It isn’t often that a radio station celebrates 20 years, but Life 100.3 is throwing a big party to do just that.
Life celebrated its official 20th anniversary yesterday but will throw a big party on Saturday night at the First Baptist Church in Orillia.
Operations Manager Steve Jones said when the new station opened, there were lots of challenges.
“Nobody had heard of Christian radio before, so nobody really knew what to expect, even in the Christian community,” said Jones, who has worked at the station for 16 years.
“It was definitely a wait and see approach, but obviously it has just grown substantially and expanded through the years. We have thousands of dedicated listeners ... but it certainly took a while to get there," said Jones.
Life originally started as a Simcoe County radio station that expanded to repeater stations in Peterborough, Owen Sound and Huntsville before receiving a power boost from 18,000 watts to 40,000 watts. At that point, the station, essentially, covered all of Central Ontario.
Every radio station needs listeners, but in Life's case that need is more acute. Without listeners, there would be no station.
“We are a listener-supported radio station in that we don’t have shareholders, there is no ownership. It's a charity that owns the radio station, so the listeners contribute to keep us strong,” said Jones.
For anyone who doesn’t attend church and even those who do, the term “Christian music” might evoke visions of organs, robed-singers and choral music, but Jones said that isn’t the case anymore. These days, the music isn’t too different than what other stations are playing - other than the message inside the lyrics.
“I think that was part of the learning process at the beginning was when people thought of Christian music they thought of organs or choirs, which is certainly a valuable part of it, but it is truly so much more than that nowadays,” said Jones.
“Listeners have learned that there are Christian formats similar to any format; there is rock, pop, hip-hop, and I think that has really opened the eyes and ears of people who tune in," said Jones during an interview at the station's 115 Bell Farm Rd. home in Barrie.
"Christian music now really does sound like music found on other radio stations as far as the style; just the lyrics are different.”
Tomorrow, Life will hold a concert and celebration at First Baptist in Orillia with live performances from 7eventh Time Down and local artist Luke Langman.
“This is another opportunity for Christian radio to develop local talent, so (Langman's) somebody who, without Life, may not have got the break he needed,” said Jones.
“God is doing great things through this station and we’re so thankful.”
Tomorrow’s 20th anniversary concert starts at 7 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are available here.