In a time before Spotify, Pandora or even the Internet at Cedarville, there was student radio. And before the extinction of record turntables, Cedarville had student radio.
Resound Radio, as it’s now known, has been a part of the Cedarville experience since 1990. It’s been broadcast on the AM and FM dials, through the campus intranet and at resoundradio.com.
James Leightenheimer, associate professor of communications and faculty advisor to Resound, said student radio started when he was a Cedarville student in the 1970s. Cedarville College, as it was then called, had an FM radio station, but student workers had been replaced with professionals. Leightenheimer said this limited students’ opportunity to gain professional experience while at Cedarville.
Leightenheimer said, as a student, he discussed with the new professor at the time, Wes Baker, the need for a student radio outlet.
“I actually did a paper as a senior on the feasibility of developing a student radio station at Cedarville,” Leightenheimer said. “I graduated. I was gone for several years. I came back, and Dr. Baker encouraged me to pick that paper up and to proceed and make that one of my projects.”
Leightenheimer joined Cedarville’s faculty in 1983, but the station was not a reality until 1989. He said it took those six years to raise the necessary funds to start the station and get everything in place.
“It was not inexpensive to do,” Leightenheimer said, “so we worked on putting a station organization together — developing an infrastructure — but then also developing — raising the money to buy the equipment.”
About $15,000 had to be raised to cover the cost of the equipment needed for the station start up. Once the funds had been raised, the station team spent much of their time installing the equipment, which was not easy to do, Leightenheimer said.
“We had to install a system that took the signal from the studio by phone line down to maintenance where it was split out,” he said, “and where by phone line it was sent out to each dormitory where we installed a coupling unit and a transmitter.”
Leightenheimer said he remembers pulling cable underground from Lawlor Hall to Maddox Hall, and then once in Maddox, up to the attic where he crawled through with cable tied to his ankle so that cable could be run down into the power room.
The station’s first broadcast aired in 1990 at AM 530 — the bottom of the radio dial — as WSRN, the Student Radio Network. The third floor of the now-destroyed Collins Hall was home to WSRN, thus explaining the station’s slogan, “From the top of Collins Hall to the bottom of your dial.” While WSRN broadcast every day of the week, its hours were limited to 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight on the AM signal.
Its first musical playlist received a fair share of resistance from the university’s leadership when it was proposed in 1989, Leightenheimer said. Among the artists to be broadcast were Sandi Patty, Larnelle Harris, Steve Green and 4Him.
“We were planning on going on the fall of ’89, but we actually were slowed down to spring of ’90 — we didn’t go on until April 5 — because we had to work through quite a process to make people comfortable with where we were going,”
Leightenheimer said. “We had to make some concessions along the way to earn the privilege of going on the air the first time.”
And that first broadcast stirred up quite a bit of excitement on the campus.
Leightenheimer said the first song the station aired the evening of April 5, 1990, was by Buddy Greene, an artist familiar to students. The song was played off of a record.
“That’s where the technology was in 1990,” Leightenheimer said.
He said Paul Dixon, Cedarville’s president at the time, was present for the dedication of the first broadcast. In addition to praying over the station, Leightenheimer said Dixon threw out the first song.
“He actually turned the turntable on,” Leightenheimer said. “He flipped the switch to play the first song.”
Baker, Leightenheimer, the station’s student leadership team and representatives from Cedars and student government were also present at the inaugural broadcast.
“The campus was pumped about it,” Leightenheimer said. “You have to remember in 1990 we didn’t have as many media options out there. There was no computer network on campus. People were still turning in papers typed on typewriters. People listened to the radio a lot back then, so there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm.”
Bobby Hile, senior pastor at Southgate Baptist Church in Springfield, Ohio, was the station manager at the time of the inaugural broadcast.
“It was one of those history-making moments where this is something the school hasn’t done before, so we were the first ones to do it,” Hile said. “And then to now see where it’s gone and how it’s grown, and it’s a whole lot better than it was than we were back then, that’s I think really, really encouraging.”
In 1996, student radio moved from WSRN to U99.5 on the FM dial, as Cedarville changed from a college to a university. Student radio remained in Collins Hall, but Leightenheimer said the frequency move was necessary, because the university began allowing refrigerators in the dorms and instituted CedarNet.
“And those things, because of the AM technology we used that was coupled to the electrical signal in the dorms, it trashed our signal,” Leightenheimer said. “You couldn’t hear us anymore, so we had to do something else.”
He said Cedarville’s electronic media technician Dave Bastress, also an FM engineer, built the station a low-power FM transmitter. The antenna for the transmitter was placed under the ball on the top of the campus water tower so that the signal could reach the dorms.
Leightenheimer said U99.5 decided to start streaming its signal via the campus intranet in 2003 in addition to its FM signal.
But another change for Cedarville’s student radio came around 2006.
Research showed students only listened to the radio when in their cars, so the FM signal was losing its audience, Leightenheimer said.
“We upgraded our streaming capability,” he said. “And at the same time that we did that, we reimaged our self as Resound Radio, which is where we’re at today. Since that time, we have changed our streaming. We’re not just using the campus intranet now; we’re streaming on the world-wide web, 24/7, 365 days a year.”
The station moved to its current location in the lower level of the Steven’s Student Center in 2000.
“I think by and large the administration has been very supportive of what we’ve done,” Leightenheimer said. “I feel that. Being in this building was a huge statement, giving this kind of real estate, this much space at this location, that was a statement.”
Despite the changes in location and broadcast medium, Leightenheimer said the one thing Cedarville’s student radio has kept constant is its “heartbeat.” As the first station manager, Hile chose Ephesians 4:29 for the station verse: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen (NIV).”
“We really wanted the radio station to be something that would benefit those who listened to it, and that the words that would be spoken on the station would be, obviously, in line with what the Word of God says and to encourage those who are listening,” Hile said. “That’s really rewarding and exciting to see that that’s still the theme verse for the station.”
Hannah Moyer, Resound’s current station manager and a senior broadcasting and digital media major, said it is key while leading the station to have a consistent vision of where the station should go. Resound’s mission statement is to connect and establish relationships with listeners.
“We not only want to be kind of a hub of learning radio and having students being able to learn that,” Moyer said, “but also be able to serve the student body.”
Leightenheimer said Resound has been a part of Cedarville for so many years because students know that Resound is a place to get professional experience and network with Cedarville grads. Moyer said the connections she’s made for internships, the experience she has gained and the relationships she has built during her three-and-a-half-year involvement with Resound have been an incredible benefit of her Cedarville experience.
“It’s kind of crazy to see where God has taken alumni,” Moyer said. “We have people all over the world, all over the country.”
Notable graduates of Resound include Jim Houser, manager for Steven Curtis Chapman, Brandon Heath and other artists at The Creative Trust; Paula Faris, Good Morning America host on ABC; and Joy Summers of WAY-FM radio.
The combined experience of media department faculty Simon, Leightenheimer, Baker and Kragel, is over 95 years. And that’s 95 years of media contacts that students can draw from for internships and careers, Leightenheimer said.
The satisfaction of seeing Resound staff leave Cedarville and get plugged into careers right after graduation is the most meaningful part of Resound, he said.
“The network we’ve developed from our graduates — from the people who have gone through Resound — that’s helping students,” he said. “That is just the most beautiful thing.”
Anna Dembowski is a junior journalism major and managing editor/arts & entertainment editor for Cedars. She likes nearly anything that is the color purple and enjoys spelling the word “agathokakological.”