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Rowan Radio 89.7 WGLS-FM

Rowan Radio provides alternative to commercial radio

The Whit Online, January 25, 2011

When driving around and looking for a radio station to cruise to, the listener will find Rowan Radio at the low-end of the dial: 89.7 WGLS-FM.

“The thing that I love about WGLS is that it allows the disc jockey to have a personality,” said Sammy “Pepper” Bonavita. Bonavita has worked on-and-off at the radio station for over 40 years. In 2006 he was inducted into the WGLS-FM Hall of Fame.

Bonavita has been enthralled by radio all his life. As a child, the radio was always on in his house. He started his career in high school for WTMR-AM. Later, he worked in radio when he joined the Air Force in the early 1970s.

Growing up, he was inspired to get into the business by the great disc jockeys of Philadelphia and New York. Bonavita believes that disc jockeys have been marginalized in modern day radio, and this is why he enjoys working at Rowan Radio so much.

“It’s just not as much fun at commercial radio stations,” he said. “The only place you can find it now is at WGLS.”

“We’re a vehicle for the community,” said Rachel Burgess, public relations director for the radio station. “We’re a lot different from the other college radio stations in how we operate.”

Along with Profs football, listeners can also hear community events such as Election Day coverage and different fundraisers, such as Washington Township Earth Day. Rowan Radio covers sports and various other events in the Glassboro area.

Paired with the station’s varied community coverage, they also offer a wide selection of music.

“We have a lot more variety compared to other stations,” Burgess said.

Each DJ features a unique genre or time period of music. Bonavita used to host a block dedicated to the Beatles. His appreciation of the Fab Four goes back to his first day at Rowan Radio.

“I started at the radio station in Sept. 26th, 1969,” he said. “Same day as ‘Abbey Road’ by the Beatles was released, I went out and played the album for the first time.”

Starting in February, Bonavita plans on playing more contemporary music.

“I’m glad to see real rock coming back,” he said. “I’m glad that younger bands are bringing back guitars and drums.”

The people running the radio station see themselves as a positive alternative to the other stations.

“The way we present stuff is a little bit different than commercial radio,” said Derek Jones, the assistant station manager. “It’s an opportunity for them to listen to what they aren’t used to listening to.”

As far as radio education goes, Rowan Radio allows students to learn, hands-on, how to work in that environment. Under the guidance of general manager Frank Hogan, each student learns the ins-and-outs of the business and other elements like FCC regulations.

“It’s not only a place to work but it’s still school. They’re still teaching you and helping you,” Jones said.

“My perspective is kind of different, as a student and now as an employee,” he said. “I like seeing people come in one way and leave differently. By the time they leave, maybe after a year or two, they come out more confident.”

Aside from the technology, not much has changed with the field, according to Bonavita. Although he still prefers vinyl, Bonavita mentions how Hogan prepares the students for the career.

“They have good training at Rowan,” he said. “I wouldn’t have stayed if the quality wasn’t good.”