RIO VISTA — The sun wasn’t even up.
It was pitch-black except for the lights in the Rio Vista High School parking lot and the blazing lights coming from Kevin MacGregor’s classroom.
Inside, Patrick “Patch” Murphy, 16, and Leenda Calfy, 15, bustled around, getting ready for their early morning radio show on the student-run Radio Rio 91.5 FM. The station rooms are attached to the classroom for easy access and learning.
Murphy and Calfy do a little brainstorming about what they might talk about that morning when on air. Fifteen minutes prior to show time, Calfy sets the button that records the show for liability reasons – they flip buttons, run through playlists, review The Associated Press news, look at charts and a host of other things that look foreign to the uninitiated. They do it with ease, while MacGregor watches, but keeps his distance.
He said he largely lets them handle the morning duties on their own.
“They’ve really developed a self-sufficiency and self-confidence,” he said. “I trust their judgement.”
“Thirty seconds,” Calfy said, as she slipped on her headphones.
When the “on air” button went red and the show started recently, the camaraderie between the two was evident as they bantered easily, entertaining the audience and MacGregor, as well. He said he finds himself smiling at their ad libbed on-air conversation rather often. He calls them both naturals, extroverted and usually not lacking for things to say.
“We have a lot of fun doing it,” Murphy said.
For some, it’s an interest that started young. Calfy was 10 when she started her own YouTube channel and also did voiceovers for anime.
“I had over 100 subscribers when I was really little,” she said. She “retired” at 12. In the future she’s looking at going into broadcasting and doing voiceovers. Murphy is looking at a possible radio career.
The Radio Rio morning show is billed as a news/comedy platform that includes lively banter between the students, a news story, word of the day and popular music from the past and present. On a recent day, Calfy and Murphy were joined later in the show by Logan Santos, 14, and middle-school student Montana Olson, 12.
Montana is a seventh-grade student at Riverview Middle School and called herself, as she laughed, a “test subject.” MacGregor is looking into adding a middle-school component to Radio Rio programming. The planning is in its infancy, the type of show to be done isn’t conceptualized yet, but in the meantime, Montana is having fun, she said.
“It’s a great program,” said the articulate Montana. “It’s very different.”
She said that it’s not what students her age are typically doing.
She called Murphy and Calfy “crazy” in the studio and said they take the banter in crazy directions while on air. She professed to initial on-air jitters and not wanting to interrupt them as the two bantered but said with a laugh, “Now, I don’t care.”
“With them it’s funny, it’s comfortable,” she said.
The reach of the 50-watt station – at 91.5 FM – varies, MacGregor said. Typically to the east, it can be heard to Lodi and Stockton, to the bridge in Antioch and up the Delta to Walnut Grove. The west is a different story – it only reaches a couple of miles out of town because of a stronger station on the same airwaves.
Right now the students are on from 7 to 8 a.m. – the rest of the day is a set playlist of music and public announcements. Most of the announcements are recorded by the students in MacGregor’s radio class. And they have to be perfect.
“I think I had to record one 16 times in my freshman year,” Murphy said, laughing.
The station was started by teacher Jerry Rubier, who was also a former Rio Vista mayor, in a spare classroom in 1972.
Years ago, in the 1970s, MacGregor said, the station was live from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and then there was also a period of time no one ran it at all. About a decade ago, the station made a comeback with the Radio Rio moniker. After a semester hiatus, MacGregor plans to bring back the late afternoon show next semester, he said.
The opportunity at Rio Vista High School gives students a leg up into college radio, MacGregor said. At the same time, he sees the students having fun and “learning something different.”
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.