also that year, broadcaster David Citronberg joined the station and he continues to be heard today. In 1987 WMNR began an eight-year tradition of annual concerts in
with Karl Haas from Adventures in Good Music. Also in 1987, WMNR continued the expansion of its programming through the full-time operation of WRXC,
at 90.1 FM.
In 1988 we gained two new broadcasters who are with us today: Garrett Stack on Saturdays with popular music of the past and Mario Mesi. This year we also broadcast our first New Years Day from Vienna broadcast, a tradition that continues on WMNR.
In 1989 three more broadcasters joined WMNR: Diana Blase, Anne Cushman Schwaikert and Joanne Moryl, all who continue on with the station. In 1991 WMNR added broadcaster Susan Kennedy with her Big Band Hall of Fame on Saturday nights. Also that year our music was heard full-time on WGSK in
at 90.1 FM.
In 1993 we added an additional high power station with WGRS in
at 91.5 FM. In that year we became a Corporation for Public Broadcasting qualified station and began to receive yearly grants in support of our classical and fine arts broadcasting. In 1995 we added two low power translators, W220AC in
at 91.9 FM and W252AS West Haven, CT at 98.3 FM.
In 1997 WMNR changed the way that we broadcast. Since 1984 there had always been someone at the station during broadcasts, but in 1997 we began operating 24 hours a day using a satellite-delivered service during the overnight hours. It was in 1997 that John Zech was first heard on WMNR. John broadcasts from
. In the same year Barbara Yarborough joined the station and continues to this day broadcasting Diana Blase’s Wednesday night program and the weekly movie music quiz.
In 1998 a number of new low power signals were added that increased our coverage. These were W218AV Warren, CT at 91.5 FM, W220CF Shelton, CT at 91.9 FM, W233AG New London, CT at 94.5 FM and W233AJ Old Saybrook, CT at 94.5 FM.
In 1999 Robert Craig joined the station as a Control Board Operator and assists the station with production work to this day. In 2000 we added three new broadcasters, David Aldrich Jeane Eddy and Herb Kurz. Luecella Tondreau joined us as a Control Board operator and everybody continues with WMNR into our 30th anniversary year. We also added two low power signals, W233AI Sag Harbor, NY at 94.5 FM and W264AJ Southampton, NY at 100.7 FM.
In 2001 a new lower signal was added, W205BM,
then at 88.9 FM and now as W209CJ at 89.7 FM. Also added was W220CE Southington, CT at 91.9 FM.
In 2002 broadcaster Will Duchon joined the station and we added a signal in the greater
area with W220CH West Hartford, CT at 91.9 FM.
2003 was a year of big change for the station. Thanks to over $200,000 in contributions from our listeners we were able to move into new studios and offices. We had been in the same offices since 1982 and the new 2,800 square foot space gave us our first workspace with windows! In that year broadcaster Gary Gerard joined WMNR and Rose Ryan joined our membership department. We also added a low power signal W287AZ Southport, CT at 105.3 FM.
In 2005 Jay Harris debuted on WMNR with his program One Great Song. 2006 saw Parker Prout joining as a broadcaster. In 2007 we celebrated our 25th Anniversary with an open house and a concert and added two low power signals, W262AS Bridgehampton, NY at 100.3 FM and W289AX Easthampton, NY at 105.7 FM. This year saw the end of our broadcasts of Adventures in Good Music with Karl Haas after twenty-one years. We would have continued with the program but it was no longer available. We then began airing Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin.
2009 saw WMNR's licenses transferred from the Monroe Board of Education to the Town of Monroe. This was only natural since we had outgrown our space at the high school and moved into rented office space 6 years earlier. This was also a year in which we invited four new broadcasters tojoin us: John Ryden, Peter Shimkin, Fred Velardi and Dan Lenore. In 2010 our Saturday night schedule added broadcaster H. William Stine. 2011 brought us two new broadcasters, Darrow Loucks and Anthony Brooks.
WMNR’s 30th Anniversary
As we begin 2012 and celebrate our 30th anniversary as a classical and fine arts music station we have much for which to be grateful. First and foremost our volunteer broadcasters who bring the music to life and allow us to operate a reliable and stable non-profit radio station. Second are our supporters who have given us the necessary funds to fulfill our musical mission. Over our thirty years we have had 26,336 donors who have given a total of 63,489 gifts to the station.
This wonderful roster of supporters is a significant change from our humble beginnings in 1982 when WMNR had only 431 members. We are thrilled, however, that despite the passage of time, 30 years later we still have 13% of those original members supporting the station.
While we have so much to look back, on we keep our eyes on the future and we work hard to continue the musical excellence on WMNR.