She was driving near her native Cortland, NY, one summer evening in 1989 when Jennifer nearly pulled over as she crested a hill. The dial on her radio hadn’t changed. But the station had. She’d been listening to 90.5 WSUC. Yet, as her car went out of range, a different 90.5 beamed her way for the first time.
It was WBER.
“An XTC song I had never heard before,” she says. “I almost pulled over because it was this new, interesting station.”
Little did she know that in less than a year, this new, interesting station would be her home for the next two decades. But when she moved to Rochester the following January, her radio was serendipitously preset.
Fast forward to 2010. If you’re near Rochester, NY, your radio is well within range of the DJ known as Jennifer V., broadcasting live from 90.5 FM WBER each week as the morning drive-time host of New Wave Wednesday.
Doesn’t matter if you’re a Generation Xer, a Baby Boomer, a Millennial or a high school kid. If you like one-hit wonders, memory-stirring anthems and obscure tracks mostly from the 1980s, you’ve come to the right place. So has she.
Jennifer, who lives in West Irondequoit, NY, with her husband, John, and two children, has a loyal Wednesday morning fanbase. Between tracks, she ponders life aloud, gabs about her kids (Jack, 11, and Olivia, 9) and reminisces about her Reagan-era adolescence.
She went on-air at WBER for the first time in April 1990, after moving to Rochester to intern for musician Chuck Mangione's company. In that job, she had a chance to meet local station managers—including WBER’s Andrew Chinnici.
“I handed him a demo tape and asked if he had any openings,” she says. Turned out he did.
Over the years, through jobs, school, and kids, Jennifer always found her way back to WBER. She got a Master’s Degree in Communications at SUNY Brockport. She worked at other stations. And other organizations, like Junior Achievement and George Eastman House, where she held some impressive titles. Through it all, 90.5 was still on her dial—and in her heart.
In 1992, Jennifer got a morning show of her very own at WBER.
“It was kind of a big deal at the time,” she says. “Not many women were at the helm alone. Not being a sidekick, not being the newsgirl or someone paid to just laugh at the guys’ jokes.”
A few months in, friend and fellow DJ FrizB asked about joining Jennifer Wednesday mornings to do a show “where they would just play the old stuff,” she says. The first program featured music from 1976.
New Wave Wednesday was born.
“We would highlight a particular band or significant release from that year, and continue where we left off each week,” she says.
These days, the show often takes on odd-ball themes. Songs with the word “hand” in the title. Or titles that start with a certain letter. Or songs about war.
Whatever the theme, whatever the playlist, if you listen to New Wave Wednesday, chances are you’ll soon hear a song you haven’t thought about in umpteen years. Might even smile to yourself as you’re reminded of how much music connects you to people and places and memories.
That’s the gift Jennifer gives to her listeners every Wednesday morning.
“Playing music that means something to people,” she says. “Sharing something I’ve learned—or something I’m going through—that maybe someone else has a connection to. That’s everything.”
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If you’re in the Rochester, NY, area, tune in to 90.5 FM WBER from 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. Wednesdays for Jennifer’s show. Or stream it online.
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