Section: Arts

Live from Gambier, it’s Ross Feller!

Up until two weeks ago, WKCO 91.9, Kenyon’s radio station, had been running their overnight playlist on a perpetual loop. Typically, the radio station is home to the dozens of radio programs hosted by students—from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., anybody could tune in to Kenyon students introducing their curated songs, discussing politics, reviewing films or even performing their own radio plays. The overnight playlist is only used during times that a student isn’t on the air. Recently, that has meant 24/7.

Now that nearly every student is home for the remaining academic semester, all radio programs on WKCO have been temporarily put on hold, except for one: “Live From Gambier.” Every Thursday at 10 p.m., a calm voice breaks the repetitive shuffle of the overnight Spotify playlist, announcing, “Good morning, good afternoon and good night to all Kenyon students stretched across the globe, and welcome to ‘Live from Gambier.’” 

Two weeks ago, Assistant Professor of Music Ross Feller sent an email to the student body announcing the premiere of his new show. He mentioned that the show will be an “antidote” to “these unfortunate times.” He wrote that the show will feature, among other things, uplifting music, healing sounds, recordings of Gambier’s local birds, bells and “the sound of one hand clapping.”

The show came about from Feller’s wish to comfort students who might be missing Kenyon’s campus. “I thought, ‘what else could I do for the students?’ And then I thought, if I did a radio show, I could create this virtual sense of place through sounds and stories and news from Gambier… Just things the students would instantly connect with, even though they’re spread out over the globe,” he said over a Zoom interview.

Last week, for example, Feller kicked off his show by giving the current weather forecast of Gambier (“It’s mostly cloudy here”) followed by a piece of news: “Bam Bam the cat is doing well, I just saw him hanging out by the Village Inn,” he said. “I haven’t seen Moxie recently, but I’m sure he’s with Campus Safety.” Feller hopes that each student can get a slice of Gambier every week, wherever they may be, through old-school radio.

Feller comes equipped: Every week he enters the studio armed with sanitary wipes and a can of disinfectant spray. “Truth be told,” he admitted, “I was a little apprehensive about going into the studio at first… who knows what you could be breathing in.” He says that the studio looks relatively the same, except for the absence of students.

After his brief news report, Feller then transitioned to a more serious, somber tone: He dedicated the show to the numerous musicians who had passed away due to COVID-19, including the country folk singer-songwriter John Prine, one of Feller’s favorites. He played Prime’s song, “Hello in There,” followed by “Lean On Me,” as performed by Bill Withers (another recent death, though not of coronavirus).

At a time when nobody can travel, Feller also took his audience on a music tour, specifically, a “music healing tour” from artists all over the globe. From the Ohms of Tibetian monks to the drone-based music of South India, Feller played a relaxing mix of music for students to feel a sense of serenity during hectic times.

Feller has been successful so far; he estimates 50 or 60 people listen in every week, and several students have written to him, thanking him for the show. “Live from Gambier is single-handedly getting me through the quarantine,” one student wrote.

In the interview, he read this email with a smile. “I probably should admit, however,” he said, “that when I did my old radio show, it wasn’t clear if anyone was listening.”

Near the middle of his show, as 50 members of the Kenyon community tuned in, Feller played Dianne Warwick’s cover of “What the World Needs Now is Love.” Ross Feller gives the Kenyon community what they need on Thursday nights.

You can tune in to “Live From Gambier” on Thursdays at 10 p.m. EST on WKCO.org/fm.

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