by Hannah Barger, reprinted by permission of the author;
originally appeared in the Tennessee Tech Oracle
Since 2007, Professor Andrew Smith has been a fixture of Tennessee Tech's airwaves (and downloads) with his weekly Teacher on the Radio series. As the show, which draws its name from the Brooklyn indie band TV on the Radio, nears its tenth anniversary, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Professor Smith in TTU's recording studio (adjacent to the scenic Oracle office) to discuss the show's past, present and future.
Let me start by saying I'm probably biased. Professor Smith is honestly one of the coolest and most genuine people I know, and I'm not just saying that because I liked his Bible as Literature class. That put me at ease, so with my less than stellar interviewing skills, I started from the beginning, asking Smith about the early days of his DJ career.
Radio comes as naturally to Smith as teaching does. From the early days as a "high school celebrity," who got free tickets to local shows in Michigan, Smith has always felt at home in a recording studio. So it seems fitting that in 2007, he began his radio tenure here at Tech.
Smith's playlists are themed, and when I sat down with him on the night of the twentieth, the theme was "Bless this mess," and the musical selection was, fittingly, full of songs about hope and revolution. Artists like Green Day, Chance the Rapper, and Depeche Mode were featured, filling the airwaves with voices of dissent. Smith suggests that college radio is subversive by nature, and I have to agree with him. No one turns on their local university station to hear about how cool it is to listen unquestioningly to authority and do your homework (though I guess he would advise you to do the latter). It's noteworthy that not every artist on the lists are artists Smith is personally very familiar with- he chooses music that fits in with his theme, be it love, blessings, rebellion, or religion. This fact is one thing I love about his series' style- Smith makes the show accessible to everyone and sidesteps the "if it's not a white guy with a guitar it sucks" elitism that some rock n roll-loving DJs are inclined to.
At the risk of sounding all "let's all hold hands and sing Kumbaya," I'll say now that music is undeniably something that brings people together. It articulates the things we feel but can't really express on our own. It MAKES us feel. That is why, in my opinion, people like professor Smith are so important. In a world that seems incredibly uncertain, listening to one of your favorite teachers playing great music as though it was his calling in life and speaking words of wisdom can make you believe that the world isn't such a bad place.
The world is changing, for better or for worse. But at Tennessee Tech, the Teacher on the Radio is here to stay.