By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published May 13, 2003 at 5:19 AM

The Milwaukee School Board owns and operates radio station WYMS (Your Milwaukee Schools) at 88.9 on the FM dial.  And while that will still be the case, a coalition of musicians, young professionals and civic leaders is hoping to transform the station into a true voice for the Milwaukee music scene, creative and arts scenes and community interests.

Currently, WYMS streams national feeds from JazzWorks, a company that provides packaged mainstream jazz for radio. The station also broadcasts monthly School Board meetings.

Over the years, the station has broadcast children's programs, locally produced jazz programs, ethnic programs and in the late hours even some caribbean, African and electronic music.

Milwaukee Public Schools administration last year tried to quietly transfer programming and operation of the station to WUWM-FM, but the jazz fans in the area fought to keep WYMS on the air with its jazz programming.

Many thought the process ugly and unprofessional and what resulted was a jazz station still run by MPS, but with little local connection.

MPS recently issued a request for proposals seeking new ideas for programming the station and an outside group or company to operate WYMS.


Many Milwaukeeans -- including co-owner and Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM) president Jeff Sherman -- signed a letter composed by Dean Amhaus of the Spirit of Milwaukee, requesting that the School Board open up the process and keep an open mind about the future of its radio station.

One group is now emerging with a vision for the station to program a mix of alternative, jazz and other under-represented forms of music, particularly focusing on the local music scene. The concept, though still being developed, would also promote the local arts and cultural scene. Among those involved are Peter Buffett, Joe Puerta (of Ambrosia and Bruce Hornsby and The Range), Victor DeLorenzo (of Violent Femmes) and other local musicians.

"What MPS has done in opening up the possibilities for the station is groundbreaking," Buffett says. "It represents an incredible opportunity for the station to become a true voice of Milwaukee at a time when radio is less local and play lists are more constricted."

While the group is still working on a proposed format for a new WYMS, the public is invited to offer feedback and suggestions. Use the talkback feature below to open the dialogue.