While most of the Carleton community returned home after Fall Term, the KRLX studio was gearing up for a makeover, a project that has been in the works for over four years.
Since the 1970s, a cozy room tucked in the basement of Sayles Café has been home to the studio of Carleton’s student-run radio station, KRLX. The previous studio was situated next to the Record Library, a cozy room home to thousands of records and CDs, and consisted of a narrow hallway leading to two small studios.
The whole area was coated with stickers, signatures and drawings dating back to its origin more than 50 years ago. As each new wave of students entered and left the studio, they left their individual marks on the walls.
“I did really love the old studio–you could see other DJs’ art and drawing,” said Henry Holcomb ’23, who is in his second year as a DJ and hosts two shows this term. “It created this strong sense of community and this sense of ‘this is where I am in this larger history of this space and these shared values that we have.’”
While Holcomb appreciated the sense of history that came with the age of the studio, the outdated technology led to issues.
“I had moments where the equipment wouldn’t be working right or would send an ear-piercing wail throughout the studio,” Holcomb said.
As a result, KRLX board members have been trying to get the studio renovated according to modern standards for many years. When they secured the funding from the Student Activities Office (SAO), they got to work planning how to best improve the space.
Priorities of the project
Alessa Strelecki is the current Assistant Director of Student Activities at the SAO. Though she has only been working there since the summer of 2021, she attended many of the meetings for layout, technology and interior design.
Tim Valley was an outside consultant with experience with radios who helped in designing the space, along with the KRLX Board. “Holland, the station manager, was involved in the initial meetings,” to communicate the Board’s goals, and “KRLX Board members helped pick out colors for the studio,” said Strelecki.
Sigrid Edstrom ’24 has been a member of the KRLX board for three terms and acts as the Community Involvement Director. She has two shows this term, Fridays at 4-5 p.m. and Thursdays from 10-11 p.m.
Edstrom recalled that as the board was discussing how much to change, the biggest issue was improving the technology while keeping the sense of community and family.
“We wanted to preserve a lot of the old, cool art on the wall,” Edstrom said. “But it was a lot of push and pull between how much do we want to stay authentic to the old studio vibe and how much do we want it to be nice and new.”
Another priority was making the space larger, which meant combining two studio rooms, one of which was rarely used, into one bigger room.
“We also wanted a space that would cater better to people who have radio shows where there’s more than two people,” Edstrom said.
Dashiell Tidrick ’25 is in his second term hosting a show, but felt the constraints of the size of the old studio even in one term as a DJ.
“That one studio room was so small that even having two people in there was a little crowded,” stated Tidrick.
Olivia Ho ’25 has appreciated the new space to spread out. Winter Term is her second term as a part of a show with three total DJs, a setup she enjoyed but found somewhat cramped last term.
“It’s nice now to be in a studio where there are comfortable chairs and a lot of room to spread out and move away from each other,” Ho said.
New studio, old history
Throughout the years of ideas and meetings, the Board and administration’s vision came together in one completed studio.
“It has been great to see a project that has spanned three different assistant directors and four different station managers come to life,” Strelecki said.
The budget for the project was $180,000. While Strelecki said they have not received all the invoices, the SAO expects the total cost to be around the budgeted amount.
The new studio features a completely new setup from the desk and orange walls to the new top-quality technology. There are four separate mics for DJs, an electronic switchboard, new record players, soundboards on the walls, a feature for Bluetooth connection and a mounted TV.
“They’ve done a good job with creating a space that works better and has a lot of potential,” said Holcomb. “But I’m still a little bittersweet about losing that physical history and equipment.”
Ho also expressed some sadness for losing the old equipment, mainly because it helped her feel a real relationship to broadcasting on an FM radio.
“It is sad to see the old studio gone just because it was so retro and cool and had the real switchboard and the real transmitter,” Ho said. “Now it’s all very streamlined which is a lot easier to use but I think, kind of makes the whole radio aspect less real in some ways. You feel like you’re just streaming online, but you’re not. You don’t have the actual physical connection to the switchboard.”
Despite this, the difference in DJing and the space and technology makes the opportunities for KRLX more open and the ease of hosting a show much better.
Tidrick feels that a fair balance between old and new was struck in the renovations.
“The new studio is incredible… They were able to preserve a fair amount of what already existed, but I think that it’s more important for there to be a good space to host and to have an up-to-date radio,” Tidrick said.
While the community of KRLX has always been strong, Edstrom noted that the condition of the old studio may have led to it being less respected.
Edstrom believed, “the physical state of the studio reflected how people would treat their radio slot.” She hopes, “the new, swanky equipment will… make people a lot more excited to show up and do radio.”
Tidrick also shared his excitement for how DJs will approach using brand-new equipment while hosting.
“You’d go in there, and you’d see trash on the floor under the desk. I think that people will treat the space with more respect now that it’s not super old and outdated,” Tidrick said.
Alongside the studio, the Record Libe also got a few updates, although the general structure remained the same. It received the same new carpet in the studio, another record player, phone, computer, and chair.
The monitor setup will be used by the Record Librarians and Manager “to catalogue all of our records and make a digitized library of all these,” according to Edstrom.
Contentions with Cameras
Most parts of the renovation were received positively by the KRLX community, but some strong opinions arose on the new security cameras which were installed, one in the record libe and one in the studio.
“Though we’re grateful for the new studio, the board of directors is frustrated by the complete lack of consulting that was done when deciding to put the cameras in,” said Edstrom. “To me, it reflects another way the Carleton administration is attempting to control the student body in a, yet again, out-of-touch way.”
Ho agreed and wondered at the reasoning behind adding a security camera, as she sees it as not a representation of how DJs treat the studio.
“It shows the difference between how the students view KRLX as a student-run organization that we are responsible for versus how the administration views it as a liability,” said Ho.
When asked to comment on the new camera, Strelecki cited safety as the main reasoning behind adding cameras to campus, and added that cameras have become more common in remodel projects. According to Strelecki, “Camera footage is only utilized if an issue arises via Campus Security.”
“Surveillance cameras are incorporated into most new construction and remodel projects,” said Strelecki. “They assist the college in overall student safety and protection of valuable and/or sensitive equipment.”
Broadcasting into the future
Still, DJs and the KRLX community have been taking full advantage of the studio.
The new walls already have some writings and drawings on them. “It’s very exciting to me,” said Ho. “That’s all we did during our show, we were just like ‘what else can I put on the walls?’”
Holcomb compared the old studio’s crowded walls and the different ways people had to add their signatures.
“The [old] studio was uneven and there was no space to put anything so everyone was working their writing around everyone else’s writing so there were just little things,” said Holcomb. But in the new studio, “people are just kind of going crazy with the writing.”
As KRLX enters this new phase of their history, the dust of the renovations are continuing to settle. The amenities, fresh walls, and expensive technology will add to KRLX culture and its impact on the Carleton campus.
“I’m excited to see what potentially can happen with bringing in different types of people as a group and having those different types of interactions,” said Holcolmb. He hopes the new studio will encourage students to get creative with how they use the space. “Maybe we’ll see more shows that are talking oriented… or have a band playing over air.”
According to Ho, the link between KRLX and the new studio will take time to develop, just as the culture of the old studio did.
“I think the new studio will have to create its own history before it can really be cemented as a part of student life,” Ho said.