Saturday nights belong to Vocalo on WBEZ, a two-hour curated collection of original programming from Vocalo.org .  This is big, Vocalo 89.5 FM, the sister station to WBEZ 91.5 FM, for years has championed diverse voices via music, stories, and conversation has found a spot in the city’s larger public radio community. Vocalo has undergone programming changes under Silvia Rivera’s watch that have propelled it into a household name for the city’s savviest community oriented folks. Community public radio is a labor of love, lucky for Chicago, Silvia has a team of some of the realest producers and cultural curators to run the show(s). Meet the Latino voices of Vocalo, who tell us how on the daily,  public radio contributes to the city’s most relevant dialogues.

 

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SILVIA RIVERA

Silvia Rivera la Jefa

Silvia Rivera la Jefa

Job Description:

I’m La Jefa. I develop all of our content strategies and community engagement initiatives.  I also manage the hardest working team in the biz. #teamvocalo

How did you start at Vocalo?
I started at Vocalo in 2010, after an amazing career at Radio Arte.

Your favorite 5 mins on air (ever)? The first time we aired Vocalo on WBEZ. It was such a proud feeling.

Whats the power of public radio for you?
Stories are powerful.  When public radio is at its best, its stories can move you to become a better person, an active community member, and more thoughtful about the world around you.
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JESSE DE LA PENA

jdepena

Jesse De La Pena, Music Curator

Job Description:

 As Vocalo’s Music Curator I oversee the music and special programming (Sade B-day, Stevie Wonder B-Day celebration, ATCQ, Gil Scott Heron tribute, etc) at the station plus host and produce the weekly 6-hour “Friday Night DJ Series” and I help market and produce various Vocalo events (Music & Stories, Quest for the Best DJ Competition, etc.)

How did you start at Vocalo?
Silvia and I began talking about doing something back when she was still at Radio Arte, she heard about my Internet radio show “DELAPENA LIVE!” on Smoothbeats.com that I did for 7 years and some of my themed events I was doing at Darkroom  some years ago. At the time my schedule was a bit too hectic, a couple years had passed and we picked up where we left off when an opportunity came up to help establish Vocalo as more of a music destination.

Your favorite 5 mins on air (ever)?

I really enjoy hosting the FNDS and interviewing various guests but, my favorite time so far has been during the Sade B-Day celebration w/ WBEZ’s Richard Steele. Mainly because it was the 1st time I did everything on my own during daytime programming hours and the numbers were really good, overall it was a great show. Any 5 minutes during that one I would say, I look forward to doing more programs like that.

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JESSE MENENDEZ

Jesse Menendez, Producer & Music Curator

Jesse Menendez, Producer & Music Curator

Job Description:

I host and produce The Music Vox, Live From Studio 10 and Vocalo on WBEZ. I, along with Jesse De La Pena and Fyodor Sahknovski, have a hand in picking the music that airs station wide. The Music Vox is a music show that places an emphasis on the culture and politics of Chicago’s independent music community. It airs M-F from 6-8 PM. Live From Studio 10 is a live performance show that airs every Wednesday from 8-10 PM and features a full hour of interviews and performances featuring some of the best acts from Chicago and beyond. Vocalo on WBEZ is two hours of music, stories and conversation featuring content from our listeners and Vocalo team of host producers.

How did you start at Vocalo?

My friend, Luis Perez (see below), had already been working at Vocalo. He had been telling me about the station for some time before I decided to visit Vocalo’s website and listen to the broadcast. I did just that and I was floored by what I heard; a conversation between individuals from various backgrounds (after all, Chicago is hyper segregated like a mug).  From that point I became an unofficial volunteer then an official intern (foot firmly planted in door!). As a volunteer, I pitched a Saturday morning show. It was approved it and I become a volunteer weekend host (volunteer = unpaid). From there, I picked up some fill in shifts and eventually when Vocalo expanded its programming, I was hired.

Your favorite 5 mins on air (ever)?

I’ve had too many great moments on air to pick just one so, I’ll share the most recent. Las Cafeteras is a Son Jarocho group from East Los Angeles California. They were in town for a few shows and they stopped by the station for an interview and to perform a few songs. Las Cafeteras sang songs about the labor movement and about the pride they had for their Latino people and heritage. Las Cafeteras were promoting culture through music and reminding us of our peoples struggles so that we might better understand where we come from and where we’re going.  During the interview and performance I was reminded of the power of music. The music was great but the messages it contained were inspiring.

Whats the power of public radio for you?

When done properly, public radio is a true representation of the people it serves, it addresses issues important to the community, it speaks with them and not to them. The true power lies in its ability to serve as voice for the people to use as they see fit.

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LUIS PEREZ

Luis Perez, Host and Producer

Luis Perez, Host and Producer

Job Description:

I am host and producer for the Vocalo Overdrive, an afternoon talk show that focuses on conversations about current events, social issues, with an emphasis on people’s stories and personal narratives.

How did you start at Vocalo?

It was about 5 years ago, I was an office manager at an electronics recycling plant during the day, but spent every free moment available to me working on the 4 installment of an award winning event and documentary film series called “Rhyme Spitters” an open All-City freestyle rap competition.  I was producing both the film and the event which was a monster.  It took 7 months of pre-production,  promotion, recruiting, and organizing.  As the event day approached, someone from the newly formed Vocalo interviewed me about it.  At the end of the interview the person asked if I had done radio before, I hadn’t. They still suggested that I apply for a job at the station.  Plus, my day job had let me go for spending too much time on personal projects.

Your favorite 5 mins on air (ever)?

One time we had an interview scheduled with a food and drink critic from a local magazine.  (Side note: those guys are super secretive, he wouldn’t let me take a picture with him.)  I convinced my boss (who doesn’t work here anymore) that we should do a segment on beer and taste them while we were on the air.  It turned out to be a great segment, we learned a lot about local breweries and the science of beer, but we were a lot less articulate by the end of that hour than we started.  I think I used the dump button 3 different times.  That was probably each of my 12 favorite consecutive 5 minutes of radio ever.

Whats the power of public radio for you?

The power of public radio lies in its dedication to the service of others.  Unlike commercial radio which is driven by the distribution of commercial goods, public radio provides a space where a conversations between people can happen. The pioneers of public radio have done a good job of developing techniques to tell the stories of people we otherwise would never have heard from.  A good way to say it might be that they’ve found a way to make healthy food also tasty food.  Where it gets hard is when I talk about public radio to my community, young people of color, almost no one has heard of it.  Like a vegetable they didn’t know existed. I spend most of my spare time thinking about how I can get more people involved in public radio, whether it is as a listener or as contributor.  I believe very much that it is a medium that can change lives, because it has changed my life.  Radio itself is good vehicle to explore alternative perspectives.