The Journey of Radio-Free J-Ro

j-ro3By Moe Tompkins

The other night, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the more interesting people I’ve gotten to speak with during my tenure with SPARKBOOM. We spoke casually over wings, and the more I talked to him, the more I was intrigued, not only with his musical and professional endeavors, but his life. Jake Roren, or J-Ro as many of you probably know him, is a DJ with WUSB. He’s been spinning there since 2002, after stints at SUNY Oswego, Seattle, and Buffalo.

J-RO has always been a music lover, and has always wanted to be on radio; ever since he started recording his own radio shows at the age of 12. He studied broadcasting at SUNY Oswego, and had his own show on their local station for all 4 years. From there, his life plays like a slice-of-life Judd Apatow movie. He’s been all over the country, and done just about everything, even spending a short time as a freelance writer, and a stand-up comedian. Seriously, if you bump into him at the Movies that Rock event on Monday 6/30, talk to him, he’s seen it all and done more.

Jake sees himself as a conduit, a way to introduce people to new music. While indie rock is where he is most comfortable, his j-ro2show, and personal record collection boast a range of music that few others can challenge. “I go where the music takes me,” he said when I asked if he had any format, or specific styles that he stuck to. Hackneyed as it might sound to you reading, it didn’t to me, because he said it with an earnestness that is severely lacking by many on the scene today. As we discussed his earnestness, I could not help but ask him (as I do all of my subjects) what his motivations are, and where he ultimately wants to be. Obviously, most musicians and songwriters want to hit it big, get the record deal, etc. But for a radio DJ, in a professional climate where the biggest radio stations are owned by three companies, what do you? J-Ro is just happy, being able to play records, and give people good music to listen to; of course, like many of us, he’d be a little bit happier doing it for more money. But he loves what he does, and sacrifices for it. I will leave you with this. Jake Movies That Rock (Poster)told me an amusing anecdote about his days as a writer. A young woman asked him why he wanted to be a writer. He laughed and looked at her puzzled and said (pardon my paraphrasing) ‘I don’t want to be a writer necessarily, I have to be one. I don’t have a choice! This is something that I would not wish on my worst enemy.’ Anybody who has ever had a passion for anything can probably relate. If you cannot, well, you are either very lucky, or very boring.

If you like Jake as much as I do, you can catch his show on alternating Wednesdays from 2:30pm-5:00PM on WUSB, with his next one being July 9th. Also, Jake happens to be a huge fan of the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington and wanted me to take special care to mention how great they are. This is also where the Movies that Rock event is being held. He’ll be spinning during the after-party of “Mistaken For Strangers” – a documentary on The National, featuring a live Skype Q&A with Director/Star, Tom Berninger. I myself have been there a few times for their monthly Late-night ‘grindhouse’ features, and let me tell you, it ain’t bad. Come check it out Monday! RSVP here via FB / Purchase tickets.

Visit Cinema Arts Centre or SPARKBOOM’s FB page for more info.


MImageoe Tompkins, a native of Islip, New York, holds a double degree in jazz studies and music education from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). Upon acceptance to the College-Conservatory of Music he began simultaneous study both with Ray Charles Orchestra alumnus Marc Fields, and Tim Anderson of the Dayton Philharmonic. For several years he worked as a highly-in-demand trombonist on the Cincinnati scene and beyond playing everything from salsa, to reggae, neo-brass band sharing the stage with the likes of Streetlight Manifesto, The Aggrolites, and Foxy Shazam, just to name a few. He currently resides in Islip, working with the Long Island Arts Alliance and finally pursuing his own musical vision with his original group Slang ( When not making music, Moe can typically be found enjoying horror movies, fusion jazz, or White Castle.

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