WONC: Rocking Radio in Naperville for 50 Years

“So July 1, 1968 was when the FCC granted North Central College this frequency, the license to operate the station with a frequency of 89.1 megahertz,” said John Madormo, WONC general manager and assistant professor of broadcast communication at NCC.

Rocking airwaves since 1968, WONC has survived the tests of time, going from analog to digital, 12 hours on-air to 24 hours, and from 24 staffed students to 50.

“With that we have a music library that’s over 5000 songs and we never really retire the music,” Madormo said. “So people hear things that you just can’t hear anywhere else and that’s one of the things that they like about us.”

John Madormo has been with the station for 38 of its 50 years, bringing his background with WGN Radio to north central college.

“It was quite a culture change from working with paid professionals all the time to students,” he said. “But over the years it’s been pretty gratifying to watch the students as they walk in very green and then four years later when they walk out very polished.”

And polished they’ve become – not only has WONC received 20 prestigious Marconi awards from 1993 through 2003, but it was also honored as College Radio Station of the Year in 2015 by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System.

It’s an experience students like Sarah Bender will value throughout their college career and beyond.

“There are so many different types of people here,” said Bender, the music director at WONC. “I’m not even a broadcast major or anything like that. I’m a studio art major so this is just fun for me. And even if you don’t like rock music it’s just such great experience to talk on the air and get comfortable. It’s really good for public speaking if you have a fear of public speaking, you can’t see your audience, so you can kind of practice speaking to people without having that fear.”

And it’s the friendships that make WONC a special place in the hearts of those who call it their second home.

“There was so much music that I discovered just from being here that I had never heard before,” added Bender. “So that’s really huge for me. Also just the friendships I’ve made here. I’d say my best friends that I’ve made on campus have come out of here.”

“As I retire at the end of June, after this I’m going to be able to take those friendships and those relationships that I was able to build with these students over the years,” said Madormo. “And I do think of them as friendships and not this faculty/student relationship. Because you kind of grown up with them, know so much about them, and that dealing one on one with them is what I’m going to miss the most.”

And NCTV’s own Blane Erwin has been a part of the WONC team during his time at North Central. He’s the current station manager.

50 years of pure rock worth celebrating for 50 more.

Naperville News 17’s Christine Lena reports.

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