MUSIC & TECHNOLOGY
Crossrock.com: 'The Next Generation
By Jennifer E. Jones
gray Seattle skies, the last student in Dustin Richie’s computer
class rushes into the lab after taking lunch at McDonald's. Richie chooses
to let it slide this time as he’s engrossed in an impromptu conversation
with some of his other students about the ethics of bootlegging computer
software. Meanwhile, in the studio, two freshmen are recording a public
service announcement about smoking. It’s the first item on their
task sheet just before reviewing the new Thousand Foot Krutch song that
hasn’t hit radio waves yet.
In this typical high school, these teens are up to atypical things. Instead
of learning HTML or how to type, they run the online radio sensation,
Crossrock.com. Junior and senior high school kids are disc jockeys, producers,
announcers, and their own program directors -- all from a classroom in
King’s School in Shoreline, Wash., just north of Seattle. Under
the watchful eye of veteran-disc-jockey-turned-high-school-teacher, Richie,
Crossrock.com reaches young people all over the world with the best in
Christian hard rock, rap, and pop. Its purpose is clear -- it is the ‘next
generation Christian station.’ Their mission is simple -- to reach
their generation with the gospel in a musical language the youth can understand.
Crossrock was the brainchild of Seattle’s Christian FM radio station,
Spirit 105.3. “During one of their fundraising events six years ago,
they wanted to start an Internet radio station for the young kids,”
Richie tells CBN.com. “They raised the money, got the music together,
and they cranked out a very good product. They had a full time staff for a
couple of years and then decided that it would be the best idea to give that
radio station to King’s High School.”
Richie’s class size ranges anywhere from 12 to 19 students per semester.
He serves as Crossrock.com’s General Manager but the daily maintence
of the site and the station is done by the teens. Nineth grader Maxwell Vincent
says, “We set the playlist. We schedule the songs for each day. We do
the specialty shows. We answer the emails. We do everything that runs the
station. Mr. Richie helps a little bit but he makes us do all the work.”
Freshman Brad Newbould is part of the Senior Air Staff of students who have
taken the class more than once. He records weather and researches song lyrics.
It’s a strict process of selection for airplay. “We want to make
sure it’s talking about God and in a Christian sense of attitude,”
Songs up for consideration are brought in by students or requested by listeners.
Then students contact the respective record companies for copies of the music.
As part of their daily tasks, they listen to songs, and after three people
review it, Richie puts his final stamp of approval.
Crossrock.com’s staff also takes care of the technical side of radio
such as recording all of the teasers and liners (i.e. “You’re
listening to Crossrock.com”) and arranging the songs with a music scheduling
software called Selector.
“We’re not just fooling around with a 'Mickey Mouse' piece of
equipment,” Richie says. “We’ve got the same computers and
software [as other stations]. They can get an internship doing overnights
at a radio station next summer or fall. It’s cool to tell the students,
‘You can do this.’”
“I came into this class without a clue as to what’s going on,”
says Junior Jeremy Sage. “I didn’t really know if this is what
I wanted to do but after I got into it and figured out how everything worked,
I really started to enjoy it. [Now] I look forward to it. It’s my favorite
Jeremy takes the class with his friend and classmate Zac Rockwell. “Our
assignments show us how to do it and the rest of the semester we’re
doing it,” Zac says. “It’s cool to be on the air.”
Hired on a year and half ago, Richie is still getting his feet wet in the
teaching business. He had ten years of radio under his belt when he stepped
into the classroom. At 31 years old, it was a difficult transition but Richie’s
youthful exuberance is not lost on his students. Jeremy says, “He’s
a really great guy. I like him a lot. He’s a lot easier to talk to than
the other teachers.” Eighth grader Elizabeth Borneman agrees. “He’s
one of the younger, more energetic ones," she says. "He actually
makes the class fun, and there are only a few teachers who can do that and
keep their students from falling asleep.”
With a cool teacher, hot music, and a tech-savvy staff, Crossrock is becoming
a major competitor in the online Web radio market. They draw listeners in
with contest prizes and promote themselves at local concerts and music fesitvals.
The “Super Secret Song of the Day” has listeners emailing in to
win albums from the Crossrock.com library. It’s also a key way for the
students to learn about their audience. “Students can look at when people
are listening,” explains Richie. “We can find out who’s
tuning in from what server on what computer. It shows us some really cool
Their hard work is paying off daily. According to Shoutcast , a streaming
audio system, they are in the top 23 percent of webcasts listened to in the
world. "It’s a number that amazes me," says Richie. "I’m
excited to see where it’s gonna go from here."
Numbers can’t lie and neither does the amount of mail sent into the
Crossrock.com. Their fan base spans the globe. “[Fan mail comes] from
people all over. We have a young lady who’s sending emails from Wyoming
who says she listens at a teen club on Friday nights,” says Richie.
“We get a lot of mail in broken English/Portuguese from Brazil. They
are on fire down there.”
No matter what the language is, the message of Crossrock is in the music.
The students pick the latest hits by Out of Eden, P.O.D., Stacie Orrico, and
Relient K. Richie recognizes that they tap into a growing undercurrent of
Christian music that is catching a lot of attention. The rap beats of T-Bone
and Demon Hunter’s hard rock riffs may take parents off guard at first
but Richie assures that all the music looks at real-life issues from a Christian
perspective and provides a safe alternative to mainstream radio acts like
Britney Spears, Eminem, and Snoop Dog.
“If your kids are listening to something questionable, why not turn
them on to Christian alternative music? Something that’s positive,”
Richie says to parents.
The students of Richie’s computer class have varied prospects for the
future. Jeremy is interested in a possible radio career whereas Elizabeth
wants to work with animals and Brad is weighing his options between sports
and the military. However, all of them are happy to make an impact in the
lives of young people through music now.
“In the big picture, God’s finding glory in what effort the students
put into this," says Richie. "If a little girl in Wyoming on a Friday
night is in a teen dance club listening to Crossrock as opposed to going out
and getting into trouble, we’re a little chunk of that. God’s
working through us to bless somebody. That’s what I want to be all about.”
Dustin Richie and the Crossrock.com staff welcome your comments.
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