DJ Worm, also known as fourth-year psychology major Casper Vural outside of the WFNP studio, welcomed President Darrell Wheeler on their weekly radio show Catharsis Live on 88.7 FM. The hour-long broadcast on March 20, between 1-2 p.m., showcased some of President Wheeler’s favorite tunes intertwined within the pair’s conversation.
Vural recalls speaking with the President during parent and family weekend, “He stopped to talk to me and the other [Orientation Leaders] who were checking parents in. I was talking about being at the radio station, and then I asked if he’d ever come on the air. He adamantly wanted to come on and was excited to!”
A few months later, President Wheeler was on air answering questions that Vural had spent spring break coming up with. “I honestly just thought about all the things I was most curious about and wrote them out. I also really wanted to ask about music since it was a radio interview,” added Vural. “I definitely thought that discussing his impact as our first Black and openly gay president was super important to cover, especially for people listening in who would benefit from hearing him talk about it.”
The 30-minute broadcast was jam-packed with information from learning more about his presidency, what it means to have a diverse campus population to his musical interests and influences. In the playlist the president provided to play on the show, songs ranged from Andrea Bocellis, “Con te partirò” to Carrie Underwood’s, “Before He Cheats.” President Wheeler explained that his music choice really varies on the context and his mood.
Wheeler grew up in Chicago in the time of house music, a post-disco era genre that was developed in urban environments, particularly Black and Latinx communities. “It is a music you strictly dance to, you don’t listen to it. You dance, you move, you express yourself,” explained Wheeler. However, sometimes you aren’t in the mood to dance, “If I’m contemplative, if I’m quiet, the classical music, spiritual gospel music touches the soul and the heart in ways.”
In a recent interview, President Wheeler told The Oracle that his zodiac sign is Leo. Seeing the significance of astrology to the New Paltz community, Vural asked Wheeler if he knew the signs of his family members. Wheeler was quick to respond: his husband is a Cancer, his daughter is an Aries and his dog who was born in August is most likely a Leo as well.
Vural was excited that Wheeler was able to answer the question. It was one of their favorite parts of the show aside from learning that he once performed in Rocky Horror Picture Show as Dr. Frankenfurter. The two discussed their mutual love for the show and learned that both were frequent performance goers.
WFNP was incredibly excited to welcome President Wheeler into the studio. “President Wheeler’s appearance on WFNP was an incredible opportunity to further integrate our new President into the student experience at SUNY New Paltz. Our student DJs are so passionate about their radio shows, and this was a great way for DJ Worm (Casper) to elevate their show to the next level by interviewing and hosting President Wheeler,” said Val Turco, director of the Center for Student Media.
“It’s important to have the president on the radio for a lot of reasons. Obviously him making that connection with a student organization on campus, and putting in the effort to make an appearance proves that he is just as dedicated to this campus and all its students as I believed him to be. It also just shows a level of care that goes beyond the big official appearances that the president is expected to make at times,” added Vural. “I see him just casually walking around and talking to people all the time, and he has built a level of friendliness with the students that makes him approachable and appear as the human he is. He’s truly just a man, but he’s a man that you can trust to take care of all of us, and a man you feel like you don’t have to be afraid to talk to. If it’s not clear already, I’m definitely team Dr. Wheeler all the way!”
The entire experience was exciting for many involved, including first-year visual arts major Amelia Pollicino who designed the flier for the event, which was hung around campus and posted to several social media pages. “It was exciting as part of my first-year internship to create marketing materials to promote President Wheeler’s first appearance on WFNP,” said Pollicino.
Turco was equally excited. “Being part of President Wheeler’s first appearance on the college radio station, WFNP, was a true full-circle experience for me. Back in 2005, as a student, on my very last show I had the opportunity to host our then President, Steve Poskanzer. Now, 18 years later as the Director of the Media Center, I was thrilled to watch my students have a similar experience with our new president.”
WFNP looks forward to welcoming the president back to more shows in the future. Vural hopes to one day ask Wheeler if he has yet to acquaint himself with the campus’ own “Gunk Bird.”