Rochester community jazz radio station creating educational content for area kids

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GREECE, N.Y. (WROC) — Jazz90.1 WGMC-FM calls itself “Rochester’s jazz station” for good reason.

With nearly 50 years of airtime in Rochester through the Greece Central School District, along with a huge group of volunteers manning shows throughout the day, it’s one of the few full-time jazz stations left in the country.

“We raise all the funds ourselves, we’re not supported through taxpayers dollars,” said station manager Rob Linton. “Jazz is America’s truest art form. When you think about this music, there’s not a ton of places you can get it. Our goal and mission here is keeping the music alive.”

Linton says that its fitting Rochester is one of the few places in the country with a station like this, citing the vibrant jazz community, from the students at Eastman School of Music, to the Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Most of their funding comes through listener donations, even through a pandemic, or an upcoming pledge drive.

“People are giving what they can to make sure that the radio station stays on the air,” Linton said.

Linton has served as the station manager since 2004. In that time, has made the station into a digital content machine, posting regularly information about shows on the station, news in the jazz community, and updates from syndicated programming.

Through social media — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, along with consistent website updates — excels at reaching a younger audience.

However, when the pandemic hit, Linton decided to combine his three passions — radio, jazz, and education — to reach and even younger demographic.

“Jazz90.1 Kidz Zone is a pet project of mine,” he said. “As the pandemic continued, and most schools were going to a hybrid model, we decided to provide content to kids that maybe can support what they have in their classrooms.”

“It’s a way to keep music in their minds. Band is so important, chorus is so important, that we want to keep the kids engaged.”

On the Jazz Kidz Zone on their website, Linton and his very small team of paid employees — along with over a dozen volunteer DJs waiting in the wings — create new content every week.

All for free.

Topics can range to the general history of jazz, to how the music of jazz sounds and is constructed, to whole lessons devoted to the greats, like Ella Fitzgerald, to Louis Armstrong, to Billie Holiday.

In each weekly module, there can be readings from children’s books on jazz, music examples coloring pages, podcasts, and even homework.

“It’s a different type of homework,” Linton said. “They don’t have to practice their horn at home, they’re not doing math, they get to listen to music, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Linton says that all of these assignments are also designed to be engaging with parents as well.

But it’s easy for adults to give kids homework and tell them its good and important.

“I would love for a student to watch these videos and fall in love with the music like we have,” he said. “There’s nothing greater than hearing a song for the first time, and going ‘wow.’ But also the rich history on jazz.”

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