One of the greatest things about the Centre County scene is the way the community rallies around the local bands and the local bands’ original music.
Local radio station The Freq, 98.7, is just that kind of place. Three years after its debut on the airwaves, it has diverse musical programming all day and features local bands live in the studio at 5 p.m. every Friday for its Live at Five program.
“Live at 5 gives us a chance to really get to know a local artist or band, and find out what makes them tick,” said Dave Snyder, the Freq morning host and program director. “It's really fun for us and fun for our audience to hear them talk about their music and their history. There are some wonderful storytellers in the local music community.”
The idea behind Live at 5 is simple, and I can say from performing on it a few times that the show is as advertised. It’s very welcoming, everyone interacts with the musicians with warmth and humor. It’s a great scene.
“There's so many talented musicians that live and work here in our community, that we think it's important to highlight them,” Snyder said. “Our audience loves music, and they love going to live shows and supporting the really vibrant local music scene. Our listeners love hearing the local music we play, whether it's during the normal day or Live at 5.”
For Snyder, Live at 5 is fun because of its unpredictability.
“You're never quite sure what's going to happen," he said. "At 5 p.m. on Friday, ready or not, it starts, and sometimes you just have to let it happen instead of trying to control it. Some of the best performances we've had are the performances we've been least prepared for. "
Aside from local programming, the Freq is constantly looking for new ways to deliver music to listeners. If it’s not Freq founder Don Bedell’s College U. show, it’s Jason Jackson’s homegrown approach, or it’s Jonathan Reed’s eclectic tastes that are driving the music selections.
Recently, entire albums are the toast of the station.
“We recently rolled out our 'albums of the week,' ” Snyder said. “We pick two albums per week and play them in their entirety, one song per hour, starting at 6 a.m. On Tuesday, we do what we call the core album of the week. We pick an album from an artist that we consider a 'core artist,' someone integral to the station's overall sound.”
Whatever the station is rolling out, the core philosophy remains in place. There is a balance between new and classic music. So, in that way, there’s something in it for anyone who chooses to listen.
“The station is really a place where great new music meets the best classic alternative, classic rock 'n' roll, Americana, indie rock and alt-country,” Snyder said. “So, the album features allow us to highlight all the great older music that is such a huge part of the sound of the Freq, and also feature some of the really great new music that just doesn't get airplay on traditional radio stations.”
The Freq’s inception was a grassroots effort inspired by local musicians, like Bedell, and supported by the local scene through word of mouth and social media.
“We always wanted live music on the station,” Bedell said. “I feel that the station was originally built by the local musicians in town talking about it and sharing on social media. When we built the studio, we made sure to include a stage so that we could showcase the incredible talent that we have here in central Pa.”
Snyder in particular is really into what’s happening at the Freq. He’s a great person for the program director position, because his genuine enthusiasm and heartfelt approach to what’s happening at the station is undeniable.
“There's so much great new music that doesn't get played on the pop music stations,” Snyder said, “but it's a responsibility that I take great pride in and great care with. Someone recently tweeted us to thank us for perfectly curating the soundtrack of her life. That was such an incredible compliment for us. I never want to disappoint the people who count on us for helping get them through their day.”
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at . KevinTBriggs@gmail.com