|City of license||Chicago, Illinois|
|Broadcast area||Chicago area|
|First air date||1974|
|Owner||Northeastern Illinois University|
WZRD (88.3 FM) is a student radio station licensed to Chicago, Illinois, USA, founded in 1974. The station serves the Chicago area. The station is currently owned by Northeastern Illinois University. WZRD broadcasts on a Freeform radio format.
On June 30, 2012, the station's Facebook page claimed that the NEIU administration had accomplished a "hostile take-over" of the station. All station staff was "locked out" by the management allegedly without an attempt to respond and live programming had been replaced by the automated music programming heard when there was no live announcer. On the same day, NEIU claimed on its Facebook page that the station's student organization was "currently under university review and on inactive status" and that they hoped that the student broadcasters would be returning. In January 2013, WZRD returned to live programming.
Unlike other formats, WZRD's freeform is no restriction on what's playable on air (save Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations). It would not be unheard of to hear Tibetan Buddhist chants, early 1980s punk rock, eclectic mixes, a spoken word piece and public service announcements in succession.
"Different genres of music, spoken word, and sound effects are played side-by-side in a way that usually flows rather than jars. With a library of rare recordings that includes 15,000 records and another 15,000 CDs, cassettes, and reel-to-reels, there’s no telling what you’ll hear. 'We always say if you don’t like what you hear right now, turn us on again in five minutes and you’ll hear something completely different,' says former Program Director Dan Demchuk." - Cara Jepsen, Illinois Entertainer 
- Unlike most radio stations, the individual DJs are not identified by name, solely as "Wizards".
- WZRD accepts no outside funding. Its operating budget is provided in full by Northeastern Illinois University.
- The station is also an affiliate of the Pacifica radio network. It broadcasts Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News.
WZRD has a close relationship with the local music scene in that it often gives away tickets to various shows and festivals and throughout the years has produced live events at The Metro, The Abby Pub and The Empty Bottle, to name a few venues. WZRD's "Thursday Night Live" show features local acts of all types of music, but live sets have often been performed on WZRD at all hours and days of the week.
WZRD has hosted live in-studio performances over the years including Smashing Pumpkins, Screeching Weasel, Rapeman, Les Claypool, Naked Raygun, and many other artists that played and continue to play in-studio during WZRD's "Thursday Night Live" program—a long running weekly live performance show featuring local, national, and international acts.
Importance in the Chicago Punk scene (1980s)
WZRD was a hotbed for local and touring punk, hardcore, and post-punk groups in the 1980s. With its consistent live in-studio performances, and having hosted shows at Metro and other venues with Effigies, Naked Raygun, and other local punk bands, WZRD was one of the first and most persistent stations to play heavily punk influenced playlists. Steve Bjorklund, an early figure in Chicago's punk scene writes in the liner notes of The Effigies album "Remains Nonviewable":
It was the early spring of 1980, and the occasion was a free show by a shitty band called A Minimal Graphic in the auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University on the northwest side. Northeastern Illinois University was significant because it housed the only radio station in Chicago that wasn't afraid to play punk rock.
Prominent figure in Chicago music, Steve Albini, states in Naked Raygun's Basement Screams reissue's liner notes that "Sunday Morning Nightmare" on WZRD was the "one radio program" for Chicago punk in the early 1980s. WZRD's role in the Chicago Punk scene was discussed in You Weren't There, a 2007 film that documents the Chicago Punk scene from 1977 through 1984.
2011-2012 WZRD sponsored benefits and events:
On June 30 of 2011, WZRD hosted a Benefit for Japan from 4 PM-10 PM featuring Ono, Andy Ortmann, Sharkula, DJ Earl and DJ Spinn with dancing by Juke Chicago, all proceeds benefited Green Action Japan. In 2011,on September 27, 2011 at 1:00 PM WZRD Chicago 88.3 FM presented Cindy Sheehan, the famous peace activist known as "The Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement," in a lecture "The Peace Movement in 2012: Hopes and Prospects." The prelude to the event was performed by Mark Kroos, who was awarded the title "Best Guitar Player of 2011." This event was co-sponsored by the NEIU Justice Studies Department, the Sociology Club, and the Muslim Student Association and food provided by Merla's Kitchen.
