Broadcasting, Radio

Curt Dudley: A Day in the Life

 

Curt Dudley and I at JMU Sports Press Conference, O’Neill’s Grill.

“I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who made the grade” is the opening line to the Beatles legendary 1967 song, “A Day in the Life.” Those lyrics easily describe the daily activities of Curt Dudley, who is Director of Broadcast Services, Athletics and Communications at James Madison University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

One of Curt Dudley’s nicknames is “The Voice of JMU Athletics” and the university is fortunate to have him as chief ambassador for the JMU Nation. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Dudley on JMU’s campus and to experience a “day in his life.”

Dudley oversees the dissemination of all varsity sports news for JMU in a variety of ways. He functions in the traditional role of a sports information director, but also utilizes 21st century multimedia technology to distribute JMU sporting news in fresh and exciting ways.

The most intriguing new technology Dudley has developed is MadiZONE HD SportsNet. Created in 2012 under Dudley’s direction, MadiZONE is an online channel that JMU fans can use to stream live sports events. The MadiZONE media team is made up of JMU “students with interns, practicums and volunteers who assist in producing the video and audio content for the channel” according to JMUSports.com.

Dudley’s current career path began while he was attending Bridgewater College (BC) during 1980. While at BC, he developed the first Sports Information Director position and held that position for a total of eight years. Dudley received his B.S. degree from BC in 1983 and was active in the Bridgewater, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County sports community during that time period.

Then in 1988, JMU hired Dudley as Sports Information Director (SID) and he held that position until 2006. During his time as SID, he was an announcer/analyst for JMU football and men’s basketball games as well as many other sporting events. He had the pleasure of being in Chattanooga, Tennessee and announcing when the football team won the I-AA National championship in 2004.

During a typical day, Dudley wears many hats and partakes in various activities related to JMU sports. Most mornings, he uses social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to communicate JMU sporting news to the world. When JMU hosts home games for varsity sports, many times Dudley will be the main announcer for games that will be aired on MadiZONE.

This fall you will be able to hear Dudley on MadiZONE HD SportsNet as he will be one of three announcers broadcasting all of the Dukes home football games at Bridgeforth Stadium.

My day with “The Voice of JMU Athletics” started at his JMU Sports office, located just a few blocks from the university campus. I met Dudley for the first time that morning and he was welcoming and open with me as we discussed the upcoming schedule for the day. We also talked about our shared experiences at JMU: being involved in radio broadcasting and the Communications department (now known as SMAD) at the university.

Once our introductory time ended, we headed over to Moody Hall on the JMU campus, where Dudley teaches a sports broadcasting course. Attending this class was extremely meaningful to me since I am a 1980 graduate of James Madison University with a B.S. degree in Communication Arts. This was the very first time that I had been back in a JMU classroom in over 38 years and fond memories flooded my mind during this class time.

Since I was a Communications major and had worked at radio station WMRA while I was attending JMU, Dudley gave me the opportunity to share with his students about my experiences at JMU and how I applied things I learned once I graduated from the university. I was thankful I had the opportunity to share my thoughts with Dudley’s students.

If I were attending JMU as a student in 2018, I would want to sign up for Dudley’s class. His presentation of the material is excellent and I am confident that his students will be learning the proper ways to communicate. He was affirming to his students and set positive parameters so that they could succeed in this course.

It was interesting to me that of the thirteen students who were in Dudley’s class, four of those students play varsity sports and one other student plays a club sport. Before the class started, I spoke with senior Sarah Salzman, who is a goalie for the JMU club lacrosse team. Sarah and I communicated about the differences of JMU between when I attended the university and how things are now on campus.

At the end of the class, I met students Lauren DuVall and Shannon Quinlan from the JMU lacrosse team that won the 2018 D1 Women’s Lacrosse National Championship in May. Both Lauren and Shannon shared with me how thrilling it was to be on the Dukes national championship team last May. Curt Dudley was at the championship game and announced the game for MadiZONE. You can hear his voice on the video below.

(Video of JMU 2018 DI Women’s Lacrosse National Championship with the voice of Curt Dudley announcing throughout on May 26th, 2018)

After the class concluded, Dudley and I walked on campus. I was amazed by the number of students that Curt knew and that he actually called each one of these individuals by their first name. Dudley was personable to everyone that he saw during the time that I spent with him.

