You never know what you might hear when you tune in to WPKN. Here\u2019s performance artist Emma Speer on her show Emuse, doing readings and exploring our dreams. Here\u2019s Carl J. Frano, laughing, bopping and singing along to his theme song \u201cThe In Crowd\u201d by the Ramsey Lewis Trio as he gives us oldies from the \u201950s and \u201960s. Here\u2019s \u201cMystery Girl\u201d (name unknown) hosting her show Shut Up & Listen, in which she \u201cconnects with creatives making waves.\u201d Here\u2019s Howard Thompson telling us in his British accent the inside studio stories about rock bands he helped discover and promote from the \u201960s to the \u201980s (10,000 Maniacs, the Psychedelic Furs) as he plays their known and lesser-known songs. Here are Ralph Nader, Scott Harris and Amy Goodman filling us in on the latest injustices committed by our government. Here\u2019s Chris Frantz, former drummer for the Talking Heads, enlivening his show by interviewing Cindy Wilson of the B52s. And now for something completely different, here\u2019s some Tuvan throat singing. (It\u2019s very guttural.) This, folks, is free-form radio. It hasn\u2019t died \u2014 not in Bridgeport, Connecticut! Tune in and turn on. I\u2019ve been listening to this station at 89.5 FM, which you can also now stream at WPKN.org, for decades. For years I had a bumper sticker on my car proclaiming: \u201cWPKN \u2014 some music I like. Some music I don\u2019t like.\u201d WPKN has been with us since 1963, when a small group of University of Bridgeport students set up shop in a pocket of a campus building. The call letters are derived from the Purple Knights Network, in honor of U.B.\u2019s sports teams. But now the station is in a new place. After dealing with its outmoded quarters for decades and withstanding multiple administration changes at U.B., WPKN has started broadcasting from its new home in downtown Bridgeport. There\u2019s another reason why these are heady times for this alternative outlet: last August, The New Yorker\u2019s David Owen called WPKN \u201cthe greatest radio station in the world.\u201d Owen noted that WPKN offers a sorely needed antidote for so many of us \u201cwho can be driven mad by stations that seem to play nothing but the same six songs by Aerosmith, Journey, Bob Seger and Yes.\u201d \u201cThat New Yorker story led to many donations,\u201d says the station\u2019s general manager, Steve di Costanzo. \u201cIt\u2019s been an incredible bounce.\u2019\u201d He proudly shows me around the new quarters at a time before most of the furniture and other fixtures were installed. But these spacious rooms, with brick walls and 12-foot ceilings, are a vast improvement over the cramped confines of U.B.\u2019s student center. WPKN\u2019s new home is on the second floor of 277 Fairfield Ave., adjacent to the Bijou Theatre. \u201cThe opportunity of being next to the Bijou helped us decide to move here,\u201d di Costanzo says. \u201cWe can align ourselves with a performance space. We plan to do productions with the Bijou: music, movies, spoken word.\u201d The large room overlooking Fairfield Avenue has been named the Community Room; it symbolizes WPKN\u2019s commitment to engage with the local audience while still reaching listeners around the world via the streaming platform. Escorting me around the three studios, one of which will be devoted to letting local people do podcasts or after-school programs, di Costanzo says: \u201cIt\u2019s incredible for us to have new gear! To see all this shiny new audio is transformational.\u201d Jim Motavalli, who has been a DJ at WPKN since 1973, joins us on the tour and is as excited as di Costanzo. (Full disclosure: Motavalli is a longtime friend of mine.) \u201cThis is a giant leap into the modern age,\u201d Motavalli says. \u201cThis represents a wish list of what we\u2019ve always wanted to do. It\u2019s a dream realized.\u201d During his 48 years at the station, Motavalli notes, \u201cAny changes were extremely incremental. We had the same peeling posters on the walls.\u201d I ask Motavalli, who is also the station\u2019s publicity director: \u201cHave you ever made a dime working here?\u201d \u201cNo!\u201d he answers with a hearty laugh. (No WPKN DJ is paid; all are volunteers.) As for why Motavalli stays on: \u201cI\u2019m passionate about music. And I love the total freedom. Nobody has ever said to me: \u2018You shouldn\u2019t have played that song.\u2019 \u201d He adds, \u201cI like exploring the new music that\u2019s coming out, bringing it to the people.\u201d He also interviews experts on topics such as climate change. \u201cWe\u2019re all music obsessives,\u201d says di Costanzo, also a DJ as well as general manager. (He gets paid for that job.) \u201cWe\u2019ve never sounded better. We\u2019ve added more diversity, younger people.\u201d Valerie Richardson, program director and a DJ at WPKN for 31 years, says: \u201cI want to bring people to the airwaves who are going to take radio in a new direction. I\u2019m especially proud to have brought a lot of wonderful women to PKN.\u201d Speer, who began on air in 2019, says, \u201cIt\u2019s a place of constant learning with a supportive community. Valerie and Steve say before my show, \u2018Have fun!\u2019 and I always do.\u201d Frano, who\u2019s been doing his effervescent program since 1989, says he wants to bring joy to his listeners. \u201cThey\u2019re fabulous! To think that someone who enjoys avant-garde music also tunes in to hits by Connie Francis and Ricky Nelson and the Ronettes and the Drifters!\u201d As a nonprofit enterprise, WPKN is listener supported. You won\u2019t hear ads but you will hear fundraising appeals. \u201cWe have very loyal listeners,\u201d Motavalli says. \u201cThey are chronic givers.\u201d Colette Rossignol, who chairs the WPKN board of directors and, of course, is also a DJ, credits Phil Kuchma, a community-minded developer who owns the Bijou and WPKN\u2019s new headquarters, for making the move possible by offering a low rent. \u201cHe\u2019s been incredibly kind. He knows this will be good for the community as a whole and good for the listening community.\u201d Remaining at just 10,000 watts, WPKN can be heard in southwestern Connecticut, on Long Island and in other parts of New York state and Massachusetts in addition to its worldwide streaming. \u201cIt\u2019s not just a local radio station,\u201d Motavalli says. \u201cThere\u2019s no other station like this. Free-form radio was fairly common in the \u201960s. Owners figured the DJs knew how to program music better than a computer. But that fell away and tight playlists took over.\u201d WPKN will preserve DJ freedom while continuing to adapt. \u201cWe\u2019re building a new vibe here,\u201d Rossignol says. \u201cIt\u2019s going to be exciting but it\u2019s going to be different.\u201d How to listen: Tune to 89.5 FM, download the WPKNLive mobile app in the App Store or Google Play, or go to wpkn.org Randall Beach is a former columnist and reporter for the\u00a0New Haven Register. He can be reached at\firstname.lastname@example.org. This article appears in the\u00a0December 2021\u00a0issue of\u00a0Connecticut Magazine.\u00a0You can\u00a0subscribe to\u00a0Connecticut Magazine\u00a0here, or\u00a0find the current issue on sale here.\u00a0Sign up for our newsletter\u00a0to get our latest and greatest content\u00a0delivered right to your inbox.\u00a0Have a question or comment? Email\email@example.com. And follow us\u00a0on\u00a0Facebook\u00a0and\u00a0Instagram\u00a0@connecticutmagazine and\u00a0Twitter\u00a0@connecticutmag.