The Boston Radio Dial: WHRB(FM)

Who, What, Where

Community: Cambridge
Frequency: 95.3 MHz
Class: A
Ownership: Harvard Radio Broadcasting Company, Inc.
Studio: 389 Harvard Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-3900
Main transmitter: One Financial Center
Boston, MA 02111-2621
Backup transmitter: Holyoke Center
1350 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138-3846
Format: Variety (primarily classical, jazz, rock)
Web site: whrb.org

Technical Parameters

WHRB transmits at 95.3 MHz with an effective radiated power of 1.7 kW (analogue) from a directional, circularly-polarized antenna 186 meters (610 feet) above average terrain (202 m above sea level), atop the One Financial Center office building in Boston's Dewey Square. WHRB is licensed for a 3.0-kW backup facility on the roof of the Holyoke Center in Harvard Square, using a non-directional three-bay Shively antenna, model 6813-3D-SS.

Station History

While the history of WHRB on the FM dial extends back only to 1957, Harvard's radio station traces its heritage back another 17 years, to the December 2, 1940, debut of carrier-current station “WHCN” (“Harvard Crimson Network”), later known as “WHRV” (“Harvard's Radio Voice”).

In 1951, Harvard Radio Broadcasting Co., Inc. was formed as a non-profit corporation, at which point “WHRV” became “WHRB”. In May 1957, WHRB moved from carrier-current AM to the FM dial, operating initially at 107.1 with 96 watts, then moving a year later to 95.3 with 800 watts. With the construction of the Holyoke Center in the mid-sixties, WHRB relocated its antenna in 1967 to the roof of that shopping/office center at 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, eventually raising power to 3 kW at 110 feet above average terrain. In 1995, WHRB again moved its transmitter, relocating to One Financial Center in Boston and expanding its broadcast reach dramatically.

Throughout its history, WHRB's programming, especially its classical music offerings, has been eclectic and adventurous, covering a wide variety of genres and a deep playlist of music within each genre. WHRB has long served as the Boston outlet for Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Other long-running programs include the country/western “Hillbilly at Harvard” show, heard on Saturday mornings since the late 1950s; “Jazz Spectrum”, heard most mornings; indie rock “Record Hospital”, heard late at night; Memorial Church services on Sunday mornings; and Harvard sports.

WHRB's particular claim to fame, however, is its twice-yearly series of “Orgy” broadcasts. Said to have begun in 1943, when a Harvard student celebrated the end of a difficult exam period by playing all nine of Beethoven's symphonies in succession over the station, the “Orgy” is now a registered trademark of Harvard Radio Broadcasting and a twice-yearly staple of WHRB's schedule.

During Harvard's January “Reading Period” and its May examination period, WHRB suspends most of its regular programming to present lengthy blocks of programming devoted to a particular artist, composer, record label, obscure musical genre, or other theme, often but not exclusively classical. Recent efforts have included a ten-day “Mozart Orgy” in May 2006.

While the Harvard Radio Broadcasting Co. is not directly affiliated with Harvard University, its board is made up of Harvard alumni and the station is operated (commercially) on a volunteer basis by Harvard undergraduate students.

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This station profile was written by the editors of The Archives @ BostonRadio.org. We have no relationship with the station; please send any comments or questions about their programming directly to the station. Network connectivity courtesy of MIT CSAIL.

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