The next major event on tap that day was a JMU Sports press conference with the Dukes head football coach Mike Houston. This event regularly happens every Tuesday at 12-noon during the school year at O’Neill’s Restaurant in Harrisonburg. During most weeks, multiple Dukes coaches speak at the JMU Sports press conference but on this day Coach Houston was the only coach to speak.

Curt Dudley at JMU Sports Press Conference at O’Neill’s Grill.

The set up for the press conference was fascinating to watch. Dudley’s crew put together a JMU backdrop board that started on the floor like an accordion and then was lifted up by a couple of crew members into the final place directly behind the podium. Of course, audio and video equipment also have to be all in working order prior to the start of the press conference.

Before the conference began, I got to meet Dave Thomas, who is the JMU Sports Network’s play-by-play announcer for the football and men’s basketball teams. Thomas was doing a live broadcast of the press conference on 1360 ESPN Radio. I also got to see Clayton Metz, who is the director of video content for athletics at JMU. I have known Metz since he was a teenager so it was good connecting with him at this event.

At the beginning of the press conference, Dudley spoke about various upcoming sporting events at JMU and then introduced JMU Head Football Coach Mike Houston. You can watch Dudley announcing JMU sports information at the beginning of the video below.

(JMU Sports press conference on 9/4 with Curt Dudley and Mike Houston)

Coach Houston first spoke about the JMU game with NC State and then took questions from the press corps. After the completion of press conference, I had the opportunity to meet Coach Houston along with his wife Amanda (who happened to be sitting next to me while her husband was conducting his press conference). Both Mike and Amanda were cordial and friendly to me.

The breaking down of equipment and lunch were in order after the press conference ended and then it was time for Dudley and I to end our time together. We said our goodbyes and then I went back over the to JMU campus to walk on the quad and soak up some afternoon sun before heading back home to Roanoke. It was an extremely satisfying day for me in Harrisonburg.

Before I came to Harrisonburg on this day, I had asked friends of mine who knew Dudley this question: “What are your thoughts on Dudley and his role with JMU sports?” All responded to me with positive attributes: Caring, thoughtful, professional, personable, engaging, likable, knowledgeable and understanding. Dudley is much beloved on the campus of JMU.

One other important aspect that individuals mentioned to me was Dudley’s attention to all JMU student athletes. As I understand, he regularly interacts with student athletes and has the goal to communicate with each of these individuals over the course of the school year. Dudley is most beloved by all of the student athletes at JMU and he received the James Madison Athletics Unseen Hero Award during April 2018, being recognized for his work with the JMU Athletics department as a member who works outside of the public spotlight.  It was a well deserved award for Dudley.

After I spent my day with Curt, I would have to say that I totally agree with the assessments of those folks on his positive traits as a leader. JMU Nation is extremely fortunate to have the Dukes chief ambassador Curt Dudley as the “Voice of James Madison University Athletics.”

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Radio

Radio Free Roanoke: A New Way to Listen

Radio Free Roanoke staff and volunteers

Talking Heads 1980 legendary song “Once in a Lifetime” uses the phrase “You may ask yourself” multiple times on this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted song.

You may ask yourself: What is “Radio Free Roanoke” and what does it mean?

Radio Free Roanoke (RFR) is a 100-watt non-commercial, non-profit grassroots community FM radio station located in Roanoke, Virginia. On April 12th, 2018, WROE-LP 95.7 FM signed on the air for the first time. Radio Free Roanoke is now broadcasting and has become a part of the local radio community here in the Roanoke Valley.

You may ask yourself: Why does Roanoke actually need another radio station? Radio-locator.com states that there are “56 radio stations that may be within distant listening range of Roanoke, Virginia.”

Of those 56 stations, fourteen signals are with AM stations while the remaining forty-two signals are FM stations. While many of those radio facilities broadcast the same station on multiple frequencies, the Roanoke/Lynchburg market is still saturated with radio outlets.

With today’s broadcasting landscape, most radio stations are for-profit commercial facilities and are owned by large corporate companies. The days of small independently owned radio stations are almost extinct and have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

RFR Founder Robert Capper adjusting radio antenna

Five years ago, Executive Director of Radio Free Roanoke Robert Capper had a vision that he wanted to create a non-profit, grassroots, local community radio station for Roanoke. He started in April 2013 to obtain a license and equipment and to build community support for this type of radio station. It took nearly five years to complete the process for Capper’s vision.

