After 43 years, WVIK-FM (based at Augustana College, Rock Island) is starting a second, all-music station.

On May 1, 2023, it launches WVIK Classical at 98.3 FM, and converts its current 90.3 FM and 95.9 FM in Dubuque to 24/7 news and talk. Tuesday, at the station, it also announced the appointment of Jared Johnson as new general manager and CEO, replacing Jay Pearce, GM and CEO for 11 years, who retired in late October 2022 (Johnson has been interim GM since then).

Jared Johnson, the new WVIK CEO and general manager, has worked for the station since 2014 (photo by Jonathan Turner)

In 1980, WVIK began broadcasting from Augustana at 90.3 FM, in its mix of news and classical music, as the first National Public Radio (NPR) station in the area, founded by Don Wooten.

On May 1, WVIK will begin a 24/7 all music station (predominantly classical) at 98.3 FM.

“WVIK has a tremendous legacy to uphold. And I’m so grateful that our long-term listeners and benefactors have gotten us to the place where we can talk about expanding our services rather than cutting them,” Johnson said Tuesday. “Just the thought of hosting two live, local, morning drive programs kind of blows my mind.”

“The launch of this brand-new frequency in the Quad Cities market is a step that can very easily be described as the biggest strategic move we’ve made since we went on the air 43 years ago,” he said.

Johnson, left, with former WVIK GM and CEO, Jay Pearce, in October 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Johnson joined the station (licensed and owned by Augustana) in 2014 and previously served as station manager. Betsy Brandsgard, chair of WVIK’s Community Advisory Board, hailed his service.

“Jared has a vision that moves the station into loser alignment with the college, inspires new partnerships with donors and underwriters, engages audiences and causes the community to see WVIK as a real asset to the region in the years to come,” she said.

“Augustana is extremely proud of the relationship we enjoy with WVIK,” said Kent Barnds, Augustana executive vice president. “The service that WVIK provides to our community and beyond is truly remarkable. We are extremely excited about this expansion, especially the expansion of classical music to our community.”

Kent Barnds, Augustana executive vice president, speaks at the press conference Tuesday, March 14, 2023 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“Jared has the vision – not only for WVIK, Quad Cities public radio, but for a community footprint that everybody in the Quad Cities can be proud of,” he said. “He’s exactly the right person to lead this station into the future, working with the talented staff at WVIK and I look forward to a great partnership as you take the helm.”

Double the public service

WVIK Classical will essentially double the station’s service in the region.

“In a time when people can play any music when they want, wherever they want., we at 98.3 FM will be so much more than classical music,” Johnson said, noting the new station also will be a one-stop shop for news and information on the QC’s vibrant arts community, festivals, live music, gallery openings and arts education.

Johnson worked for the QC Symphony before joining WVIK in 2014 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“If it’s happening in the Quad Cities, you’ll hear about it on 98.3 FM,” he said. The current 90.3 FM will be converted to a 24/7 news and talk station on May 1.

Marian Lee, associate professor of piano at St. Ambrose and member of the station Community Advisory Board, said she’s thrilled to see the station grow and evolve to fulfill needs of listeners.

“With an entire channel dedicated to classical music, WVIK will now have the space to include even more recordings of local musicians and ensembles,” she said. “And as a lifelong advocate for youth music education, I’m particularly happy that there are also plans to include and feature local student musicians.”

QCSO cellist Liz Logan performed at Tuesday’s event (photo by Jonathan Turner) — click the video at upper right on this page to hear her.

The station has expanded classical rebroadcasts on Sunday nights, 52 weeks of the year, and will be adding Friday nights, both starting at 7, Johnson said.

The new 90.3 FM will be very similar to the existing schedule of news and talk, he said. WVIK will have hourly news updates. The station is not adding staff right away, Johnson said. “Long term, we will be able to expand the newsroom.”

Mark Russell Smith, music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, spoke at Tuesday’s press conference via remote access.

“This is wonderful to continue the partnership and see how he’s grown,” the conductor said, noting Johnson was on QCSO staff when Smith first came to the area.

QCSO music director/conductor Mark Russell Smith speaks Tuesday as Liz Logan listens (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“It’s very exciting for us as the Quad City Symphony that WVIK is expanding,” Smith said. “They have been such an invaluable partner to us for so many years, since the founding in 1980.”

WVIK has long rebroadcast QCSO concerts and featured interviews with concert soloists, which will continue in the new 98.3 station.

“The opportunities there are even bigger and greater,” Smith said. “Equally exciting is, it’s not just about the QCSO, but other local ensembles, highlighting youth, our young musicians. It just gives the Quad Cities a forum for all the rich things going on in the Quad Cities.”

“Our deal is, where access meets inspiration, and I know WVIK shares that,” he said. “This is a really big deal and just underscores what an incredible arts community that we have, and the support that we have.”

Strengthening the QC’s reputation

LaDrina Wilson, CEO of the Quad Cities Chamber, praised Johnson’s work to expand WVIK’s programming – including dozens of podcasts – and expand access.

Quad Cities Chamber CEO LaDrina Wilson

“He has proven to be the type of leader who is innovative, also interested in connecting with all people,” she said. “I am thrilled to be here today, as it relates to expanding access to education, arts and culture.”

All these things have a direct impact on the local economy and how businesses choose to locate in a city, Wilson said.

“While this may seem to be an opportunity specific to public radio and WVIK, I also see it as an opportunity to connect us outside this region – to show us as the arts and culture hub we are and truly can be,” she said.

“I’m very excited about the decision the college has made,” said Tyson Danner, executive director of Common Chord (formerly River Music Experience), citing the long track record of partnership between the station and Common Chord. “Arts and music and culture are more than just really nice to have around. Any community relies on a thriving cultural scene. At Common Chord, our goal is to use music to improve the community.

Common Chord executive director Tyson Danner

“People don’t move to a community that doesn’t have great arts, music and culture,” he said. “People don’t stay in communities that don’t have great music., arts and culture. Having a partner in WVIK, that shares that belief and spreads that word and champions that message, is really thrilling for us. No one can do it alone.”

WVIK hosts the Common Chord’s “Echo Radio Hour” (formerly RME Radio Hour) on Saturdays at 5 p.m., hosted by Ben Schwind of Common Chord.

Danner also serves on the WVIK Community Advisory Board, impressed by how the staff “thoughtfully and carefully think about the future, and the possibilities out there, which is inspiring for me as a leader and community member.

“To see this take shape and become a reality is just exciting for us,” he said. “It’s exciting for me as a listener of WVIK and as a leader of a partner organization.”

For more information, visit the station website HERE.