[JPL] WMOT faces the ax

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Thu Jan 22 11:00:51 EST 2009

Middle Tennessee jazz station WMOT faces the ax
By Jim Ridley
Published on January 21, 2009 at 10:25am

A dynamo run out of a small studio on the MTSU campus in Murfreesboro, 
WMOT-89.5 FM has long been the beating heart of Middle Tennessee's jazz 
scene, serving as a conduit for gigs, concert info and artist exposure. 
But if threatened budget cuts go through soon, the only jam session in 
Jazz 89's future will be on harps.

At a time when schools across the state are cutting costs with a chain 
saw, Middle Tennessee State University is eyeing WMOT as a one-stroke 
cost-saving slash. That has sent musicians, club owners and related 
enterprises---not to mention WMOT listeners---into a panic.

"All the musicians in town know about it," says Beegie Adair, the 
veteran pianist who's been playing Nashville jazz clubs for decades. 
"We're all hunkering down to figure out what to do."

Since 1969, WMOT has served as on-the-job training for student staffers. 
But it's as one of the nation's last 24-hour jazz stations that the NPR 
affiliate has carved its niche.

"It's important not just to jazz buffs and players, but to a lot of 
musicians," says Jim Williamson, director of the Nashville Jazz 
Orchestra. On a recent visit to the BMI compound on Music Row, 
Williamson says, the sound coming from office after office was WMOT.

The station currently gets more than $500,000 annually from the 
university, with as much as $130,000 more coming from grants, 
underwriting and listener support. Even if WMOT survives, supporters say 
it will need to flip-flop those amounts.

"Right now there's enough money to last until July," says jazz pianist 
Lori Mechem, co-founder of the Nashville Jazz Workshop and WMOT board 
member. "But what are we going to do next year?"

According to student Alli Scott, who does weekday weather and traffic 
for WMOT and serves as general manager of its sister station, WMTS, the 
worry isn't just that MTSU will shut down the 40-year-old station. It's 
that the cash-strapped university will then sell the station to an 
off-campus entity, thus robbing students of an invaluable résumé builder.

Supporters say WMOT's best---and perhaps last---hope lies in convincing 
MTSU President Dr. Sidney McPhee that the university should cut 
elsewhere. They've launched a letter-writing campaign and scheduled a 
number of benefits. First is a fundraiser 8 p.m. Friday at the Jazz 
Workshop's Jazz Cave at the Neuhoff Complex, featuring the Beegie Adair 
Trio. WMTS is assembling a "Save the Jazz" show for Feb. 5 at 
Murfreesboro club 527 Main Street, and the Nashville Jazz Orchestra will 
perform a benefit Feb. 15 at Limelight.

Asked what she'll do if these and other efforts fail, Lori Mechem 
doesn't waste words: "Cry."

Email jridley at nashvillescene.com, or call 615-844-9402.

Dr. Jazz
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