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'Voice of the Island' radio set to launch on Anna Maria Island

ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Robert Herman was recovering from a severely broken leg -- and burned out from a 16-year career in information technology -- when he discovered in 2004 the healing power of Anna Maria Island and its three cities.

“I stopped at every waterfront town from Charleston to Key West, came back to Anna Maria Island three times, and said to myself, ‘This is where I want to be,’” Herman said. “So I sold everything I owned and came on down here.”

Herman has since come up with a new way to express his love for Anna Maria Island; WAMi Radio, slated to go live at 10:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve.

The low-power station, with the frequency yet to be determined, will have two purposes: to cover every possible aspect of island news, and to highlight original music by the independent musicians that perform throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“The musicians that are playing all around our area are awesome,” said Herman. “They’re beautiful. And when I listen to them, I wonder why everyone else isn’t playing them on the radio.”

Herman’s goal in featuring original independent music is to provide them publicity and possibly help the bands become signed by labels.

He’ll also ask the fea- tured musicians to mention WAMi radio at their shows.

He already has collected 1,100 songs from more than 100 musicians. The collection covers every imaginable genre of music.

In addition to its AM availability, WAMi has applied for an FM license and will be available over the Internet.

“You know the old say- ing that the person who needs a vacation the most is someone who just got back from one?” Herman said.

“The Internet site is for when you’re back sitting in that office. You’ll always be able to have the voice and the soul of the island.”

The new station is ex- citing news for one longtime island personality: Tim “Hammer” Thompson, a member of the nonprofit Anna Maria Island Privateers.

Thompson will have a three-hour talk show on WAMi every weekday morning that focuses on local personalities including musicians, actors and community leaders.

“I think it’s going to be great,” Thompson said. “There should have been a radio station on Anna Maria Island a long time ago.”

Thompson, who had a radio talk show in the state of Vermont for seven years before moving to the island, plans to showcase island events before they happen, and provide insight into “the actors and actresses behind the show,” or the “musicians behind the music.”

Herman plans to continue that approach with other talk segments sprinkled throughout WAMi.

He’ll feature local island officials offering advice and deeper insight than they are able to during public meetings; musicians providing on-air music lessons; story hours for children; career counselors for high schoolers; environmental experts focusing on wildlife rescue; and even a health segment for older women titled “Grey Matters.”

Herman has invested $50,000 in the station so far and has more investors ready to chip in more. He’ll run the station commercial-free for the first three months and then seek sponsors, promising to devote no more than 12 percent of airtime to commercials.

Christine Hawes, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7081.