USM junior Emma Brearley hosting her show, “What’s in My Mind.” Contributed / WMPG

Howard Allen stuck an antenna out of his University of Southern Maine dorm window and, using bits from a washing machine to create a stereo console, broadcasted music across the Gorham campus in 1971. Two years later, the pirate radio station transformed into WMPG, and now the USM and Portland community radio station is celebrating a major milestone.

The station held its first official broadcast 50 years ago this month. Today, it serves as a staple of the local music community and has become a resource for students looking to gain skills in audio production and broadcasting.

We started as a pirate radio station. Now, we have global reach with our app and online streaming,” said Annella Linton, development director of WMPG.

The station will commemorate the anniversary with special events and programming throughout the year, inviting old and new DJs alike to reminisce on their time with WMPG. The celebration will include a driveway party at WMPG, a live broadcasting party featuring an anniversary video, special radio programming with influential community figures and musicians, as well as a variety of community events and local gatherings. The station will spotlight some of its most popular DJs from years past and showcase the achievements of alumni who have gone into the broadcasting industry. They will also host an interview with Allen, who started it all.

WMPG not only serves the broader community, but also provides a treasured space for students as a respite from the stress of schoolwork and to share one another’s company with the music they love.

USM sophomore Monica Withee at last year’s “Battle of the Bands.” Contributed / Monica Withee

“I’ve always been really into music since I was a little kid,” said Monica Withee, a sophomore at USM. “I found out there was a school radio station, and I was so excited.”


She found having a radio show a very therapeutic part of her week, Withee said, and her time with WMPG has deepened her understanding of just how helpful music can be for mental health and stress reduction. She plans to take that with her in her pursuit of a psychology degree.

“It was on my time, something to look forward to, and everyone at the station was very supportive. I find it a really amazing environment for self-expression and discovery,” she said.

Withee learned a lot as a freshman, she said, including soundboard, mixing and audio quality.

“It’s a welcoming atmosphere when everything is new and scary,” she said of the radio station. “It turned into a safe space for me very quickly.”

Linton said that the station helps students to grow in skills and self-assuredness.

Students are incredibly shy at the beginning and come out confident young people who are audio producers,” she said.


Emma Brearley, a junior at USM, said that the community around WMPG has been vital to her college experience.

“I’m a really huge advocate for student involvement at WMPG,” she said. “It really rounds you out as a person and student.”

WMPG’s headquarters on the Portland USM campus. Contributed / Annella Linton

She first became aware of the station 10 years ago, when her mother was interviewed on WMPG about her experience coming to Maine as an immigrant.

“I already knew going in that it would be a friendly and respectful environment to work in, open to different perspectives,” Brearley said.

Brearley plays a mix of things on her show, from French rap to classical, and said she “likes it to be as chaotic as possible.”

She began her time at the radio station by visiting local music venues in Portland, recording herself and her experience there, and editing and broadcasting it on her show.


“We have thousands of listeners per week, and I have people calling into my show all the time,” said Brearley, which has helped her to gain confidence in public speaking and interviewing, something she hopes to use in her future career.

Brearley said some of her favorite events are the open mic nights the station hosts, as well as the Battle of the Bands, which brings together student bands from USM and invites audience members to vote on their favorites.

Throughout the coming year, WMPG will re-broadcast some of its most unforgettable moments and milestones in the station’s history, as a testament to all those who have made it what it is today, Linton said.

“Reaching this remarkable milestone is a testament to the passion, commitment and support of our incredible staff, volunteers, and the community,” said Linton. “For 50 years, WMPG has been the voice of Southern Maine, and we are honored to have played a role in the lives of so many individuals.”

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