Author: Novak, Jessica
Date published: January 4, 2012
The Syracuse music community erupted with sadness and anger on Friday, Dec. 30, as news spread that Dave Frisina, the adored and respected longtime radio deejay, was let go by Galaxy Communications. It was 2011's biggest WTF moment in Syracuse radio news, topping even the head-scratching ouster of Jim Reith from Central New York's Clear Channel cluster in October.
Frisina, 56, had been at Galaxy since 2003, and worked on both WTKW-FM 99.5/105.5 and Utica's WOUR-FM 96.9. But Frisina was a fixture on the Syracuse airwaves since 1978 when he started with WAQX-FM 95.7. Frisina was inducted into the Syracuse Area Music Awards (Sammys) Hall of Fame in 1994 and was nominated for various other awards from Billboard magazine and Radio and Records magazine including Personality of the Year and Music Director of the Year during his time with 95X.
Although originally from Long Island, Frisina dedicated his career to the Syracuse area after graduating from SUNY Cortland in 1977. "I got into radio because I love music," Frisina said in a phone interview on Tuesday, Jan. 3. That love started early on Long Island and morphed when he got involved with college radio at Cortland. When he was given the opportunity to work in the Syracuse radio market, he ran with it.
"I didn't see myself as a performer as much as somebody who likes turning people on to music or talking about music," he says. "So as soon as I got up here, I started hitting the clubs and seeing bands and realizing that a lot of these bands were just tremendously talented."
So, on Dec. 2, 1979, Frisina started up Soundcheck, an hour-long show in addition to his part-time gig at 95X in an effort to get on the air more often. That 60-minute weekly dip into the minds and music of area code 315's bands and artists was the longest running local music show in Central New York-up until Dec. 30. Beginning with artists including The Flashcubes, The Dean Brothers, Todd Hobin and recently inducted Sammy Hall of Famers 805 and David "Rock" Feinstein's The Rods, to newer artists like Liz Strodel, Grain Elevator and piles of others, Frisina established himself as the local-music supplier of Syracuse over three decades of the show.
Still, he gives all the credit to the artists. "My reputation is based on all the musicians whose music I've played," he says. "I owe them everything. The musicians should get all the credit. The fact that I'm there getting credit for it all, that surprises me."
Beyond Soundcheck, Frisina has also become a notable music-lover and scene-supporter, showing up at local gigs, emceeing musical events and serving as one of the greatest cheerleaders of local music. He emphasized that, despite the career switch, his mission will not change.
"I'm gonna be out at clubs and shows because that's what I do anyway," he says. "That's who I am. That's part of my DNA. It's not like that was a part of my job. That's just who I am. Again, the only thing that's changing is I'm not on the radio right now."
Frisina plans to take some time to chart his next career move and for now is looking forward to visiting family around the country. "I haven't had more than a week off at a time in 30 years," he says. "I'm planning on recharging and reloading and renewing my commitment to what I think is important in town and figuring out a way to do that. The important thing to me is what I decide to do next. That's all. It's an opportunity to figure out how I can contribute in another way."
As for other fallout, as early as Sunday, Jan. 1, it was announced on the New York State Blues Festival Facebook page that TK99 would not be a media sponsor at the festival. Although Blues Fest producer Todd Fitzsimmons notes the station and the fest had a falling out in 2010, he stated, "We're definitely not going to have them as a sponsor now."
Fitzsimmons went on to add his support for Frisina: "I posted that as part of the fanfare supporting Dave. I can understand business decisions, but that abrupt after 30 years? I thought Dave deserved more respect than that. Dave's done a lot. I could go on and on, as could everybody."
Other Facebook comments suggesting movements against TK99, including un-liking the Facebook page and removing the station from preset radio dial options, took shape as well as an outpouring of support and encouragement for Frisina.