City Cambridge, Massachusetts
Broadcast area Greater Boston
Branding WHRB 95.3 FM
Frequency 95.3 MHz
First air date December 2, 1940 (1940-12-02) (closed-circuit AM)
May 17, 1957 (1957-05-17) (commercial FM)
Format Variety
ERP 1,450 watts
HAAT 185 meters (607 ft)
Class A
Facility ID 26341
Transmitter coordinates 42°21′8.6″N 71°3′22.8″W / 42.352389°N 71.056333°W / 42.352389; -71.056333 (WHRB)
Callsign meaning Harvard Radio Broadcasting
Former callsigns WHRB-FM (1957–1978)
Former frequencies 107.1 MHz (1957–1959)
Owner Harvard Radio Broadcasting Co., Inc.
Webcast Listen Live
Website www.whrb.org

WHRB is a commercial FM radio station in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It broadcasts at 95.3 MHz and is operated by students at Harvard College.


WHRB was one of America's first college radio stations, initially signing on as a carrier current station on December 2, 1940. After acquiring funding from The Harvard Crimson the station's first call sign was WHCN (Harvard Crimson Network). It broke from the Crimson in 1943 and adopted the call sign WHRV (Harvard Radio Voice). Harvard Radio Broadcasting Co., Inc., the non-profit corporation that owns the station, was formed February 1, 1951, and the current call sign adopted.

In order to reach audiences beyond Harvard's campus, the corporation acquired a commercial FM broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and began regular broadcasting on May 17, 1957 at 107.1 MHz (at that time called "megacycles"). A few years later, the station changed frequency to 95.3 MHz, where it has remained since. The broadcast area expanded considerably in 1995 when the main transmitter was relocated from atop Holyoke Center (now called the Smith Campus Center) in Harvard Square to its present location atop One Financial Center in downtown Boston. (A facility remains at the Smith site for backup purposes.) Broadcasts went global when internet retransmission of its programs began on November 18, 1999. In 2009, WHRB made available for download the first stand-alone college radio station iPhone "app".[1]


WHRB is a confederacy of on-air departments, each with its own staff, training requirements, and allocation of airtime. During the academic year, the station publishes detailed bimonthly program guides, describing its regular programming as well as the Orgy periods that end each semester.

Orgies (the term is a registered trademark of the station) are consecutive presentations of the entire musical output of composers, record labels, or genres, sometimes running 24 hours a day for a solid week or more. Station legend has it that these began when an exuberant undergraduate in 1943 decided to celebrate his passing a difficult exam by broadcasting all nine Beethoven symphonies in order. Orgies continue to take place during exam periods, allowing the station to be run with a reduced on-air staff at these busy times. "Orgies" are broadcast each year throughout most of December and a portion of January, and again from the beginning of May through Harvard's commencement ceremony near the end of that month.

Some of WHRB's regular programs have long histories of their own. For example, the country music program Hillbilly at Harvard dates back to 1948,[2] and Sunday Night at the Opera is one of the longest-running programs in its genre in the United States. The station's underground rock department, Record Hospital, began in 1984 and hosts an annual music "fest".

WHRB also broadcasts live play-by-play coverage of all Harvard University football and men's hockey games, along with occasional broadcasts of other Harvard sports like men's basketball and women's hockey, and is the Boston area home, in season, for the weekly broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.

Notable alumni

Prominent broadcasters who began their careers at WHRB include Martin Bookspan (voice of the New York Philharmonic), Steve Curwood (host of Living on Earth on NPR), Bruce Morton (CNN), Dan Raviv (CBS), Scott Horsley (NPR), and Chris Wallace (Fox News). Harpsichordist Igor Kipnis, New York Times critics John Rockwell and Kelefa Sanneh, New Yorker critic Alex Ross, pianist and composer Robert D. Levin, ZDNet founder Michael Kolowich, Justin Rice and Christian Rudder of Bishop Allen, Karl Rove's personal attorney Robert Luskin, visual artist Alex Kahn, record producers Thomas Blanchard Wilson Jr. and Jim Barber, and the members of the chimp rock band Fat Day have been on the station's staff. David Mays, the founder of The Source magazine, hosted a popular show, Street Beat.

WHRB alumni are called ghosts in the elaborate and idiosyncratic lingo which has developed at the station;[3] the term refers to their tendency to "haunt" the station after "death" (graduation).


  1. "Listen to Harvard radio station on your iPhone" (Cambridge Chronicle, March 27, 2009) Accessed 2012-04-13
  2. "'Hillbilly at Harvard' hosts heady hoedown weekly" (Beth Potier, Harvard University Gazette, January 10, 2002) Accessed 2008-09-27
  3. "Magna Cum Probation" by Sam Smith, 1999. Reflections on experiences at the radio station; includes "A Dictionary of Network Usage" (WHRB lingo). Accessed 2008-09-27
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