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Falcons take to the air as student launches Bow High internet radio station

  • Kyle Mason and Ben Ruhl talk about Falcon Radio as a playlist cycles through songs at Bow High School on Friday morning, March 16, 2018. Ruhl created the online radio station for his senior project. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Senior Ben Ruhl (left) steps in as a guest for Patrick Danahy as Danahy hosts his first news broadcast at Bow High School on Friday morning, Mar. 16, 2018. Ruhl created the online radio station for his senior project. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Senior Ben Ruhl (left) watches from the side as Patrick Danahy goes live on Falcon Radio for his first news broadcast at Bow High School on Friday morning, Mar. 16, 2018. Ruhl created the online radio station for his senior project. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Falcon Radio runs off a dedicated computer cart with microphones and a mixing console at Bow High School on Friday morning, March 16, 2018. Ben Ruhl created the student-run online radio station for his senior project. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • A short delay in the internet radio broadcast allows Bow High School seniors Ben Ruhl (left) and Patrick Danahy to listen in and react to the news broadcast Danahy just made on Falcon Radio at Bow High School on Friday morning, Mar. 16, 2018. Ruhl created the online radio station for his senior project. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Senior Ben Ruhl (left) explains audio levels to senior Patrick Danahy as Danahy learns how to go live on Falcon Radio for his first news broadcast at Bow High School on Friday morning, Mar. 16, 2018. Ruhl created the online radio station for his senior project. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Thursday, March 29, 2018

Huddled over a small, black cart crammed with audio equipment, Bow High School senior Patrick Danahy, 17, leaned into his microphone and went live.

“And we’re back with Ben here, the sponsor and the creator of Falcon Radio. How are you doing today, Ben?”

Fellow senior Ben Ruhl leaned over his own mic. “Doing just fine. Doing just fine,” he said.

Ruhl, 18, created the student-run internet radio station for his senior project and was bringing on Danahy as a new DJ. The pair were tucked away in a classroom adjacent to the school library as Danahy hosted his first news show for the station after a few lessons from Ruhl.

Falcon Radio is public, and can be accessed through the internet anywhere in the United States. Because it’s online, you can’t pick it up through the AM/FM radio in your car, but you can stream it through a smartphone.

The project is something Ruhl has wanted to happen for some time, but only this year did he realize he could start it up himself for a grade.

“I remember going up to Mr. Dixon (the school librarian) out there and just, like, ‘Can we start our own radio station? Can I do that for my senior project because that would be pretty cool,’ ” Ruhl said.

Sam Dixon loved the idea and agreed to be Ruhl’s mentor for the project, a role he’s taken on many times over the years.

“Some people will do community service, some people will do career exploration stuff. My favorite projects are always the ones where kids tackle something that they’ve always wanted to do,” Dixon said.

The projects are part of a class called senior seminar, a kind of independent study capstone course required for graduation.

“So they get to really pick whatever it is they want to do and run with it,” Dixon said.

Ruhl hit the ground early, before the class even started. He got permission from the school board and principal and researched traditional broadcast licenses with online options.

By early February, he had launched Falcon Radio using Live365, a web service that lets people create licensed, online radio stations with royalty licensing fees built into their pricing.

In order to keep the station going throughout the school day, Ruhl needed some help.

“The thing that I definitely wanted to do with this was not just have a radio station that plays one type of music, but have multiple genres of music playing,” Ruhl said. “So I figured the best way to do that was to get people who like certain types of music.”

With each class change during the school day, a new host takes over to play a new genre of music – pop, alternative, hip-hop and rap, even a period for study jams – creating multiple shows for the station.

Ruhl takes charge third period and creates playlists for his favorite genre: rock.

“Rock is definitely something that I love,” he said.

He gives the DJs full creative control to design their playlists, but since the station is a public representation of Bow High School, there are some rules.

“Every one of our DJs has to sign a contract saying that they agree to the time commitment and to play school-appropriate music,” Ruhl said.

Falcon Radio has been on the air since early February.

“We didn’t have anyone listening at the time, but that also helped us learn because we ran into a lot of technical bumps starting off,” Ruhl said.

There were equipment issues and a lot to learn about music copyright policies and licensing. He’s learned you can’t simply re-stream music played from Spotify, and songs can only be played a limited number of times each hour. Ruhl and the DJs have learned to schedule and work around Live365 advertisements.

And for the most part he’s been dealing with these issues on his own, in line with the independent philosophy behind senior project.

“He’s been doing all the research,” Dixon said of Ruhl. “He found the platform Live365. He’s been trying to navigate all the twists and turns of this project and trying to really make this thing sustainable.”

Falcon Radio will be out of Ruhl’s hands when he goes off to college next year, but he hopes the station stays alive.

“If I have enough of a backend behind it, enough students are interested in the idea of the radio station happening, it will be approved for next year. But unless I have that backing we can’t continue with this because it is a decent sum of money to be putting into every single month,” Ruhl said, referring to the monthly subscription fees behind Live365.

He’s got at least one big fan so far.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get together and just share their music and their taste. I think it’s really cool,” said junior Daniel Silva, after happily stumbling upon the radio crew who had taken over a room in the library.

Silva’s a big music fan who likes discovering new artists and hopes other people will tune in, too.

“I’m just hoping that it will be a hit,” he said.

(Elizabeth Frantz can be reached at efrantz@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@lizfrantz.)