WTMD celebrates 15th anniversary

TU radio station commemorates its switch to current “Triple-A” format

By Rebecca Kirkman on November 13, 2018

Cris Jacobs of the band Smooth Kentucky
Cris Jacobs of the band Smooth Kentucky performs at WTMD's anniversary event at the Baltimore Museum of Industry on Nov. 8. Photo: Peter Hoblitzell

On Nov. 8, more than 450 people attended a sold-out celebration of Towson University radio station WTMD at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

“We are celebrating the 15th anniversary of changing our format to what in the industry is called Triple-A, which stands for Adult Album Alternative,” said general manager and program director Scott Mullins. “WTMD has evolved into one of the country’s leading stations in the format.”

The format change meant a focus on a deeper selection of tracks besides hit singles and was intended to fill a gap in Baltimore public radio, according to a Dec. 2, 2002, issue of student newspaper The Towerlight.

Mullins said WTMD has managed to thrive in a volatile industry that has been impacted by technology and changing listening habits. He credits the university’s support for enabling much of the station’s success. “Our connection to TU is of vital importance. WTMD simply would not be here without the support of the university,” Mullins said.

Over the past decade, the station has become known for its many community events, including weekly “Live Lunch” broadcasts, family-friendly Saturday Morning Tunes concert series and free First Thursdays concerts in the summer months. Mullins said the First Thursdays concerts have grown exponentially, from two bands and about 800 people per event in 2010 to six bands per show and tens of thousands of fans over the course of the 2018 season.

The origins of WTMD go back much further than 15 years, however. Plans for the first student radio station began in the fall of 1971. The program expanded over time, adopting its current FM station, 89.7, in 1974, and its current call letters in 1991.

WTMD remained the responsibility of the Department of Electronic Media and Film (EMF) until 2003, when it was transferred to the Division of University Marketing and Communications. In 2013, the WTMD studio moved a mile north from the Media Center to a state-of-the art facility with live performance space at Towson City Center. Since 2014, the station has been licensed to and owned by TU through a nonprofit, Towson University Public Media.

The station still employs TU student interns, said director of finance and administration Kirsten Furlong Scofield. “They are mostly EMF students, but we have had students from many different departments and majors including mass communication, business administration, art and design, and marketing.”

Read more: Celebrate First Thursday with Baltimore’s ‘Best Radio Station’

Matt Galler ’09, an EMF graduate, interned at WTMD for two semesters before being offered a job working an open Sunday afternoon shift nearly 10 years ago. “I’ve always felt that an internship at WTMD is one of, if not the most, valuable radio internships one could get in the Baltimore region,” said Galler. “It is a truly hands-on learning experience where the intern gets to do things that really matter—from design and photography to audio editing for certain programs and assisting at our many events.”

Today, Galler is the current host of “Afternoon Drive” and “The Saturday Alternative” as well as the station’s social media coordinator. “As a former TU student, I know firsthand how proud I was—and still am—to have a radio station like WTMD represent my school and my city. Not only is WTMD Baltimore’s most trusted source for music, but there is no other radio station around so dedicated to supporting the Baltimore-area music and arts scene,” he said.

“We believe in the power of music to build community and make Baltimore a better and more vibrant place to live, and it's with that in mind that we all come to work each day. Through our work here at WTMD, we aim to shine a positive light on the university community.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.