To celebrate the university’s 50th anniversary, FIU News is sharing 50 moments in FIU’s history as part of our “50@50″ series.
FIU’s student radio station took to the airwaves for the first time with the call sign WUFI on channel 540 AM on Aug. 18, 1988.
Since then, the station has gone through a series of changes – everything from the musical programming to its location on the radio dial. But through it all, WRGP – FIU Student Radio (as it is known today) has always served as a hub for aspiring disc jockeys, a voice for student expression and a place to explore music from Miami’s underground.
From almost the very beginning, the goal was to eventually make the move from AM to FM, but a litany of unforeseen circumstances and political struggles prevented the station from making the leap.
The largest hurdle was the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which knocked down a proposed tower that was set to go up in the Homestead area.
Finally in 1999, a little more than 11 years after being established, the station got its wish. The AM station and the WUFI call sign were retired and then transitioned to its new FM station: WRGP (Radio Golden Panther) on 88.1 FM thanks to a new radio tower in Homestead. It was promptly named WRGP Radiate FM.
Fabian Alcantara, who began working at the station in 1997, looks back at that moment as a major turning point for the student-run station. He remained involved with the station until 2014 and today he is still at FIU as a senior interaction designer in the Office of Digital Communications.
“Everyone was excited about it,” Alcantara says. “We had a lot of people who wanted the station to be something that was great, cool and unique.”
One of the key players in making the move possible was FIU Student Radio’s most renowned alumnus: Ian Grocher, better known as DJ Irie.
“Our debut as Radiate FM was like our coming out to the world,” Grocher told FIU News over email. “The community could finally hear us and we could more effectively be the service we always wanted to be.”
Grocher and his friend, Orlando Amorin, worked at the radio station and went on to successfully campaign for the presidency and vice presidency of the Student Government Association at University Park (now known as Modesto A. Maidique Campus). Amorin ran at the top of the ticket and became president while Grocher became vice president.
One of the promises they made during their campaign was to help bring FIU its first FM station. That promise was delivered and celebrated at an official ribbon-cutting ceremony held in the GC Pit on Sept. 13, 1999.
“That was one of my proudest moments,” Grocher told FIU Magazine in 2012. “It was so special. We were all suited up and I was about to put my signature on an official contract with NBC. It was a surreal experience for a college kid.”
Grocher graduated from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1999 and has developed into one of today’s most recognizable faces and brands in the music business.
He is the official DJ for the Miami Heat and has performed on some of the world’s biggest stages and high-profile events all over the world, including the MTV Video Music Awards and FIFA World Cup.
At the station, Grocher was on-air host, helped out with promotions and eventually rose to the position of general manager. To this day, he says his time there helped him lay a foundation for a successful career in music.
“It was the real deal and I had to learn a lot fast. It was a such a great position to help garner relationships in the music business,” Grocher says. “I was dealing with equipment suppliers, record labels, artists and other commercial radio stations as well. It was an exceptional experience that helped pave the way for the career I have today.”
EXPANDING REACH, CHANGING NAMES
Despite now having an FM station to broadcast from, there were still some issues. Power limitations and the distance of the Homestead tower from MMC made it difficult at times to hear the station from campus.
In 2006, that problem was solved with the installation of an FM translator on top of the Green Library, which relayed the signal from 88.1 on to 95.3 FM as well.
Two years later, another FM translator was placed – this time at the Marine Sciences Building at the Biscayne Bay Campus – to extend the station’s reach to North Miami on 96.9 FM.
Earlier this year, the station went through a rebranding, changing the station’s name from Radiate FM to WRGP – FIU Student Radio.
Despite all the changes throughout the station’s history, there was always a commitment to introducing FIU students and the surrounding community to music they may have never heard before.
Their efforts were recognized by the Miami New Times, which named Radiate FM the Best Miami Radio Station in 2006 and 2012.
Even students who worked there left with a new appreciation for music.
“It’s like going into a music class and we come out with a new respect for different types of music,” says Alcantara, who hosted a Friday night show called “The Spectrum,” which featured music ranging from industrial and gothic to electronic-synthpop.
Grocher adds: “Even though we were all from different backgrounds we were all at the station together out of a mutual love for music and broadcast. We shared our ideas and vision for the station and worked as a team and family to bring it to fruition.”
Today, WRGP – FIU Student Radio is under the umbrella of FIU Student Media and features a wide variety of programming that includes talk shows, live broadcasts of FIU Athletics, campus news and music from independent artists from many different genres.
“The goal was to bring a different type of music to Miami,” Alcantara says. “We wanted to have a unique voice and showcase underground, independent music.”