Few SAIT students may have noticed the background music playing as they stand in line for their morning double double.
And those who have noticed may not be aware that the music drifting through the halls is from SAIT’s own campus radio station.
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of SAIT’s radio, television and broadcast news (RTBN) program, the station re-launched on Jan. 10 under the name Legacy 103.
The station, which listeners can tune into daily on www.radio.sait.ca, re-brands itself each year. Legacy 103 was previously Revolution 103, and Quest 103 before that.
Richard Stroobant, an instructor with the RTBN program, said the annual changeover is to give students experience in running a radio station from the ground up, which includes being responsible for a new name, brand, logo and advertising campaign.
“It’s an opportunity for them to take ownership of the station, which is theirs for the year,” he said in an interview.
Stroobant said instructors aren’t part of the branding or decision-making process for the station, nor are they on-air. Every aspect is student-led.
While you won’t be able to find Legacy 103 on your car or home radio, streaming live online allows the station to give RTBN students much more flexibility when entering the workforce, a process that would be limited by Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) guidelines, which would prohibit the station from playing more than one format of music, and limit advertising opportunities.
Currently, the station plays five different music formats: top 40 contemporary hits, hot adult contemporary, country, rock and alternative.
“There are 670 radio stations in this country. We don’t know where our SAIT grads are going to go. To try and train them for just one format really is a disservice to them, and doesn’t give them the experience [needed] if they were to have to change and go to a different format.”
Stroobant said the different formats allow for students to learn to communicate clearly with different demographics of listeners.
A 25-year-old, stay-at-home mom who listens to country music is going to have a different listening experience than a 25-year-old college student who listens to alternative rock.
SAIT’s RTBN radio program is a two-year diploma program, with only 24 students accepted each year.
Stroobant said what makes SAIT’s program stand out is that it prepares students for every aspect of a career in radio, not just as disc jockeys, but numerous behind the scenes careers, such as writing, producing, music directing and even sales and advertising.
“It’s really a communications program, where we use the radio station as a vehicle to deliver the communications education.”
Stroobant said some graduates decide to go into public or media relations, or different positions that utilize skills learned in the program, including communication and time-management, as well as the ability to work in teams.
Stroobant said the most common feedback he receives from graduates is “I’m over-prepared.”
RTBN has produced some of SAIT’s most distinguished graduates, with former students going on to be communications officers for the Alberta NDP, and working for agencies such as TSN, Sportsnet and CTV News.
The 2016 SAIT Outstanding Young Alumnus, Ron Tarrant, graduated from the program and now works as the head imaging and sound designer on The Howard Stern Show. Jackson Proskow, who graduated from the program in 2004, is the Washington bureau chief for Global Television.
“You’d be extremely hard-pressed to listen to any radio station in the city, or turn any television news program on in this city, and not see some kind of work that’s been created by a SAIT student,” said Stroobant.
“Our program has had 50 years of being able to affect broadcasting, not just in the city, not even in just this province, but in this country and internationally.”
Apart from the 50th anniversary, Stroobant said he thinks this legacy of former students who have set the bar so high for the RTBN program is in part what inspired the new Legacy 103 moniker.
Our program has had 50 years of being able to affect broadcasting, not just in the city, not even in just this province, but in this country and internationally. – Richard Stroobant
Stroobant, who worked at CJAY 92 in Calgary for 20 years before becoming an instructor at SAIT, said a career in radio is hard work, but it doesn’t often feel like it.
“I’ve never been late to work because I just can’t wait to get there, and I always stay late because I hate leaving. My favourite day of the week is Sunday night because then I get to go back to work on Monday,” he said.
“The world needs people who are going to [cure] cancer, and be doctors and be lawyers, but when the chemist figures out what the cure for cancer is, it’s going to be broadcast on a radio station. We’re the storytellers. We’re the people who reach out and talk to people and tell their stories and communicate for them or to them.”