Volunteer Profile: Nate Cory

High school graduations are always an exciting time of transition, a time when possibilities are endless and the future shines its brightest for graduates. Here at WMPG, we get a glimpse of this transition every summer when the high school seniors who participate in Blunt take wing. (For those readers unfamiliar with Blunt, it is our nationally recognized public affairs program produced completely by high school students. Blunt has won more national awards than we have space to list and has become the model for a number of similar programs across the country. It airs every Monday, 7:30pm-8:30pm.)

This year WMPG and Blunt are proud to see an extraordinary young volunteer, Nate Cory, follow his dreams to the ivory towers of Emerson College in Boston. For so many reasons, Nate will truly be missed at 92 Bedford Street. A man known for understatement, Station Manager Jim Rand says of Nate, “he’s very curious. He’s a hard worker and around here he’s known as ‘the boy genius.’ It’s really been something watching him grow up.” For Office Manager, John Joyce, the mere mention of him brings a smile and an image to mind that he’s seen countless times, “Nate coming in, grinning, with something to show Jim.” It might be a rebuilt computer or some new software and, probably, a box of CheezIts.

Nate Cory first showed up at WMPG as a Deering High School freshman in the spring of 2000. Ally Day, a senior Blunt volunteer from Deering, talked Nate into checking out an orientation meeting for Blunt recruits while working with Nate on the school paper. He hadn’t heard WMPG prior to that day and he hasn’t stopped listening and volunteering since that first fateful meeting with Blunt director Claire Holman.

Initially, “I thought [WMPG] was a pretty cool place,” Nate remembers, “but I was a little sketched out when I spotted razor blades and a fine white powder on a window sill in the production studio.” He soon found out, though, that there was a perfectly good (and legal) explanation: the razor blades were for splicing and editing tape and the powder was from the acoustical tiles on the walls. The razor blade was a funny and interesting symbol of a transition at WMPG, as it turned out. When Nate was beginning his tenure with WMPG and Blunt, the station was moving away from the razor blade-aided technology of tape editing and into the modern realm of computer-assisted editing and production. And Nate found himself right at home with the then-new, now ubiquitous, sound editing software, ProTools. He was in the first Blunt group to be trained completely digital and took it upon himself to learn ProTools on his own. Although he took formal ProTools training later, truth be told, he probably could have taught the class. You see, Nate is a techno wiz, most comfortable discovering for himself how things work and finding solutions.

“I like putting stuff together on a deadline,” he said with a smirk, “and I like figuring out how you can plug this into this into that without it blowing up.” A good way to think for a sound engineer. Nate enjoys the production side of radio and would rather leave the glamour work of on-air hosting to others. In fact, in over three years as a member of Blunt, Nate has hosted exactly one show. And it wasn’t by choice.

“It was our first Youth Center show (Blunt regularly works with teens incarcerated at the Long Creek Youth Development Center) and I found out two hours before we went on air that Claire needed me to fill in for someone as a host. It was a disaster.” Fortunately for WMPG, Nate is much more apt to help avoid disasters than to be responsible for creating them. A good example was the first Blunt Dating Game show.

“It was a take-off on the old TV Dating Game. We had the bachelors and bachelorettes in the studio and we needed six mikes,” Nate remembers. He wasn’t aware of the splitters available at the station, but he solved the problem: “I dragged a couple of reel-to-reel players into the studio because they each had two mike inputs and I ran them through the board. The different voices came through on different channels, but it worked.” There were some other Blunt shows that stick out: “I liked the mock operas we did. They all centered around a character named Barry. In the first one, Barry was visited by the puberty fairy, in the second he was in a mid-life crisis, and in the last one he was a geriatric. That one was terrible, we should have stuck to things we knew about!”

After a year or so of learning his way around WMPG, Nate volunteered to help with Local Motives, WMPG’s weekly showcase of local musicians playing live in-studio (Fridays, 7:30pm-8:30pm). Nate’s techno wizardry and problem-solving skills were a welcome addition to the Local Motives crew, as they regularly solve problems like accommodating the equipment of a band called the Horror (a massive organ and two drum kits, in addition to assorted guitars) or a ska band’s four piece horn section. And then there was the time the mixing board died during sound check . . .

Jim Rand remembered, “When he first wanted to work on Local Motives, I thought he’d have fun doing it. From the start, he wanted to learn everything and improve it, which he promptly did! We could use twenty of him.”

Nate’s computer skills have also helped Blunt and WMPG immensely. The Blunt website? Nate. WMPG’s website? Nate. The Local Motives website? Nate. The computers and software in the preview room? Nate’s idea. Ditto for much of the computer lab at the Youth Center. Technical support for the annual Homelessness Marathon? You guessed it. Nate put in 24 consecutive hours this past February when WMPG hosted the National Homelessness Marathon, doing everything from running the mixing board to assembling shelters, to troubleshooting the remote phone system. It was a rewarding experience, he says, and a valuable lesson in the dangers of caffeine overload. “Yeah, by about 2 a.m. Jim Hall, Carl Lindemann, and myself were having some slap-happy moments.”

Obviously, WMPG has benefited from Nate’s dedication and skill, but Nate is quick to point out what WMPG has done for him. Besides the technical knowledge of radio and audio he has learned, his involvement in Blunt has allowed him to travel to radio conferences from coast to coast (Charlottesville, Chicago, and twice to San Francisco) and his work in community radio helped cultivate his interest in technical theatre, something he has studied at Deering and will continue to study as his major at Emerson, an artistic hotbed known as a pipeline to the world of the performing and broadcast arts.

At Emerson, Nate will put his technical skills to good use. He is drawn to lighting and sound design and the other technical sides of theatre for the same reasons he enjoys the technical side of radio production and Nate shies away from acting for the same reasons he’d rather not be on-air “plus,” he adds with a grin, “it’s really hot under stage lights.” What about college radio? Nate plans to be involved at the Emerson station WERS, but his level of involvement depends on his available time. He already has a connection, though. It seems that WERS Program Director Alden Fertig is, himself, a veteran of Blunt and WMPG.

As he looks back on his times at WMPG, I asked Nate if he’d recommend Blunt to other high school students. Before I finished the question he answered, “Most definitely. It’s taught me so much. It’s gotten me more interested — I used to just listen to radio, now I know how to do it. I know how it works.” Have there been drawbacks? “Well, my parents think sometimes I spend too much time at the station.”

And we’ve always wished he could spend more time at the station.

Good luck at Emerson and beyond, Nate! WMPG won’t be the same with out you.