Right along the south edge of Tennessee, about two miles from The University of the South, is St. Andrew’s Sewanee High School. It is the home of the WMTN-LP radio station where you can tune into FM 103.1 “The Mountain.” With a broadcasting range of ten miles, the radio station has been providing tracks that vary from classical to modern country. Students themselves create over a hundred original audio works that anyone who tunes in can listen to. This local station runs in a non-commercial, public format so that anyone with a shortwave radio and an inclination towards local stations can listen in on the tracks and on-goings of St. Andrew’s Sewanee School.
But how did the radio station get its start? It was all thanks to Bayard “Bud” Walters, an alumni who graduated as a part of the Sewanee Military School class in the year 1959. In April 2004, Bud Walters gifted the school the radio station with the call letters WMTN, which would go on to be named “The Mountain.” Its first broadcast was April 24, 2004, and its 20th anniversary is quickly approaching.
Since its conception, steps have been taken to modernize the station, as its managers and broadcasters are always working hard to produce the best possible radio service. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Duncan, an alumni of the class of 1976, stepped up to serve as the station’s new manager in the year 2012. She revolutionized the platform, updating the station with new technology and a software that streamlines the remixing of tracks. Then in 2021, faculty member J.R. Ankney (DJ handle “Maestro James”) became station manager and pushed even further to modernize and reinvigorate the station. As a music teacher and former amateur radio broadcaster, he overtook management of the station, stepping in as the faculty sponsor. With the support of Duncan and the school’s headmaster, Karl Sjolund, he began assisting at the radio station and opened up a new afternoon program to teach the students the basics of radio broadcasting. He brought new life to the radio station, sparking new interests and passions in the students. Walters supported this new expansion, providing a brand new broadcasting antenna which significantly increased the range of the station.
In the 2022-23 school year, Ankney introduced the DJs and students working for the radio station to the John Drury High School Radio Awards. Created in 2002, the awards are named after award-winning ABC-Chicago news anchor John Drury. They were created to recognize the work of high school radio stations, promoting excellence and further support for these stations. In May of 2023, “The Mountain” went on to submit 40 entries in categories ranging from “Best DJ” to “Best Sportscast.” Nine students would go on to receive four nominations in the categories, “Best Specialty Music Show,” “Best Podcast.” “Best Radio Drama,” and “Best Talk Show (Non-Sports).” Ankney expressed his pride in regards to the nominations, stating “We have some of the very best student broadcasters in the country right here at WMTN radio, and I’m proud that they were recognized for their hard work, dedication, and excellence in high school broadcasting.”
The radio station still continues to produce the best broadcasting on the mountain, with students creating their own podcasts, talk shows, and even drama series for the station. Many of its DJs and workers have been inspired to pursue careers in broadcasting. Several students, including the veteran DJ Charlie Relford, also known as DJ Big Chuck, have been hired to be on-air interns for commercial radio stations. Having just implemented a streaming service, anyone around the world can tune into the radio station and listen in on the songs and voices of “The Mountain.”