WUMB: Folk radio for the masses

Michael Hogan

Buried deep in the bowels of the Healey Library on the lower level through a non descript set of double doors you will find WUMB, UMass Boston’s very own folk radio station. That is right, just like most other colleges, we’ve got our own radio station. WUMB 91.9 FM is doing something that no one else in the country is doing, playing exclusively folk music. When most of us think of folk music we think of tie dyed hippies dancing among wildflowers and strumming acoustic guitars. Folk music, as WUMB sees it, is much more than that, it includes everything from Cajun to zydeko to Celtic, to what many would call modern pop.

Back in 1968 seven UMB students, including the stations current general manager Pat Montieth, grew tired of playing cards in the cafeteria and decided to do something a little different. They decided to start their own radio station and 14 years later WUMB was born. What came out of that venture is a radio station that offers a little something for everyone. Listeners from all 50 states as well as many countries around the world are treated to everything from The Grateful Dead to the blues of the Mississippi delta. “You’re here to learn new things, so why not give it a try”, says Montieth.

WUMB provides for plenty of opportunities for UMass Boston students, giving out $100,000 a year in student wages. Though students don’t make up the on-air talent there is good reason for it. Once out in the real world careers in radio and communications consist mainly of behind the scenes work. WUMB teaches student workers the skills that will allow them to continue in the communications filed after graduation. Rather than struggling to find a job on the air, they are ready to begin work in other aspects of the field.

WUMB hosts the Boston Folk Festival every year here at our very own beautiful harbor campus. The smaller sibling of bigger local folk festivals in Newport and Lowell, the Boston Folk Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary this fall. Local and lesser known musicians make up the card for the festival, introducing die hard folkies to acts they would normally not hear.

“Don’t assume you know folk music,” Montieth warns wary student. So, take a look at the schedule and you may find something you like. From weekend talk shows, including the award winning Commonwealth Journal, to the 24 hour online stream of Extreme Folk Experience, a collection of music for the younger scene with artists like Ben Harper, Josh Ritter, and Feist, you’re likely to find something in there that will appeal to your own personal tastes. Next time you’re looking for something to listen to, tune in to 91.9 FM or check the online streams at WUMB.org.