Capper finally was able to see his dream of a radio station broadcasting in Roanoke when RFR signed on for the first time on April 12th, 2018. The next day TV station WDBJ7 aired a short clip about the opening of RFR.

Opening any new radio station poses challenges but this is especially true for RFR. Besides the financial cost of running RFR, the 100-watt output from the stations’ antenna limits the range of the RFR coverage area.

The coverage map for RFR is a five-mile radius from the broadcast antenna tower location in southwest Roanoke city. That means portions of Salem, Vinton and Roanoke County are not able to pick up RFR and this limits the amount of residents that can listen to and enjoy RFR programming.

Heather Rose, RFR Corporate Vice President and Program Manager

Heather Rose is the Corporate Vice President and Program Manager for RFR and she expressed to me one of the most pressing needs for the radio station: Streaming RFR online.

The station currently is not able to stream their signal on the Internet because of the cost. An exceptional gift to RFR would be for someone to underwrite the cost of streaming the RFR signal on the Internet for an entire year. That would be huge and would allow those living outside of the five-mile RFR coverage area to receive the radio station broadcast in their homes.

One of the RFR goals is to have grassroots community programming on the station, according to Robert Capper. Radio staff and other volunteers with RFR meet weekly at the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op to discuss business that is associated with the new station. Anyone from the Roanoke community is also welcomed to attend these meetings.

I have actually attended two of the RFR weekly meetings to get a feel for how the staff and volunteers are proceeding in relation to community involvement. Capper told me at one of the meetings I attended that RFR wants to add more local content. One of current programs aired on RFR is on the controversial proposed Mountain Valley Atlantic Coast Pipeline. RFR regularly airs programming on the issue that is important to those living in Southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley area.

The station also wants more folks in the Roanoke community to submit ideas for new community programming. Community member Cedric Wilson, who currently works in the mental health profession in the Roanoke area, has proposed producing a weekly program on the subject of psychology. Wilson hopes to include topics such as emotions, human behavior, the brain, mental health, addiction, culture, religion and relationships on this new radio endeavor.

RFR coverage map

Another area where RFR separates itself from all other radio stations in Roanoke is with music. Music director Geoff Conley has been responsible for providing local Roanoke area music artists with the opportunity to have their music played in regular rotation on a daily basis. Currently, RFR is playing music from twenty-five local Roanoke artists and hopes to expand the airing of more local music in the near future.

Hearing local Roanoke music on RFR has been a dream come true for Camellia Delk, who is the keyboard and violin player for the Roanoke-based band The Bastards of Fate (BOF).   The BOF band member loves the fact that RFR is playing local artists along side established music artists such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Cocteau Twins and The Smiths.

When I asked Delk about what RFR means to her she replied, “On my way to work this morning I heard ‘One True Love’ by The Bastards of Fate – never dreamed I’d hear THAT one on the airwaves! Also heard the song ‘Ohio’ by The Wading Girl (I play violin on that track). It’s not only neat to hear my music but also fun to hear my friends’ bands Eternal Summers, Atoka Chase, Doug Cheatwood, Another Roadside Attraction, and Sad Cobras being played alongside Bjork, Kate Bush, Faith No More, Nina Simone! I can’t stress how grateful I am to be able to turn on the radio and actually enjoy it!”

Since starting broadcast in April, RFR has attempted to create a radio experience that is completely different than what the rest of the radio stations are doing in the Roanoke/Lynchburg market. As Executive Director Robert Capper sees it, “RFR will continue to grow and change as more people come to volunteer and become a part of our radio community.”

Vice President Heather Rose also shares Capper’s thoughts on the growth of RFR. Rose also hopes that more folks will volunteer their services with many various activities that are required to maintain smooth operations with the radio station.

RFR staff and volunteers at station debut party

To contact RFR staff members about programming ideas, scheduling, where to volunteer, how to donate financially or to leave feedback, visit their website. Also be sure to connect with them on Facebook.

Radio Free Roanoke is new and growing but currently has a small audience. I would love for RFR to have a larger listening area but without Internet streaming, it won’t be possible.

It would be my hope that someone who reads this blog would be able to underwrite the cost of Internet streaming of RFR online for an entire year. The staff of RFR would be extremely excited if folks all over the Roanoke Valley could enjoy listening to Radio Free Roanoke no matter where they lived. That would be awesome.

Long live Radio Free Roanoke!

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