The CJLO studio on Concordia’s Loyola campus is usually fairly quiet on Saturdays, but this weekend was different. The studio was buzzing with excitement as staff celebrated the third anniversary of their first official live broadcast on 1690 AM and prepared for an exclusive live performance by the Russian-American genre-defying musician, Nika Danilova.
Danilova, who performs under the stage name Zola Jesus, rushed into the studio to perform a beautifully haunting, stripped-down version of “Sea Talk” from her 2010 LP Stridulum II.Â She stuck around for a quick interview with “Hooked on Cake” hosts, Omar and Beansie, where she admitted that despite feeling terrified of releasing so much of herself to the public through her music, it’s something she has to do. “I feel like people need to do that,” said Danilova. “You need to give yourself up in order for people to study it or for people to feel it.”
Brian Joseph, CJLO’s program director, was elated. “We’re the first station she’s given a live performance and interview to [since releasing her new album],” he said. “She’s refused 50 percent of her media requests, so this is a really big deal for us.”
Danilova’s in-studio performance was just another proverbial notch in CJLO’s extra large belt of accomplishments over the past three years, which includes live performances by other high-profile musicians like P.S. I Love You, Fucked Up, Wintersleep, and You Say Party! We Say Die!
The station has come a long way since broadcasting Canada’s national anthem three years ago, followed by the song “Left of the Dial” by The Replacements, a tribute to college radio by what head music director Omar Husain refers to as “the most famous college radio band ever.”
But to Joseph, it’s not just about recognizing the amount of time they’ve been on the air, it’s about how much they’ve achieved in such a short period of time.Â At noon on Oct. 15, 2008, Joseph and Husain “flipped the switch,” broadcasting Concordia’s student voice, with 1,000 watts of power, as far west as Ottawa and as far south as Burlington, Vermont.
Joseph has been volunteering at the station for the past five years and says that he’s seen change on more than just a technical level. “Everyone in general actually gives a crap now,” he said, explaining that the apathy that once seemed to plague the university’s student body has all but disappeared. “The students are more involved than ever.”
CJLO, with its global following of online listeners, provides free advertising for student groups and they’re beginning to plan workshops for Concordia students to learn the ins and outs of radio broadcasting and how to use the studio equipment. Students have even created their own opportunities with the station. One Concordia student in the studio arts program has reached out to CJLO to renovate their soundproofing as a for-credit course project.
The high level of student engagement is reflected by the serious amount of acclaim the station has received from the College Music Journal Music Marathon and Film Festival. Since 2008, CJLO has received numerous awards, including: “Best Student Run, Non-FM Radio Station” in 2008, “Best Music Director” and “Best Specialty Music Director” in 2009, “Best Group Effort” in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and “Station of the Year” in 2010.Â Even the Huffington Post has taken note, naming CJLO first on their “Nine Best College Radio Stations” list.
The CJLO crew were busy with more than just celebrations and live performances this weekend; they were also prerecording their programs in preparation for this year’s CMJ Music Marathon and Film Festival, which takes place in New York City from Oct. 18 to 22.
This year, they’ve been nominated for seven College Music Awards, including: “Station of the Year,” “Music Director of the Year,” “Specialty Music Director Of The Year,” “Outstanding Leadership in College Radio,” and more.Â And if the past three years are any indication, they’ll be returning to Montreal next week with even more reasons to celebrate.