WMTN - 103.1 FM, The Voice of the Mountain

by Beth Riner, Messenger Staff Writer

St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School’s radio station WMTN - 103.1 FM may be one of the best kept secrets on the mountain, but Faculty Sponsor J.R. Ankney is determined to change that.

“We’ve been on the air for 20 years,” Ankney said. “My brief is to bring the radio station more into the public eye. We want to make sure we’re reaching everybody we can and that as many people know about us as we can reach.

“I think telling the good news of where we live is the prime function of a community radio station. Our goal is to be the Voice of the Mountain—that’s our tagline.”

To accomplish this ambitious goal, the student-run station, which has traditionally broadcast to Sewanee and Monteagle, is moving its transmission antenna to a location 20 meters higher on Fire Tower Road.

“We’re moving both the antenna and the transmitter to get better signal to more people,” Ankney explained. “We hope to be able to reach Manchester, Tullahoma, Cowan, Winchester, and—I always say if the wind is right—down on the other side to South Pittsburg.”

The station went live Aug. 21, with a new and improved website,

https://www.sasradio.org/, where listeners can stream from anywhere in the world.

“We are putting in new programming to supplement the old sound—classic rock and vintage country,” he said. “We will have live DJ’s every morning in the fall as well as live talent in the afternoons. During the day, we’ll be doing lots more live programming, and we would like to pair up with the University radio folks who have lost their terrestrial license. We hope that will foster a new relationship between the two schools for sharing programming and staff.”

WMTN hopes to broadcast sports and music live from the SAS campus and later broadcast University of the South events as well.

Ankney said they’ll run nationally syndicated shows too in the fall.

“There will be a wide variety of formats from jazz to classical,” he added. “Every evening from 8–11 p.m., we will be offering such shows as ‘Hearts of Space,’ ‘The Midnight Special,’ ‘Classical Music on the 3rd floor,’ ‘Folk Roots Radio,’ and ‘The Andy Fox Rock Show!’ Saturday night will include a one-hour show called ‘Live from the Bop Shop,’ which is a live, jazz show from Cleveland, Ohio.”

A new and big programming change for the station will be shifting to an “all-jazz format” overnight called Jazz for Night owls which will run from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night. Also different this fall will be a show called Classical Gas, which will run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday.

Programming input from locals is encouraged.

“We are looking for active engagement from the local community to suggest things they would like to hear—or to even become co-broadcasters. Ideas for music and talk shows are welcome,” he said, noting to email <wmtn@sasweb.org> to make suggestions or volunteer.

One other way to help the radio station is to donate CDs to expand its music library.

“We are looking specifically for jazz and contemporary music from 2000 onwards, but will accept any donation,” he said. People can contact him about donating via the station website or by calling or texting (423) 635-8960.

“We will pick up, or they can be dropped off at Langford Hall on the SAS campus,” said Ankney

Ankney, who began working with the station two years ago, is excited about the growth of the station not only in terms of its programming but also student engagement.

“I think student engagement is probably the most important thing to me right now,” he said.

Two seniors, Alex Colon and Cameo Smith, who were deeply involved with the station last year, will serve as its managers. Colon handles technical aspects of running the station while Smith focuses on programming and DJ development.

Ankney, who came to SAS in 2018 with his wife, Peggy, a physics teacher, was originally hired to teach music and be the chapel organist.

“Two years ago, I went to the headmaster and said I would really like to take this radio station to the next level,” he said. “I saw this wonderful opportunity—this wonderful station which has been on the air for going on twenty years—and students’ engagement had fallen off.”

Headmaster Karl Sjolund was immediately on board.

Ankney began teaching a radio broadcasting class and an afterschool activity where students learned the basics of radio production and broadcasting techniques and developed new shows and podcasts.

“They record them in our student recording studio, and then we put them on the radio,” Ankney said.

WMTN recently received notice of four nominations for the 2022-2023 John Drury High School Radio Awards, which honor award-winning ABC-Chicago news anchor John Drury. Awards recognize broadcast excellence at high school radio stations across the country.

Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 4, at North Central College in Illinois.

Nominees from SAS include Kenneth Simmons “Music From Another Time” for Best Specialty Music Show; Cameo Smith and Kendall Elder “Sun and Moon Podcast, Episode 2” for Best Podcast; Elliott Boyd, Reagan Vaughan, Luke Baird, Kendall Elder, Thomas Billups, Charlie Relford, and Cameo Smith “The Lodger” for Best Radio Drama; and Elliott Boyd, Kendall Elder, Cameo Smith, and Thomas Billups “Ask Elliott, Episode 6: Holiday Edition” for Best Talk Show (non-sports).

WMTN will officially celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2024. Bayard “Bud” Walters, Sewanee Military Academy, Class of ’59, helped fund and found the station in 2004. He also purchased the new antenna for the station a few months ago.

“He is the owner and CEO of Cromwell Media in Nashville,” Ankney said. “He owns a series of 33 or 34 stations from Nashville—he has five stations in Nashville including The Buzz and The Game—and all the way up to northern Illinois. He got into radio in college and has made his life in radio.”

Ankney also said the station is actively looking for sponsors and underwriters.

“You can sponsor a show,” he said. “You can sponsor a day — for example, Monday is brought to you by The Blue Chair in Sewanee.”

Prices range from a basic $150 package for six months to a $500 premium package for seven days a week for 12 months.

For more information, go to https://www.sasradio.org/

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