by Michael G. Glab
Jim Manion has been part of the WFHB family since the station was only dreamed about by a few community radio lovers in Bloomington. He was there for the first concert held at The Bluebird to benefit the as-yet unnamed station in July, 1975. He was on staff when the station finally got its FCC okay in 1992. Manion was Program Director until the News Department was established in the early 2000s. At that time, his title changed to Music Director. He’s held that office ever since. He’ll be our source for our regular coverage of Music Department happenings.
Under Manion, the WFHB Music Department has become a force in South Central Indiana. “After 20 years, we’re highly recognized by the music industry from major labels down to thousands of indie record companies,” he says. Manion’s mailbox is packed with CDs every day. They’re sent by bands and labels hoping to get their music before WFHB’s sophisticated and discerning listeners. Manion has delegated much of the previewing work to a stable of community Genre Directors. He sorts the piles of CDs each day and funnels them to an appropriate director. The flood is so overwhelming that WFHB cannot even accept certain submissions. “A lot of independent bands and labels think they can send us an email with a link to their album or track. We just don’t have time for that,” he says. Here are the volunteers who listen to each and every new submission the station receives:
- Cathi Norton (assisted by Bob Kissel) — Blues
- Markus Lowe — Electronica
- Brother William Morris – Jazz
- Adrian Pontecorvo — World
- Jamie Gans — Bluegrass & Celtic
- Janet Martin, Rachel Weidner, and Stephanie Foreman — Indie/Alternative
- Liza Pavelich — Local
Each of the Genre Directors can okay a disc to be played on air. Manion only asks that they tip him off to noteworthy or particularly good records.
WFHB boasts a line-up of around 100 on-air DJs and music show hosts. Their air shifts can be weekly or even monthly. The Bloomington area offers a deep pool of talent for Manion to choose from. “We live in a music-centric town,” he says. “I really trust our DJs and our Genre Directors to make choices.”
Manion says he’s been traveling recently and has had a chance to listen to other community radio stations. They’re good, he admits, but none of them is WFHB. “We don’t feel under any pressure to have our charts conform to what anybody else is doing,” he says.
He adds: “I’m proud of what we do. We’re egalitarian. Everyone has a strong hand in what goes on the air.”
A one-time WFHB DJ named Mark Harrison used to open his show by saying he’d be “bringing you music old and new, strange and familiar.” Manion has appropriated that saying for the entire WFHB Music Department.
Local Live airs Wednesday nights and features, of course, the sounds of the Bloomington area’s many bands. The program first aired in 2007 with Manion as the coordinator and producer. Abe Morris replaced Manion for a spell and now the show is in the capable hands of Nicole O’Neill.
WFHB often showcases touring bands who stop by before playing at one of Bloomington’s live venues. Manion had been coordinating these appearances but turned the reins over to Katie Moulton in February. These special programs are called Firehouse Sessions. Moulton will host the shows from now on, as well. “That’s what we do here,” Manion says,” We find and promote local on-air talent.”
Manion is wrapping up production of Volume Four of WFHB’s Local Live series. The CD will be out in time for the April fund drive and will be a highly sought-after premium for donors.