“In the rest of the country, if you ask people three things about the University of Virginia, they’ll say sports teams, Thomas Jefferson and WTJU,” Rolling Stone writer and former WTJU disc jockey Rob Sheffield (Grad ’91) said in an interview last summer with C-Ville Weekly. WTJU, UVA’s freeform, volunteer-run radio station, is special to many. For WTJU’s rock programs, DJs design two hours’ worth of music, plucked from playlists on their computers or from WTJU’s massive record collection.
“A lot of people in Charlottesville don’t realize what a unique thing WTJU is. There are really not many stations in the country like it,” says James Ford, current WTJU DJ and blogger for Nailgunmedia.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, just as do-it-yourself trends were allowing indie bands to promote themselves and tour more extensively, WTJU became a place where listeners could hear them. “It was a real driving force,” says Dominic DeVito, a long-time WTJU DJ and former employee of Plan 9 records. “If WTJU was pushing a record, it would sell.”
In recent years, WTJU has been sponsoring shows at venues like the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar and the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, as well as hosting live sets by local bands. It continues to be a hub for music lovers in the community as well as an influential cultural force.