Photos and profile by Caryn B. Davis

Think Northern Exposure where radio D.J. Chris Stevens watched the comings and goings of the townspeople in Cicely, Alaska through the glass window of his radio station while dispensing commentary, often unsolicited, on news, politics, and events in this rural outpost. Well, iCRVradio is not located in Alaska, nor will their platform include politics or news, but they do have a big glass window overlooking Main Street in downtown Chester where this new Internet radio is located. And unlike Cicely’s mythical station, iCRV serves not one, but 17 towns that inhabit the shoreline and the Connecticut River.

“Traditionally, radio stations east of the Mississippi use call letters that start with a W. Stations west of the Mississippi usually start with a K. We are an Internet station, so we start with an I. And since we represent the towns bonded together by water, the CRV stands for Coastal River Valley,” says Ibby Carothers, iCRV’s Executive Producer.

It may be hard to get your head around it, but just because they are using the Internet as the medium in which to “air” their shows, versus a conventional radio station where a signal is broadcast from a tower, doesn’t mean iCRV’s programming isn’t happening live and in real time.

“We are a full time, real time radio station on the web with live content, call-ins, interviews, and much more. It’s just like a real radio station, only it’s connected through our website and our mobile app,” says David Williams, iCRV’s General Manager. “We are dedicated to providing a real time resource for our audience. We just need to try and acclimate them to listen in a live manner.”

The concept for iCRVradio has been percolating since David and his wife Ibby moved to Chester three years ago. They traded city life for green spaces, the great outdoors, and community, which comes across in their many programs and business philosophy.

“We believe if you want to be part of a community, you have to be in the community. That is why our storefront and studio are on Main Street. We really want people to know that we are part of this area,” says David.

“We do encourage people to come and see the radio making process. You can watch us through our front windows while we are live on the air or when we are doing production in the studio,” adds Ibby.

Both Ibby and David come from broadcasting backgrounds. Ibby was a producer and on-camera talent for numerous television stations across the country, and she earned two Emmy awards as a reporter and producer on a series she created for WTNH entitled “Connecticut Day Trips.” Dave started in radio in high school as a production assistant for a CBS news talk station and in college worked on syndicated programs that went national. After graduating from Princeton, he found his way into television working on the business side in development, sales, and marketing for such heavy hitters as Turner Broadcasting, the Walt Disney Company, and ESPN. But even with these varied, yet complimentary qualifications, they both share a love of storytelling, which is one of iCRV’s primary focuses.

Discover, do, and share is their mission; and they are tapping into the rich vein of people, places, destinations, organizations, and events around this area that enhance our lives. This is why iCRV has decided to stay away from stories about news and politics.

“We wanted to develop a platform that is inclusive. For example, politics can polarize an audience and segregate the actual market you are trying to serve. This is a place to celebrate community, not tear it apart,” says David.

Their programming is well thought out and diverse. For example, the Valley Jam is a conversational blend of happenings, information, listeners’ reviews, people worth meeting, and music from the Valley. There are regular features but also drop-in programs with stories about the outdoors that can encompass boating, hiking, fishing, kayaking, and other activities specific to this region.

“People can share with us interesting events or destinations they enjoy going to that may be off the beaten track that others might like to explore,” Ibby says.

“If you have an interest, how do you find out about it? How do you find out about that tag sale, lecture series, open house, or club? Do you know there is a rocketry club in the lower Connecticut River Valley and a model railroading club as well?”  asks David.

Midday listeners can tune into Potpourri, a program that focuses on the food circuit, crafts, antiquing, flower shows, coffee and tea chats, farmers’ markets, dining, restaurants, and more. This may include talking with folks passionate about organic gardening, or conversations about native plants or what flowers are ready to bloom, or the best places to watch for butterflies, or what delicious dish chef so-and-so is serving up tonight, or the fastest way to get to Block Island, which is out of our local region but visited by the people who live here nonetheless.

“We want to create a virtual test kitchen where we come up with actual recipes we share online to encourage listeners to sample and tweak the recipes, so at the end of the day we have a better take on a special meal or offering,” says David.

In the late afternoon the Valley Jam PM continues with the lowdown on evening happenings and real-time offers from merchants.

“We understand budgets are tight, so qualified businesses can pay for their advertising half in cash and half in gift certificates. We are going to turn around and sell the certificates at a deep discount of at least 50% off to our listeners. The listener gets a great value, the merchant get full advertising value, plus they get a patron into their shop or restaurant,” says David. “We also have a mobile app that enables merchants to push messages to hand held devices with special offers for iCRV listeners. We are giving them a chance to reach those listeners while they are out and about.”

iCRV is committed to the arts and entertainment and works closely with many towns, merchants, artists, non-profit organizations, and museums promoting their events. In the early evening, the Valley Rundown provides a daily review of these types of cultural attractions and activities from gallery exhibits to lectures to theater openings where they might interview cast members before the performance and then get the audience’s reaction on location after the play.

“We are in the field with recorders in addition to the studio, but we also have a tiny house on a trailer that is our mobile unit so we can set up at the Deep River Ancient Muster, for example and attend other events,” Ibby says.

The late evening into the early morning hours are dedicated to showcasing independent musicians coming to, coming from, or just plain popular in the lower Connecticut River Valley.

“We teamed up with Eric Lichter at Dirt Floor Recording Studio in Chester, the ultimate resource in New England for independent artistry. They will be handling for us the cultivation of a playlist of artists. We will showcase them, promote them, and try to sell their swag in our shop. We are all about helping to support these artists as they try to gain some audience, ground swell and momentum, and fulfill their artistic mission,” says David.

iCRV is also committed to helping high school and college students. For the cost of one dollar, they get 30 seconds of airtime where they can talk about their skills. iCRV will then do a blast to their merchant partners to help these youngsters get employment. They are also soliciting high school interns to help produce a segment called “This Week in Valley History.” Through interviews with the elderly and historical museums, the kids will learn about local history and the production process. Additionally, David and Ibby want to hear from the senior citizen community as well.

“We really do have a heart for them. We are all about story telling and the richness that comes with that,” says Ibby.

“We want to give them a chance to recollect and record their stories, while giving us a chance to hear them and understand,” David adds.

All of the information iCRV collects either through interviews, programming, or submissions, will remain in their website so people can access what is of interest to them. They want people to get out and explore, discover, do, and get the most out of this place many of us call home.

“Radio is a practical starting point to be able fill a void in an area we have come to love. The void being there is an absence of a robust informational resource that is interactive and serves the entire footprint in the lower Connecticut River Valley, versus a single town,” says David. “We live in an area where one town doesn’t have everything, but the bundle of towns do, and more, except for a way to understand what’s going on in East Lyme if you live in Madison, for example. We wanted to fill that void, so radio makes sense. It is a means for interaction and immediacy and a way to uncover the stories that are important to living in this great area.”

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