Radio has played an important part in my life. When I was fifteen years old, I walked into the basement of Lower Freeborn Hall at UC Davis and it changed the trajectory of my life.
KDVS was started in the mid-1960s in a dorm room at the University of California, Davis. Over the decades it moved into its own space with two studios, increased its wattage to cover more area, and became well known in Northern California as an excellent college and community radio station. It started broadcasting online in the 90s which helped to make it accessible worldwide—outside of sleepy Davis and surrounding communities. When I entered the tiny lobby of KDVS in the early 2000's, I didn't know its history. I had walked by it once after leaving the MU games area, also located in the basement of Freeborn Hall. A woman with spiky blue hair manned the front desk. There were stickers stuck everywhere. A glass window allowed you to look inside and see the DJ as they did their show live.
I had known about KDVS for a few years and started to randomly tune in. KDVS is a "freeform" station. Each DJ programs their own show and plays whatever they want as long as they follow FCC rules and station guidelines. The shows last between 1 to 3 hours in length and each show is different. Some nights I found indecipherable noise blaring through the radio, or weird punk rock, people talking about poetry, or 1960s rock groups I had never heard of. I grew up with the radio playing in the car and at the ranches my mom worked at. One of three stations were always playing either Oldies, Classic Rock, or Country music. As a kid I loved the Oldies station which played the Beach Boys, Smokey Robinson, the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, The Supremes, etc. The type of old rock and roll I heard on KDVS was not entirely dissimilar, but the recordings were rougher, less produced, and totally awesome.
As I teenager, I became really disenchanted with mainstream music and remember watching music videos and listening to the local "alternative" station and thinking that there had to be other music out there. KDVS was a blip on my radar. I was persistent and started tuning in at different times of day. I found which shows I liked and tuned in weekly to hear them. I loved the DJs My Friend Gina and Miss Marnie Hotpants. I always made sure to listen on Thursday nights to catch Todd, Megan, and the Trivia Masters. I kept listening during one of their weekly fundraisers to catch the wacky on-air antics of the DJs all day, even at school, keeping my radio Walkman and headphones tucked in my sweater.
I wasn't that interested in becoming involved at the station until a few friends from school decided to go to one of the Spring new volunteer meetings and I tagged along. We toured the station, and as we were led into the back room that housed all the vinyl records, I was in. I had my epiphany. You were required to do volunteer work in order to get a show. I completed over double the required volunteer hours my first quarter. I loved going after school and helping with whatever needed to be done from vacuuming, to painting the lobby, to learning how to use Photoshop and PageMaker and help with the quarterly program guide.
KDVS is where I learned about Graphic Design and that it was a career. It's where I met many close friends that I still have today. It's where I met my roommates and eventually my boyfriend. I did a show at KDVS for several years in the 2000s. I also worked on staff for two years, a teenager fresh out of High School with a weirdly high work ethic, along with my part time clerical job outside of the station. I stayed up until 3am to finish laying out the quarterly program guide. I drove the quiet streets of Davis late at night feeling accomplished and excited. While most of my classmates went straight to college after graduation, I used my "bumper" year to stay up late, go to shows, and learn skills that would help me through school and eventually become my career.
This is all a very long-winded way of saying that radio had a profound impact on my life. I'm currently volunteering to help a new community radio station, KUTZ FM get on the air in the hopes that it has a similar effect on others. While KUTZ doesn't have the backing of a large University, its independence gives it freedoms other stations do not have. It will be a freeform station that gives the DJs the power of whatever they want to play. It will give voice to the local community and let them discuss important issues and views. Underground musicians and artists will have the opportunity to get their music played and their shows promoted. The prominence of internet radio and podcasting doesn't erase the need for terrestrial radio. Not everyone has a computer, internet, or streaming device. That said, I'm not a Luddite. I love podcasts. I have one on pause while I write this! I think it is a game-changer and revolutionary. KUTZ will stream online and be available to people who prefer to listen that way.
KUTZ is currently all volunteer run and is now raising funds to get on the air. Please donate if you can. You can get a cool perk for your tax deductible donation. There is a totebag I designed, t-shirt and sticker. KUTZ is presenting several live shows in August, view them here. If you can't donate money, donate a few minutes of your time by posting on social media and telling friends and family. That gesture is just as valuable. Thanks for reading!