She attended high school in Middleton, but Y Mae Sussman's musical tastes span the globe. Most recently, she's been making sonic journeys to exotic pop landscapes like Sweden and Denmark. For Sussman, the names of Scandinavian artists - Jens Lekman, the Figurines and Peter, Bjorn & John - come as easy as John Mayer and Coldplay.
Sussman will be broadcasting an hour of Scandinavian folk, rock and electronic tracks every Friday at 3 p.m. this fall on WSUM, 91.7 FM, the student-run radio station of UW-Madison. At 11 a.m. each Friday, Sussman will be on the air with her roommate, Mary Beth, spinning Bollywood hits.
WSUM is kicking off its fall schedule this week. And if the lineup is a window on campus culture, the view inside looks increasingly global and diverse.
"Monday mornings at 9 we have an all-Spanish-language show," says WSUM program director Eric Moody. "That show will be featuring all new music from Argentina." Meanwhile, at 8 a.m. Mondays, Song Jiang plays an hour of Chinese pop.
Moody, 21, is responsible for hiring and training more than 140 student volunteers to broadcast mostly in hour-long blocks. A senior biology/limnology major from suburban Chicago, Moody hosts his own hour of "club-hopping electronica" Fridays at 10 a.m. In class, he studies lakes. On the air, Moody says, he "likes to play songs about fish."
Indie rock shapes much of the eclectic, if not unwieldy, schedule. One of my favorite 'SUM shows, "The Sum of All Parts," is the best two hours of indie rock you'll hear on local radio. The show is hosted by DJ Renton and airs Thursdays 6-8 a.m. You'll enjoy "The Sum of All Parts" if you like M. Ward, TV on the Radio and Bonnie Prince Billy.
If you prefer your radio to be predictable and tidy, WSUM may not be for you. But adventuresome listeners will find a lot to like about the new schedule.
Three shows are hosted by members of the Rare Groove Society, a local collective dedicated to funk and soul. Fridays at 6 p.m., Jeff Mann plays an hour of funk and soul classics on "Groovin' with the Mann." He authors a blog, called Funkify Your Life, at jeffontheradio.blogspot.com. Mann posts his WSUM playlists on his blog. Sundays at 11 a.m., Marcus Watson gets in the groove with his "Mad, Mad Marcus' Rock & Soul Revue." And if you're feeling sleepy Saturday morning at 7, Mr. Dance will groove you awake with "WSUMix," a live mix show featuring heavy doses of funk and soul.
If you've been living on a steady diet of commercial airplay, WSUM has shows to ease your transition to the unruly left side of the dial. Every Wednesday at 2 p.m., Tara Wilson plays a familiar mix of '80s retro-pop. Despite the fact that this year's entering freshman class was born in 1990, Wilson plays the Cure, A Flock of Seagulls, Hall and Oates and Rick Astley with improbable passion. She's so good, she was nominated for Best DJ of the Year at the 2007 College Broadcasters Inc. awards.
If hard rock is your thing, check out "Top of the Abyss" (Saturdays, 10 p.m.-midnight). The show is hosted by Derek Buhr. "He's one of our hardest-working DJs, and he's built a real following," says WSUM general manager Dave Black.
The 2008-09 academic year will be a time of change at WSUM. In January, the station moves out of its current studio in the Towers along State Street. (No, you won't get to look at the DJs anymore when you peer into the windows above Urban Outfitters.)
This past summer, outgoing UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley allocated a $400,000 unrestricted university grant to WSUM. The grant will pay for a studio to be located in the new University Square building at Lake Street and University Avenue.
"We have a lot more students applying for shows now than we did when we first started," says Black. "The interest just keeps on growing."
WSUM's complete fall schedule can be found at wsum.org.