By Nadine Biss
If you are a listener of Eastport’s community-run radio station, WSHD 93.3FM, the voices drifting out of the Eastport Arts Center on Sunday, February 19, would be familiar to you. As part of the EAC’s Sunday Afternoon Series, DJs Jane Lanctot, Catherine J.S. Lee, Joan Lowden, Tom McLaughlin and Robert Sánchez stepped out of the studio to share their experiences as volunteers on the airwaves.

WSHD is technically a “low power” station with 35 watts at its disposal. With an antenna located at the tallest point in Eastport, those beyond Moose Island can often easily tune in, depending on any hills that may be blocking the signal. Places as far away as Alexander, Machias, Cutler and even St. Andrews and Grand Manan can listen in—though not necessarily throughout the towns in-between.

Panelists Robert Sanchez (from left), “Cracklin’ Jane” Lanctot, “Bass Lady” Joan Lowden, Catherine J.S. Lee and “The Fire Dog” Tom McLaughlin engaged EAC Sunday series attendees on February 19 with a talk about the history and current offerings of Eastport’s community radio station, WSHD 93.3 FM. All photos by Lauren Koss.

“Firedog” Tom McLaughlin (host of “The Electric Doghouse,” airing Wednesdays from 5-9 pm), WSHD’s longest-running DJ, is the station’s resident FCC expert. His arrival in 1990 began with a last-minute scramble to renew the original license from 1983. Those periodic licensing fees, as well as royalty payments (which are made yearly to organizations that broadly cover the copyright owners) are paid by Shead.

Some of the music played on air is exempt from royalty payments, as the recordings are now available in the public domain. That is the case for what “Cracklin’ Jane” Lanctot plays on her show “Round the World with Cracklin’ Jane” (airing Fridays 6-8 pm and repeating Mondays 4-6 pm). Lanctot uses a searchable database to find hidden gems based around each week’s theme, crafting a sci-fi story as she goes. This show (which she pre-records and creates a multitude of characters for) is picked up by a few other Maine radio stations, as well as one out of Seattle.

Currently, WSHD does not offer online streams or downloads, but station manager Robert Sánchez mentions that this is a possibility if fundraising efforts come through. In addition to organizing the scheduling and production at the station, he teaches local students who show an interest in radio. This year the schedule features two 7th-graders, (“Two Heads are Better than One” on Wednesdays from 12:15-12:45 pm), and also offers a fine arts credit to high school students who get on the air. Some have even kept up their radio careers after graduating by pre-recording their shows for upload.

As station manager, Sánchez is always on the lookout for potential DJs to add to WSHD’s eclectic mix of genres; according to “Basslady” Joan Lowden, host of “Jazz Potpourri” (airing Wednesdays 2:30-4:30 pm and repeating Saturdays 4-6 pm), Sánchez cornered her in the IGA to suggest a possible move to radio. “This is a small town begging for DJs; it is an excellent incubator and I think none of us would be doing this in a bigger city,” she explains.

Catherine J.S. Lee hosts “The Wildwood Flower Hour” (Mondays 7-8 pm) and “Blues for your Pocket” (Thursdays 4-5:30 pm) and also serves as the station’s unofficial archivist, complete with a scrapbook of photos from 1978 to today.

Some of those very first Shead students to get on the airwaves were in the audience on Sunday. Alumni Kevin Raye and Amy Ray were pleased that their radio club (“it’s amazing that they let us run it!”) lives on and continues to grow. What began as a local access cable channel experiment in 1978 has been through countless changes in technology, all while retaining a sense of community pride and love for the form. After a rousing Sunday afternoon out of the studio, the only way to catch any of WSHD’s dedicated DJs is by tuning your radio dials to 93.3 FM. 

Alumni DJs Amy Ray (from left) and Kevin Raye, members of the Shead High School Radio Club as teens, plus current DJs Jim Hoffman, Don Dudics and Bob DeWitt were recognized at the event.

Editor’s note: Another way to catch the DJs off of the radio is by listening to EAC’s audio recording of the February 19 discussion, coming soon to our SoundCloud and YouTube channels!

Sunday Afternoons at the Arts Center programs are held in Eastport Arts Center’s cozy downstairs Washington Street Gallery, amidst rotating exhibitions. Admission is by voluntary donation; proceeds are shared equally between the presenters and EAC constituent group The Concert Series, which offers year-round programming run by volunteers. No one is turned away for lack of funds.

Find the full 2023 schedule and more posts about upcoming and past programs here: https://eastportartscenter.org/constituent-groups/the-concert-series/.