Making (Air) Waves

Music enthusiast Ken Abrams starts a new folk radio show on WRIU


“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Ken Abrams, “so I’m thrilled and honored to be starting.”

What he’s always wanted to do is start his own radio show, “Free Form Folk”, which now airs twice a month on college station WRIU. The new program will showcase a variety of folk, blues, and jazz artists, as well as Ken’s robust knowledge of these genres.

“Free form is a radio format where the DJ has total control over what is played, unlike commercial radio, which is usually pre-programmed,” Ken explains. “It allows for the DJ’s voice to be heard. So that means if the spirit takes me from Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis, that’s what you’ll hear.”

Ken knows how to present cool content. For the past 31 years, he’s taught social studies at Scituate Middle School. He often incorporates music into his curriculum, including Civil War ditties and 1960s protest songs. Ken’s audience grew substantially in 2012, when he started writing about music for various local publications (including So Rhode Island). He now contributes regularly to local site WhatsUpRhodeIsland as well as national periodicals like No Depression.

As Ken became more involved in the music scene, he decided to start volunteering for WRIU. Most of us know that 90.3FM is operated by the University of Rhode Island, but many are surprised by its prominence: “WRIU is one of the few college radio stations in the region still broadcasting over the airwaves,” notes Ken, and the signal can be heard as far as away as Long Island. A fan of many years, Ken started volunteering for the station, then pitched his own show.

“Free Form Folk” kicked off with a smattering of tracks and introductions, but Ken plans to host on-air interviews with musicians as well. He’ll also post the songs he plays on a Spotify playlist, so that listeners can revisit them later.

Ken’s palate is broad, but he’s particularly proud of the growing musical culture in his home state. “Rhode Island has a dynamic, ever-changing music scene,” he says. “It’s tough for artists to make a living at it, so many have day jobs, but the quality of the music is right up there with what you hear in NYC and Boston. The challenge is to get folks to get out and listen.”

Catch “Free Form Folk” the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 90.3FM, or stream it live online.