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Overcoming Radio Silence: The Perch Relaunches Under New Leadership

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Caleb McCool, News Director for the Perch, speaks to the audience at the Perch launch party. Thursday, October 27, 2022. Matt Cook, Staff Photographer

UTC’s student-ran radio station cannot wait to be heard.

The Perch hosted a Halloween-themed launch party on Oct. 27 to celebrate months of redesigns and reorganization.


In an atmosphere anchored by the waning twilight, costumed participants ambled between the photoset, dance floor, tarot card reading, face painting, and stardust shop. Perch staff dispersed throughout the party, helping make s'mores or judge costumes.


Dressed as the Pope, the Perch News Director Caleb McCool helped manage the sound quality, occasionally announcing information through the microphone. Joking, he claimed his presence “blessed the event.”


“When it comes to radio, music is all about expression,” McCool said before posing for a picture with his hands clasped. “We take the highest form of expression we can.”


Fog machines, spider webs, skeletons, pumpkins and other witchcraft paraphernalia dotted the streetside. Recessed into the earth and flanked by hills on three sides, the amphitheater served as a fitting location with loud enough sound the live bands and DJs—those included Havoc, Bed Kaczynski, Joshua Claude Mayfield and His Horse Thieves, DJ Techno, and DJ Ramo Inc.


Mayfield has run various record stores throughout Chattanooga, and when Havoc asked his band to play alongside them, he agreed.


“It’s good to have a real college radio station,” Mayfield said. “We haven’t had one in a real long time.”


Many of the bands included UTC students, like Havoc’s drummer Lake Foster and Mayfield’s bass guitarist Garret Liles. The party served as Liles’ first time playing at UTC.


Their sound drew an audience in, like communications major Jules Jackson.


“I just wanted to check [the party] out, it sounded cool,” Jackson said. “I’ll see around, maybe get my tarot read.”


Behind the tarot card reading table, Sage Bae burned incense as she prepared for divination. Between the soft flow of the stick, countered by the plumes of smoke, a lonely lantern provided all the light.


“This is my life, I get to do this everyday,” Bae, a Chattanooga local, said. “I work for a witch store. A tarot card reading is a tool… people use for introspection.”


A natural fit, the Halloween theme resonated with the station’s members. The Perch itself operates as an undead, underground media. Only thanks to students’ renewed passion and new faculty leadership, does the station have a second chance at life.


Ryan Mench, the Perch’s marketing director, remembered when events like Thursday’s were unthinkable. 


“The last faculty advisor choked out the station… there was no creative expression,” Mench lamented.


The new faculty advisor, Hayle Solomon, faced an upward battle when she inherited the program. Dressed as Mabel Pines, Solomon greeted and served party-goers as they passed by. As she worked, she explained that as a result of the Perch ceasing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the previous faculty advisor neglected the station– leaving behind a skeletal budget.


“I try not to let it get us down,” Solomon said, smiling. “It forces us to be creative and put ourselves out there…”

Hired in Aug. 2021, Solomon hasn’t shaken the feeling of being new to the program.

“The first year, we were on air, but it felt like we were just scratching the surface,,” Solomon said. “Campus awareness of the Perch is really low… one of the biggest challenges is brand awareness.”

Without enough funding to pay their full staff, according to Solomon, the budget leaves little to no room to allow for increasing engagement. She mentioned that the Perch is not funded as well as other campus media organizations, especially those which have a lasting legacy–even though the Perch allows people of all majors to participate.

“Anyone across campus could be a host,” Solomon said. “Everybody has something that matters to them.”

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