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Local News

College of DuPage's WDCB celebrates 40 years on the air

Bruce Oscar works his regular afternoon shift June 9 at WDCB, the College of DuPage radio station. The station is marking its 40th broadcast year.
Bruce Oscar works his regular afternoon shift June 9 at WDCB, the College of DuPage radio station. The station is marking its 40th broadcast year.

GLEN ELLYN – Longtime WDCB host Bruce Oscar leans into the mic as he announces what he will play next.

"Guitarist Doug MacDonald has a brand new two CD set called 'Jazz Marathon 2,' recorded live in L.A.," Oscar informs his listeners. "He gathered all sorts of good people for this. It's saluting the jazz composers. The composer in this case happens to be Horace Silver. And the tune? 'Strollin,' on 'DCB Jazz."

WDCB, owned and operated by the College of DuPage and known as Chicago's Home for Jazz, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The 69-year-old Oscar has been part of the station for many of those years.

Oscar, who hosts the afternoon shift of "All Things Jazz," as well as "Swing Shift," his own tribute to the WWII swing band era, has worked at the station for more than 25 years. His approach is simple.

"I try to give people a good time, nothing more, nothing less," Oscar said.

He is grateful for the opportunity.

"I'm an entertainer, and it allows me to be who I am," Oscar said. "It allows me to be who I am, and to share my love of music."

It's the only radio job that Oscar, who also is a jazz pianist, has had. Before starting at WDCB, he was a regular listener of the station. He was drawn to jazz at a young age.

"I heard Duke Ellington when I was 5, and I was hooked," Oscar said. "I heard this and I said, 'Yes, I like this.' And I had some great teachers along the way, and they pushed me to where I am."

WDCB 90.9 FM was founded as a 5,000-watt station in late 1977, and its original format was a mix of classical, educational and news programming. Jazz programming was introduced in the early 1980s and became the primary format by the end of the decade.

Since then, WDCB's format has expanded to include roots rock, bluegrass, Celtic, folk, blues, new age, acid jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, big band, world music and old-time radio shows, though straight-ahead jazz makes up about 75 percent of its music programming.

Oscar has seen the station grow over the years.

"When I first got here, we were signing on and off the air every day," he said. "We weren't on 24 hours a day. I remember when that happened. That was a big party. We only did jazz five or six hours a day when I first got here."

Although WDCB is not student operated, COD students work at the station's offices as aides for limited hours during the week. WDCB station manager Dan Bindert said he is proud of what the station has become.

"The station has become kind of an institution in the Chicago area overall," said Bindert, who arrived at the station in 2013.

He attributed the station's success in part to longtime WDCB on-air personalities like Oscar.

"I'm lucky that this station had built this audience for so many years before even arriving," Bindert said. "I think that people really know the station and consider it an important cultural institution of the entire Chicagoland area. And the fact that it's based here in DuPage County is a really cool thing, you know."

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If you go

What: WDCB's Live Jazz Concert Series

When: July 27 to Aug. 10

Where: Lakeside Pavilion at College of DuPage's McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn

Cost: Free

About: The series opens with "An Evening with Guy King and his Little Big Band," including a tribute to Ray Charles and B.B. King, on July 27, followed by the New Lionel Hampton Big Band with Jason Marsalis on Aug. 3. The Orbert Davis Sextet (with special guests to be announced) rounds out the series with "A Centennial Salute to Dizzy Gillespie" on Aug. 10.

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