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One of those students is Jason Valentine, who's working on a master's degree in mass communications and is responsible for screening potential new records to add to WSIE's playlist. "We are steering more toward straight-ahead, more traditional jazz. To put it bluntly, we're trying to keep out the elevator music," says Valentine, adding that the station also wants to emphasize local music. "There are so many talented St. Louis people that play straight-ahead jazz," he says. Local artists currently getting airplay include the Jim Widner Big Band, Reggie and Mardra Thomas, Denise Thimes, Brett Stamps, Rick Haydon and Tom Byrne.
Ulett's next task was to create new on-air imaging for the station: "They had all sorts of people doing IDs, some of them long gone," he says. "It just sounded very dated." He recruited local jazz singer Erika Johnson, an SIUE alumna, to voice a series of promotional spots. "I've worked with her in commercials, and she's exactly the sound that the station needs," Ulett says.
Then in May 2011, WSIE took another big step by beginning to stream the station's broadcasts on the Internet. "There was a huge shout that went up when we went online," Conroy says. "The phone was ringing constantly."
The addition of an online stream not only helped the station gain new fans — Ulett says he's heard from listeners as far away as Australia — it's also made WSIE easily available in parts of the St. Louis area where the signal can be difficult to pick up.
Another milestone came with an on-air fundraising weekend last December. Results were modest, but good enough to warrant another pledge drive this spring. To raise money for operating expenses and a new backup generator at their broadcast tower, Conroy says, the station also has stepped up efforts to attract corporate underwriters.
As WSIE continues to rebuild, Ulett looks forward to expanding the music library and fine-tuning the playlist. "I really think it's important to do as much local as you can," he says. "There's a whole bunch of talent in St. Louis, and this is, after all, a St. Louis metro radio station, and we think it's important to identify ourselves as such."