Indie rock breathes new life into old Struthers radio station

Youngstown’s “newest” radio station is also one of its best — and it’s definitely the only one in the area with its format.

It’s WKTL-90.7 FM, the Struthers High School station. And those who love indie-style modern rock, with a healthy dose of progressive standards from the past three decades, will not believe their ears.

In January, WKTL began broadcasting a feed from WAPS-91.3 FM, Akron, during evening and weekend hours when Struthers students weren’t manning the station.

But beginning June 9 — the first day of summer vacation — WKTL will pass on the feed from WAPS (which is known as The Summit) around the clock.

WKTL is at the left of the dial (yes, that’s an obscure Replacements reference), amongst the NPR stations ... you know, down in the low numbers where casual listeners seldom roam. No Lady Gaga there.

It received its FCC license 45 years ago along with a smattering of other schools in Ohio as part of a radio learning project.

But the student-run stations have dwindled down to a handful over the years. High schoolers just aren’t into radio any more. Blame the iPod.

WAPS, in fact, was once the noncommercial station operated by Akron public schools.

But not any more.

Its playlist for last week included “Just Breathe,” Pearl Jam; “The High Road,” Broken Bells; “Song Away,” Hockey; “Fearless Love,” Melissa Etheridge; “Horchata,” Vampire Weekend; “Tighten Up,” The Black Keys; “Head Full of Doubt,” The Avett Brothers; “Laredo,” Band of Horses; “You & Me,” Dave Matthews Band; “Lisztomania,” Phoenix; and “21 Guns,” Green Day.

It’s the kind of stuff usually heard only on lesser-known big-city stations, such as Pittsburgh’s WYEP (or Cleveland’s late, great WENZ-The End).

Robert Rostan, Struthers school superintendent, said WAPS approached the school board about a year ago. “They were looking to branch out into the Mahoning Valley,” he said. A deal that costs Struthers schools nothing was worked out.

The timing was fortuitous, according to Rostan. “The radio program is dying out,” he said. “It’s not a big hit with teenagers anymore. The interest is not there.”

Currently, students run WKTL from 8:15 a.m. to 7 p.m., with WAPS filling in any holes and the evening hours. When school starts up in the fall, students will run the station (which is in the old Struthers Fieldhouse) only until 3 p.m.

Looking down the road, a full-time WAPS feed is a definite possibility, said Rostan, although he stressed that the weekend ethnic programming will continue.

WKTL puts out 12,000 watts, with a clear signal all over the Mahoning Valley.

Tommy Bruno of Akron is the general manager of WAPS, which began in its current format a decade ago.

He pointed out that his station is manned by professional on-air personalities and has no commercial interruptions, save for a couple of fund-drives every year.


Salem Community Theatre had obtained the rights to produce “Fiddler on the Roof” in August. But then a national tour of the show announced it was coming to Cleveland, and those rights got rescinded.

The theater wasn’t thrilled about getting trumped, and vigorously protested, but to no avail.

Forced to change its schedule, SCT found what has got to be the perfect substitute, given the circumstances.

It will stage “Meshuggah-Nuns!,” which is one of the many “Nunsense” sequels.

“Meshuggah-Nuns” takes place aboard a cruise ship. When the resident troupe — which was doing “Fiddler’” — gets seasick, the stage-savvy nuns take over.

Salem will stage the “Fiddler” parody Aug. 6-15.

Director Sarah Durham will have auditions Monday and Tuesday. E-mail her at


Many people who saw the Youngstown Playhouse’s excellent production of “Curtains” last month wondered where all those newcomers on the stage came from.

The answer: Salem.

Director Michael Dempsey and much of the cast, including leading man Josh Lewis, are all Salem Community Theater regulars.

“Curtains” was an example of the quality that SCT has been presenting for years in its hometown.

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