The Future of Community Radio:CHIRP

Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) 
An interview with Jenny Lizak
By Gregory Lyon

Spawned from deep within the underground realm of Chicago, a specter with ties to community groups and the city's independent arts and music scene lurks around seemingly every corner, wittingly injecting the city and its denizens with plentiful doses of unique events and local fervor

Who - or better yet, what - is this benevolent beast wreaking enjoyment and localized communal spirit on the city of Chicago? None other than Chicago Independent Radio Project, or CHIRP. This essentially fully volunteer-run and operated (one part-time employee) independent radio station has been inflicting pleasure on its victims since its genesis two years ago in a Chicago basement.

It has since moved to the third floor of an old, unused family-owned building in the industrial section of the city that was once home to a manufacturer of photo albums. Here CHIRP broadcasts music live on the air for nearly twenty four hours a day. They also offer podcasts of dangerously interesting talk radio.

CHIRP fills the airwaves local and independent music with an emphasis on Chicago community bands. With the help of local studios they play a number of live band sets. Here you will also find  theater reviews that explore the intersection and interaction of theater and society and other unique segments.

CHIRP can also be found throughout the city hosting fundraiser benefits and invading a plumbers union hall armed with tons of records. (Wait...What?! They invaded a plumbers union hall?!) That's right, CHIRP swiftly (after many months of planning and organizing) moves in on the local plumbers union hall every year and hosts one of the most popular events this side (...or that side..?) of the Mississippi: Record Fair. 

The event entices vendors from all over the mid west who load up their station wagons with records, pieces of art, shirts and whatever other homemade trinkets will fit in the backseat, and trek over to Chicago. The two-day event, which boasts over 100 vendor tables and live music throughout the day, is sure to impress even the most enthusiastic record aficionado.

With all its earthly merits, you'll be indefinitely twirling your transistor's tuning knob in search of CHIRP because they are not yet a licensed low power FM station. Though, like stations across the nation, they are rolling up their digital (and probably actual) sleeves and preparing for that ephemeral window of opportunity that the FCC will be opening this fall to let in the September, October, and November autumn air, as well as some LPFM licenses for aspiring community stations.

As the current acting president of CHIRP, Jenny Lizak, tells me CHIRP is really hoping for a license and has been setting aside bits of money from each of their fundraisers “just for that application in the fall.” She gloomily states, “there's no place for people to turn that are interested in local arts and community events,” but her tone brightens when she explains how they want to fill that void on more than just the internet.

If Jenny and her group get their wish, then Listener Beware: CHIRP, like aspiring stations throughout the country, may be benevolently coming for your unsuspecting transistor.