By Taylor McKay Hathorn
Reid Vance grew up listening to the sounds of WHJT, the radio station nestled in the basement of Aven Fine Arts Building just off the brick streets of Mississippi College’s west campus.
“Originally, they played light pop, middle-of-the-road music. It was nothing to put you to sleep, but it was not enough to make you dance, either,” Vance quipped of the Baptist college’s radio stylings.
The radio station transitioned to contemporary Christian music during Eastertide in 1989, and when Vance arrived on campus as a college student in the 1990s, the music would be the unwitting soundtrack of his time in college as he learned how to call college sports at the WHJT studio.
“I wasn’t so interested in the music,” the now-department chair admitted. “I wanted to be a sports broadcaster.”
WHJT helped those dreams become a reality, at least briefly: Vance stayed on after graduation to help manage the radio station and would eventually spend around a year as a full-time sports announcer. Vance later departed to earn a seminary degree before finally returning to Mississippi College, where he’s known as the “Voice of the Choctaws,” a title he holds dear.
“I like sports and talking about sports,” Vance remarked. “I love MC, and I’ve worked with great coaches.”
The basement of Aven, though, looks different now than it did when he spent his early days in WHJT studio, as the radio station was permanently closed a few years ago.
“Radio isn’t what it once was,” Vance said, citing the rising cost of maintaining radio stations and the decline of careers in radio news media.
Vance’s desk sits directly across from the former WHJT studios, but for the Canton native, the appeal of the FM music he once listened to is still very present.
“I think it’s true that, as people age, they tend to revert to the music that was significant to them during the formative times in their lives,” Vance reflected. “You don’t care about hot new songs. The music [on WHJT] is the music I grew up with. I was immersed in it here.”
The music was also part of the ties that bound Vance to his colleagues in the world of radio newsmedia, a group that he keeps up with through a Facebook group and occasional lunches. This summer, Vance decided to use his spare time to provide the group with a Spotify playlist of songs that the disc jockeys in the basement of Aven once played: “Spirited Music for Christian Living.”
Originally thinking he’d compile a list of maybe a hundred or so favorites from the early nineties, Vance’s playlist now stands nearly 1,200 songs strong, featuring artists like the Newsboys, Greg X. Volz, and Steve Camp.
“Christian music is always several years behind popular music,” Vance said of the array of selections. “But it’s still good music.”
His peers agree, as Vance says he’s received a number of positive comments on his Spotify-opus.
“It’s a point of connection,” Vance concluded. “We can all look back and be encouraged.”
Vance’s public playlist can be found by searching for “@reidvance” or “Spirited Music for Christian Living” on the Spotify app.