All successful ships need a captain – and, in this case, a particularly enjoyable adventure soundtrack. At Radio UTD, this responsibility falls to senior math major and station manager Sai Vaddavalli. On a typical day at Radio, he can be found keeping tabs on every aspect of the station’s operations, from hiring and training new DJs to planning and marketing events, all the while keeping a steady stream of music playing in his cubicle as he overlooks the day’s programming.
Each Wednesday night, Vaddavalli swaps his management to-do list for a seat at the Radio table as one of the hosts of Royal Donuts. So named, he explains, as a reference to J. Dilla’s album Donuts, which Vaddavalli considers one of the best produced albums, and as an homage to his previous Radio show titled Hear the Kings. Preceding his co-hosts Hilwna and Zahra, Vaddavalli kicks the show off at 9 PM and introduces his audience to a variety of genres each week, ranging across hip-hop, R&B, electronic, world, and others, all presented with his goal to aim this show at everybody and anybody that enjoys music in the slightest.
“The main draw for Royal Donuts, in my opinion, has to be its variety,” Vaddavalli said. “I can guarantee that every listener will walk away with at least one song that they thoroughly enjoy each show.”
Over the course of three hours, Royal Donuts allows its hosts to bring a diverse collection of music to the audience, intertwined with lively interactions between Vaddavalli, his co-hosts, and active listeners as they tune in together. The hosts have all worked together previously, with Vaddavalli and Hilwna co-hosting Hear the Kings in the past and spending time on air with Zahra as guests. This, Vaddavalli explained, allowed their co-hosting trio to naturally fall into place; their combined music tastes are similar enough that they can share love for their favorite artists on air, while also maintaining the variety that Royal Donuts is known for.
“We all offer a lot of versatility and diversify the range of the music being played on the show,” Vaddavalli said. “It represents the wide variety of music that can be played on our show, like a box of donuts.”
Vaddavalli has incorporated this inclination for variety into his entire experience at Radio, ever since starting out as a freshman perusing an org fair and stumbling across the student media tables. Since getting involved four years ago, Vaddavalli has grown from being a DJ trainee at the station and names Amanda, the previous station manager, as a great mentor throughout the various positions he has held at Radio. Vaddavalli also notes that the trips taken with his staff, such as traveling to Baltimore last year, have become defining moments in his career by allowing opportunities to explore new cities, their cultures, and how other college radio stations operated. Through travel, events, and hosting multiple shows, Vaddavalli notes a shift in how he has gotten involved over the years.
“I used to be very reclusive my first year here, but I’ve gained more experience and interacted with a lot more people,” Vaddavalli said. “It’s not something I get to do often, so I didn’t take it for granted at all and took advantage of everything it had to offer.“
As he wraps up his time at UTD, Vaddavalli notes how his music taste has changed along with his own growth. The shows he has hosted with Radio have been a testament to the development of his music taste, starting out in underground hip-hop and discovering more music in a variety of genres. Though Royal Donuts will be wrapping up this semester, Vaddavalli plans to make the show an opportunity to showcase these discoveries and encourage interactions between music fanatics, leaving his mark as station manager by creating and continuing the diverse, accepting environment that drew him to Radio in the first place.
“Going into the end of my 4th year with Radio, I have definitely grown a lot throughout my time here,” Vaddavalli said. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence in myself and found a community that I feel truly accepts me for me.”