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May 9, 2014

PERMANENT PRESET: WNAS celebrates 65 years, invites alumni for tour

NEW ALBANY — With 15 watts of signal strength on an AM band, they were lucky if listeners in Greenville could pick up their station.

Now, broadcasting at 2,850 watts on stereo FM, WNAS reaches beyond the county lines and celebrated its 65-year history as the first high school radio station in the history of the United States on Wednesday.

The station hosted an open house for alumni, giving graduates from the first shows guided tours of today’s facility by the school’s current sound engineers, camera operators and disc jockeys.

“It’s unreal,” Joe Marguet, a member of the staff in the 1949-50 school year said. “Our whole studio was as big as [the television studio], that’s including the classroom and everything. This was the first high school radio station in the country. To see what it’s grown into, why jeez, it’s amazing.”

Marguet and his wife, Maryetta, worked on the station together. Now 82 and 81, respectively, Maryetta said neither pursued broadcast professionally.

But she said the station played a big role in their lives and she can’t believe what they’re able to do now.

“It’s kind of like seeing your children and grandchildren,” Maryetta said. “You just ask yourself, ‘did we do all of this?’”

Joe said neither of them had any idea that they were pioneers in high school radio, they were just excited at the opportunity to have their voices on the airwaves.

Jason Flener has almost finished his first year as the head of the broadcast program and general manager of the New Albany High School station. He said he’s glad to be a part of something that’s not about its popularity, but its ability to help students gain real-world experience.

“I never view it as a competition,” Flener said. “By design, we do not request Nielson ratings because that’s not our goal. Our goal is to get students experience on the radio, to give them the techniques and develop confidence in themselves, then give them what they need to go into broadcast.”

He said many of their students have gone on to pursue careers in radio and television locally, nationally and internationally.

Rich Boling, vice president of corporate advancement for Techshot, said he was a member of the station’s staff in 1985. He said he loved reading the news

He said he still uses some of the skillset he gained from his time reading the news on-air.

“A lot of what I did here helped me for what I do now, dealing with media,” Boling said. “A lot of what I did here also helped build a good foundation for my on-air internship with WHAS.”

Aside from work experience, he said the station holds a special place in his heart in another way.

“I remember it was a big deal for us after I left when we went to stereo FM,” Boling said. “But the station played the soundtrack to my teenage years. If you were in a pickup basketball game or in someone’s car, WNAS was on.”

Bayasa Batsaikhan, a sophomore at the school, said she joined the staff because she wanted to get over some of her shyness and come out of her shell. She said she hopes to become a U.S. diplomat or work for the United Nations, where she’ll have to get used to speaking with all kinds of people.

When she first signed up, she didn’t know the station’s history, but she said it was fun showing alumni how far the studio’s come since they graduated.

“It’s shocking,” Batsaikhan said. “I’m very excited I joined the radio program. I’m trying to imagine their perspective, but it’s cool to see how it was back then.”

Flener said as media continues to change, he and his students are always learning what’s next for broadcast and incorporating that into the classroom, including online streaming and other digitized media.

“This is one where I think it’s where we’re kind of going to be forced to take everything into a more digital age,” Flener said. “I believe we have more people who listen online or in the app. I get more comments from people who are listening to WNAS.org or the tune-in app than people who are listening to 88.1.”

He said the mobile app wasn’t something they just purchased, but designed in-house. He said students have always been the ones to carry the station in new and different directions.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Flener said. “Lee Kelly was rather cutting edge when he had us start streaming digitally. When we had the app, a student just said they thought they could develop it. Lee always approached it where if a kid had a good idea, he’d let them do that. I’m trying to continue that tradition."

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ON THE WEB — http://www.wnas.org

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Barbara Brewster has been the organ player at Faith Lutheran Church in Jeffersonville for the past 50 years. Brewster began playing organ with the church in August of 1964 at the age of 17.

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