WZRD also hosted an AIDS Awareness/Prevention Event that began with a ramp up event of Hula Hoops with Jane Albright and Cindy Huston as well as the Windy City Wizard, Emmett Miller on Friday, October 14, 2011 from 12 noon -2:00 PM. The Aids Awareness/Prevention Event occurred on Sunday, October 16 from 12:30-3:00 PM featured performances by the Stick and Move Dance Crew, and Francois LeRoux, aka the Ha!man of South Africa. Speakers for the event included Dr. Brett Stockdill of the NEIU Sociology, Latino/Latin American Studies and the Women's Studies Departments with Arick Buckles of the Illinois Alliance for Sound AIDS Policy (IL ASAP). This event was co-sponsored by the Theta Chi Omega National Sorority, the Independent Newspaper, Seeds Literary Journal, the NEIU Hip Hop Club, the Justice Studies Club, the Sociology Club, Theta Omega Phi Fraternity with food provided by Bacci's Pizzeria.
On November 11, 2011, WZRD hosted an event in NEIU's recital hall titled "Honoring Our Veterans" which was a benefit for Joshua Misiewicz, USMC. Josh lost both legs in a landmine accident in Afghanistan during his tour of duty. Josh is also the nephew of NEIU's campus locksmith, Art Misiewicz. This event was co-sponsored by the NEIU Veteran's Club, the True Vine Club, and Cosmic Lizzard, a Chicago-based production company that has been involved in several benefits since its inception. Entertainment for that evening included: 6-6:10 pm, United States Coast Guard Master Chief Petty Officer Joseph Benning (retired) with an introduction honoring our veterans. 6:15-6:30 NEIU Hip Hop Club. 6:35-7:15 DJUFRO 7:20-7:55 Da$htone (Hip-hop/jazz/lyrics that make you wanna dance in yo pants!) 8:00-9:30 Flow Theory. Barbecue chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs were catered by Corky's of Addison.
In the Spring of 2012, WZRD hosted a documentary series which featured "Toxic Soup," "The World According to Monsanto," and "You Weren't There" as well as the screening of "Two Spirits." "Two Spirits" was about Fred Martinez, a Native American whose culture embraced the dual nature of his sexuality only to be murdered at the tender age of 16 by homophobes from his mainstream high school. The panel afterwards featured Reggie Sawyer (Choctaw Cherokee), Kim Hansen and Professor Loretta Capeheart.
WZRD Take Over
On June 29, 2012, Northeastern Illinois University seized control of its student-run radio station, WZRD (88.3 FM). Northeastern Illinois University Director of Student Leadership Development declared that the future of the radio club—and possibly the re-purposing of the radio station—would be decided following a search for a different programming format. In the meantime, WZRD would continue broadcasting using a "skeleton team", under the strict control of the university. The on-air programming now is mostly provided by an automated DJ system. The Wizards have become radio hobos as a result, working as DJ's for other area college radio stations under the moniker "Wizards in Exile." For example, in solidarity with WZRD, sister station WNUR 89.3 FM at Northwestern Illinois University has provided the "Wizards in Exile" with a show on Sundays 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. through December, 2012.
- "WZRD Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division.
- "Northeastern IL University Automates WZRD-FM, Locks Out All DJs". chicagoradioandmedia.org.
- "College Stations: Terrastrial Radio’s Last Frontier". Illinois Entertainer.
- "WZRD Official Website". WZRD.
- "Effigies' Remains Liner Notes".
- Official Website/Blog
- Petition to Save WZRD
- Query the FCC's FM station database for WZRD
- Radio-Locator information on WZRD
- Query Nielsen Audio's FM station database for WZRD
- WZRD Real-Time Playlist Log
- WZRDry Blog