|City of license||Troy, New York|
|Broadcast area||Capital District
Eastern New York
|Branding||The Upstate Underground|
|First air date||1947 on 640 AM|
|ERP||10,000 watts, Stereo|
|HAAT||113 meters (371 feet)|
|Callsign meaning||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute|
|Owner||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Board of Trustees|
WRPI (91.5 FM) is a non-commercial free-format college radio station run entirely by students attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and staffed by community members and students. WRPI broadcasts 365 days a year with an effective radiated power of 10,000 watts, serving listeners in Albany, eastern New York, western Massachusetts, Vermont, and via webstream. The studios are located in the basement of the Darrin Communications Center and the FM signal is broadcast from North Greenbush. Programming includes a wide range of music, cultural and public affairs programs, live bands, special events, and sports simulcasts, particularly of RPI hockey, football, and baseball. WRPI has a large record library dating to the origins of the station, estimated at 43,800 albums, and a large CD library, dating to the start of the medium.
The origin of WRPI begins in 1934, when a sub-staff of WHAZ formed Campus Review, a program devoted to college-oriented entertainment and news for the Troy area. The show was run by a senior and junior board, as well as a group of apprentices, and programmed a half-hour of WHAZ's then-six-hour-long schedule on Monday nights. A new organization, the Rensselaer Broadcasting Association, began programming WHAZ's schedule in the spring of 1947, deploying a staff entirely from RPI's student body and working with the still-existent Campus Review.
An on-campus radio station was formed as an experimental carrier-current AM station in the fall of 1947 operating on 640 kHz, and affiliated with the RPI Radio Club (still existent with call sign W2SZ) located in the attic of the Russell Sage Laboratory on campus. WRPI's studio and 50 watt transmitter were located in the old barber shop in the basement of one of the Quadrangle dorms, thus at first limiting the listening area to those dorms. Later, another transmitter was added in the freshman dorms located east of the campus. The station soon gained the WRPI moniker locally, and gradually added more equipment from donations and war surplus. Around 1948, W2SZ, the RBA and the Campus Review merged into a single Radio Council to cut down on the proliferation of student broadcasting clubs. In March 1951, the Radio Council was divided into amateur and broadcasting clubs; by 1954, WRPI's listenership included 85% of all students listening to radio sets.
On November 1, 1957, WRPI obtained an FM license and began broadcasting on its current frequency of 91.5 MHz with 750 watts, an early adopter of stereo FM transmission. In April 1969, WRPI boosted its power to 10,000 watts, while simultaneously moving to a new transmitter site. The format was also changed to "free-form progressive rock" during this period. Now with a powerful signal, WRPI functioned as the Progressive Rock/Album Rock station of the Albany area throughout the first half of the 1970s until WQBK-FM entered the format in 1975, followed by WPYX in 1980.
Throughout the 1980s, there were rigid requirements on what styles of music had to be played at times of the day, but in 1988, the "format" was abandoned. Today, WRPI's "free-format" programming includes an eclectic mix of rock, folk, jazz, metal, blues, classical, electronic, hip-hop, and experimental music, as well as talk shows, news shows, and syndicated Public Radio International and NPR shows. In 2008, the station adopted the on-air slogan "The Upstate Underground". Many listeners cite the variety of programming as a leading reason for their support, and it is one of the most popular stations in the Albany area.1
WRPI currently uses an analog FM transmitter dating from 1983 and runs on vacuum tubes. It is also one of the few stations that does not use broadcast automation, inferring that there is only broadcasting if a human operator is present.
A number of shows on WRPI have continued for a long time by community radio standards. Notably, Mostly Folk has been on Sunday nights since 1971, Kevin Roberts has broadcast Tribute, honoring an artist that has passed away in the last week, for over 30 years, HomoRadio, the voice of Albany's LGBT community, has been on the air since 1992, and Stormy Monday Blues, a Monday night blues broadcast often featuring live musicians, has been on the air for over 35 years. The current host of Stormy Monday Blues, Steven Daub, was inducted into the New York State Blues Hall of Fame for running the show for over 10 years. Finally, Sunday Morning Dew Grass, a bluegrass show every Sunday morning, has been running for over 30 years. The current host, Harmando, also holds as morning show every weekday at 7 AM until noon, and has gained a cult following among listeners in the region for his eclectic presenting style. Also, The Sounds of Now has played electronic dance music Friday evenings on WRPI for over 17 years.
WRPI has a large live music presence in the Capital Region and has for many years. In the past, Troy Savings Bank events were simulcast, and part of John Zorn's album, Cobra was recorded by the station. Recently, it has simulcast events at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, including Oneohtrix Point Never. WRPI also features weekly live broadcasts, notably including:
- WRPI official website
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Website
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WRPI
- Radio-Locator information on WRPI
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WRPI