Career tech center launches radio station

Published 4:40 pm Friday, April 4, 2014

Students Brandon Craig and Summer Smitherman use a soundboard to organize music in the WSMX 98.3 Super Mix studio at LeCroy Career Tech Center

Students Brandon Craig and Summer Smitherman use a soundboard to organize music in the WSMX 98.3 Super Mix studio at LeCroy Career Tech Center.

Local students made waves—airwaves, that is—on Thursday when they launched a radio station at LeCroy Career Technical Center in Clanton.

WSMX 98.3 FM Super Mix is the radio station LCTC electronics instructor Chris Johnson and many students over the last several years created to reach residents through school-based broadcasts.

According to Johnson, WSMX 98.3 FM is the first high school career tech radio station and one of the first high school radio stations in Alabama.

“We’ve had the studio for a while, but this is the first time we’ve had a transmitter and been able to be on air,” Johnson said. “It’s extremely exciting for me to be part of what’s taking place out here.”

On Thursday afternoon, the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting for the radio station in front of the studio, which is temporarily located in a building at the back of the LCTC campus.

After Chilton County Schools Superintendent Dave Hayden cut the ribbon, students in Johnson’s class played “Royals” by Lorde, the song they chose to be the station’s first song on air.

Johnson said the call letters ‘SMX’ are meant to stand for “Super Mix” because of the station’s pledge to play a mix of old and new country and rock music.

An AM radio station in South Carolina with the same call letters gave LCTC permission to use the call letters on its FM station, Johnson said.

“This term, about 16 students are involved in this project,” Johnson said. “This is not our total program. This is just an enhancement to our program.”

The program received radio equipment donations from the Alabama Broadcasters Association and other radio stations.

Johnson said WSMX 98.3 should reach about a 6-mile radius around LCTC.

“It will cover Clanton pretty solid,” Johnson said.

Currently, the station only plays music, but Johnson said he hopes to incorporate local news broadcasts, school sporting event coverage and weather and traffic updates.

“All are possibilities,” Johnson said. “This school has continuously progressed. As technology changes, the school is trying to prepare students for the workforce. As things change, we try to change with them.”

Summer Smitherman, a senior at Isabella High School, brought WSMX 98.3 to life Thursday by speaking the station’s first words on air.

“I’m pretty excited,” Smitherman said. “It’s a new experience. I was the first live student voice on the radio for 98.3.

“That’s something to tell your kids or grandkids one day. That was the first time I’ve spoken on anything live.”

Brandon Craig, a sophomore at Verbena High School, is another student working with the radio station in the electronics program at LCTC.

“I think it’s going to be a real success for radio,” Craig said. “Hopefully, it will be on for years.”

Craig said he organizes music to play, tunes the antenna and works on the transmitter for the radio station.

He added that he has always been interested in music and hopes his experience with WSMX 98.3 will aid him in pursuing a music-related career, such as being a disc jockey.

“It will help a lot, if I do DJ, to know how things are going and how to select music,” Craig said.

This is Johnson’s 20th year teaching at LCTC.

As an instructor and former student, Johnson said being involved in the creation of the center’s radio station is especially exciting for him.

Glasscock said the radio station is another way LCTC hopes to help students be better prepared for college or a career.

“We’re just excited,” Glasscock said. “It’s just another part of the puzzle. I just think we’re going to have a lot of support.”