By John Lynds
This month Zumix, East Boston’s popular youth music and arts program, received its building permit from the City of Boston to begin construction on a FM radio antenna at East Boston High School.
To help celebrate Zumix getting closer to launching its FM station in June, WBUR teamed up with the local music program last Tuesday evening to host a night of youth produced radio programming.
“Zumix Radio promotes youth and community voices in East Boston, while supporting teens to learn valuable 21st century skills in technology, radio production, communication, and journalism,” said WBUR in a statement. “Radio classes train participants to host their own live radio broadcasts, produce their own radio stories, and develop meaningful relationships with adult mentors.”
The evening featured performances, tours of Zumix’s Firehouse and an auditory experience featuring stories produced by Lesly Monroy, Kaylene Sheran, José Sarmiento, and Caleb Messier.
Monroy, 14, did a segment on bullying followed by an interview conducted by Sheran, 16, of State Representative Adrian Madaro. Sarmiento produced a segment called “A Reflection on Identity & Security in East Boston while Messier, 14, closed out the event with a live interview with Madeleine Steczynski, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Zumix.
The event was emceed by Massport’s Jose Masso who also hosts ¡Con Salsa! for WBUR.
In June Zumix Radio will transition from an online stream to 94.9FM in order to connect and engage the broader Eastie community.
“Zumix Radio was established in 2005 as an online stream, but we always dreamt of broadcasting on an FM frequency,” said Steczynski. “In 2014, when the FCC opened the airwaves and invited community organizations to apply for LPFM licenses, we jumped at the opportunity.”
Zumix uses radio as a tool for creative youth development, offering after-school and summer classes that teach skills in technology, media literacy, journalism, and communications.
Students are supported as they seek out meaningful community stories to cover for the station, a practise designed to build civic engagement, communication, and leadership skills.
“Transitioning to the FM dial will mean higher stakes for the students’ work, but will also be an opportunity for youth voices to have greater impact. Zumix Radio,” said Coordinator Brittany Thomas. “Becoming an FM station gives Zumix Radio exciting visibility. WZMR will provide rare access for young people to create media, through after-school classes at Zumix, and through our ongoing partnership with East Boston High School. This summer we plan to build a satellite radio station at EBHS that will integrate radio into their creative media curriculum.”
Thomas said local, noncommercial radio is a means to unite neighbors and provides a platform to share information, concerns, and stories that are relevant to specific, local experiences.
“By engaging youth in the process of community exploration, story telling, and journalism, the next generation of leaders is gaining critical insight into the civic processes of their neighborhood,” she said. “While an influx in media consolidation nationally has made it difficult for local voices to find their place, Zumix Radio will be a home base in Eastie for rich dialogue shared information, and community pride.”
Zumix’s Youth and Community Radio’s Sophie Kazis said independent media is difficult to come by today, especially in Boston.
“In this city, two-thirds of all radio stations are owned by three large, national corporations, resulting in syndicated content that is replicated across neighborhood, town, and state lines,” said Kazis. “The opportunity for East Boston to have its own, independent radio station producing content that is responsive to the needs of its local listeners is one Zumix feels honored to hold. It’s a privilege to have a spot on the FM dial; it’s a real responsibility to be a platform through which to communicate youth and community voices.”
Sophie’s sentiments are echoed through Zumix, as the radio launch team works to craft a station lineup that is diverse and multifaceted. Throughout the process, youth input has remained at the core.
After the FM tower is installed at EBHS Zumix will purchase and install a satellite radio studio at the High School, and will work with EBHS teacher Chris Leone, to design and facilitate a new radio curriculum for students at the High School.