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Ensemble Stage Airs Christmas Music on FM Radio Station 88.3 in Banner Elk Through Holiday Season

Ensemble Stage put up a message on its marquee about tuning in to 88.3 FM for Banner Elk’s holiday music. Photo submitted by Gary Smith.

By Harley Nefe

Residents and visitors of Banner Elk can tune in to FM radio station 88.3 to hear holiday music Ensemble Stage is airing using an FM transmitter they received.

Gary Smith, who is the Artistic Director for Ensemble Stage, said they got the FM transmitter a while back when they were exploring different things they could do with it. When they realized they weren’t going to be able to do their Christmas show due to COVID-19, they thought of the idea to use the FM transmitter to put on some holiday music for when people are in town shopping or driving around looking at holiday decorations.

“It is just another one of those things that adds a little specialness to a small town in how we can do something like this,” Smith said. “It will maybe attract some people into town or they’ll think, ‘Oh, how cool,’ and they can tune in.’”

The FM transmitter is low wattage and covers mainly Downtown Banner Elk. The signal starts to get fuzzy around the Cheese House and also around Bodegas Kitchen & Wine Bar and the Dollar General in Banner Elk. 

“We did this as a service to visitors who come to shop and sightsee, to our downtown businesses for some commercial-free ambient or background music and to local residents who live close to Downtown Banner Elk,” Smith said.

The music played is secular and non-secular and contains a mix of old standards, like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, and newer recordings, like Kelly Clarkson and Pentatonix, in addition to recordings from some High Country artists.

Smith said he has already had a few people contact him locally and ask to put their content on the transmitter; therefore, not only does the station play music from artists everyone is familiar with, but it also has some stuff from local artists that the public will be able to listen to. 

The station plays 24 hours a day, and it currently has a three hour loop of music that plays randomly. This means the order will always change, and it won’t be the same songs playing after each other. Smith will also continue to keep adding songs as people send stuff in, and he said they will probably have it airing through New Years.

“I think it will be fun and hopefully people listen to it,” Smith said. “Mostly, it was a way for us to do something for the community since we can’t do our Christmas show this year.”