Though I’m a huge radio listener—especially public radio—the process of making radio happen has always been a mystery to me. Beyond the occasional in-studio performance, I had no experience with radio when The Current asked me to be the DJ in Residence for the month of August for the Local Current stream. To be honest, the airwaves scare me. I’m comfortable performing to thousands of people, but something about that absolute silence on the other end of the radio is terrifying—so my primary thought arriving at the MPR building that first day in August was, “I might totally suck at this.”
It helped to find out right away that The Current is just a collection of awesome people. Their space is cozy: there are some cubicles with people listening to music through giant headphones, some offices with windows overlooking downtown St. Paul, and studios of various sizes where people were live on air or pre-recording a future show or underwriting message. It felt like a big family.
For all the good vibes and closeness at The Current, though, what surprised me most about the experience of hosting a radio show was how lonely it is being a DJ. I had never thought of that before. When you’re on the other end of things, you feel like the DJ is kind of your friend, keeping you company in your car or at your desk—but being in my tiny soundproof studio for six hours straight (with the occasional trip to the break room for coffee) with only the yawning abyss of dead air as the response to my comments was incredibly lonely.
Lonely or not, the experience was fascinating. Browsing the enormous catalogue of music, working the array of knobs and buttons that arm the microphone for recording, the weird business of splicing bits of voice and song together on a computer screen so that it feels natural on the other end…all of these were new concepts to me. My favorite part was adding music to the library that would not otherwise be in there—people I know personally who deserve a shout-out, or some exposure for music from back in the day that just hadn’t made it to The Current’s airwaves yet.
Though I was a little nervous about my place on the air at first, by the end, hosting my little Friday block felt pretty natural. What did I ultimately take away from the experience? It cemented in me an even deeper appreciation for the kind of station The Current is than I already had going into it. As someone who drives around the country a couple times a year and has spent many long hours station-surfing in the car, I know firsthand that most cities don’t have a resource like this one. Not only is it a national tastemaker for new music, it’s a supportive platform for our vibrant local music scene here in Minnesota, and it’s a great feeling to have been a small part of it for a little while.
Listen to Reina del Cid’s final shift as Local Current DJ in residence today, August 28, from noon to 6:00 p.m. on our Minnesota music stream. Next, tune in every Friday in September to hear local music curated and hosted by our next DJ in residence: Gabriel Douglas of the 4onthefloor. Local Current’s DJ in residence program is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.