Radio Free Montclair will ring in the New Year by hosting a launch party of its online station on New Year’s weekend, from noon Dec. 31 to midnight Jan. 3, with round-the-clock shows, including interviews with community members, performances by local musicians, storytelling and other forms of entertainment. The station can be streamed at radiofreemontclair.org.
RFM, which describes itself as a “freeform community-led radio station,” was conceived by Montclair resident Petia Morozov, who plans to provide listeners with “an eclectic mixtape of Montclair where people of all ages and backgrounds can tune in and hear something locally compelling,” according to a press release. Morozov also founded DesignShed — described on its site as “a year-round organization with five programs offered as tools to celebrate our community’s creative capacities and mobilize them for a more resilient and equitable future” — and its annual Montclair Design Week, a 10-day series of talks, tours, installations and workshops.
Scott Gurian, who is part of RFM’s team, said that “along with local music, DJs, and talk shows, folks have pitched us programs on everything from birdwatching to wine to mental healthcare.”
He said the goal is for the station to be operating online, all the time, soon. “This is just a pilot launch weekend to introduce the concept, build momentum, and work out the kinks,” he said.
RFP aligns with the mission of DesignShed, Gurian said, in that “the work of both groups is trying to get residents of Montclair and the surrounding area to have a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the place where they live and the people who make up their community.
“We’re also expecting shows produced by local high school students and members of the South Asian community, conversations with local business owners, storytelling, and documentaries about significant local issues, like a series about housing insecurity in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Gurian, who produces and hosts the podcast farfromhomepodcast.org, added that “Montclair seems like the perfect place to launch a station like this, since it’s such a creative town, and we’re aiming for our programming to be as diverse as possible so our station can be a true reflection of the local community.”
The concept of Radio Free Montclair was introduced, Morozov said, during last year’s Montclair Design Week, when her programming and technical team hosted more than 20 live broadcasts during the week.
“The story of RFM actually goes all the way back to 2017, when I spoke with hundreds of people from across Montclair, to inform what is now Montclair Design Week,” she said. “In our first year, we presented the design for MAIC, aka Montclair Accelerator for Incubating Communities, a mobile hub that is equipped with, among many things, a recording studio. This was included with the intention of recording our community where they are.”
Montclair resident Meg Patrick, who is producing her own talk show that will air on the station and is also serving as RFM’s publicist, said that “the evolution of terrestrial radio to satellite radio to web-based radio has been fascinating to witness, especially with community-generated content enhancing the scope of the on-air experience.”
Gurian explained that since RFM is in the early stages of development, the participants do not have formal job titles, but share varied duties. “John Sullivan has sort of been the ringleader over the past many months, building the momentum, doing outreach and organizing most of the meetings,” he said. “I got involved because I have experience working in public radio and producing my own documentary podcast for many years, so I’ve been serving as the sort of unofficial programming coordinator.”
Sullivan said in press material that RFM hopes to fill a void of local content with information that will “celebrate, educate and engage listeners in the issues and questions that matter most to our community.”
RFM encourages community members to participate by sharing short recorded messages in advance of the launch event, describing what sort of local programming they would like to hear. To record a message, visit radiofreemontclair.org.
“We couldn’t have come as far as we’ve already come without lots of help from lots of other people,” said Sullivan. “Our goal going forward is really to aim for the station to be a community-led endeavor, with deep involvement from a diverse group of volunteers.”
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