Minnesota Public Radio will celebrate 50 years on the airwaves in 2017. A lot has changed since the organization humbly began broadcasting a single classical music frequency out of Collegeville, Minnesota, in 1967. But one thing has remained constant: MPR’s forward-thinking focus on remaining an indispensable resource for Minnesotans of generations present and future. The launch of 89.3 The Current is one example of that innovative spirit.
Since breaking onto the radio dial in 2005, The Current has become a household name for a wide community of music-savvy Minnesotans. Adding a Duluth signal in 2016, the station now broadcasts on a dozen FM frequencies from Rochester to Ely. More important than a physically expanding footprint, though, is the organization’s continued flexibility and fortitude as they continue to find ways to engage with listeners in authentic and meaningful ways.
For more than 10 years, The Current has given an independent voice to Minnesota’s music community and 2016 was no different. This past year brought much grief to the music community at large, but Minnesota was hit exceptionally hard with the passing of our most important local music icon.
If you’re like us, you turned immediately to The Current when you heard the news that something horrible was developing at Paisley Park. We tuned in, knowing that the station—given its intimate relationship with the artist—would be the best resource for the latest developments in the story, and that their DJs would provide us with the familiar voices of friends with whom we were sharing the tragedy of that day.
The station’s coverage of Prince’s passing was timely and complete, but compassionate and reverent. In short turn, the station organized a series of events that included a massive dance party with First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, featuring the likes of Chastity Brown, P.O.S, Tiny Deaths, Pavielle, and Lizzo (who flew to Minneapolis for the party). A dance party in the street was exactly what we all needed to begin the healing process, and it wouldn’t have happened without the concerted efforts of the independent public servants at The Current.
Prevalent as the brand has become, it can be easy to take them for granted, but the station continues to find ways to use their limited resources to remain omnipresent at all the cool concerts and community events throughout the year. They remain engaged with the community through programming partnerships like Policy and a Pint, a collaboration between The Current and Citizens League that’s curated to engage young people in conversations about public policy that affects their lives.
From the service they provide us as a music news resource, to the exposure they give local artists through quality programming like in-studio performances and The Local Show, to spectacle-scale events like Rock the Garden, The Current has grown and maintained an organic relevancy in the local music scene in spite of their non-commercial status. With a small staff, and a public radio budget, The Current continues to blaze trails in the cultural community of Minnesota.
Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.