The countdown has begun for the hopes of a community radio station. In order to retain the license for KMUZ, the station must be on the air by August 2011. Currently, fundraising is at the utmost importance.
“I think the economy has slowed us down,” Karen Holman, one of the brains behind KMUZ, said. “The antenna is roughly $15,000 and we can’t get around that. Then there is a transmitter and a few other pieces of equipment. The fundraising goal is $30,000.”
Holman moved from Santa Barbara to Salem in 2001, and now is a professor of chemistry at Willamette University. “I looked around for a community radio station, because I wanted to get involved. There was nothing. That really surprised me. Here we are at the state capital and there is no public radio?”
Holman decided to research starting a station. “I looked into the process and had no idea how difficult it was. There is an application window every 15 years, and that application window is five days long.” With that news, discouragement set in. “At that point it had been 10 years, I kept abreast of the process and in 2006 the long awaited window came and there was a frequency available. We put together an application with radio engineers. The Salem Folklore Community agreed to be the sponsoring non-profit for the project, and with a twenty-year reputation as a nonprofit, they would add credibility to the application. It was free to apply for the application, but the engineering cost was well over $4,000 for a chance at getting a frequency,” Holman said.
The application was approved, and the dream of KMUZ was on its way to being a reality. “At that time, we had three years to be on the air. We have to be on the air by August 2011. Over the last couple of years we have been fundraising and grant writing and it has been unbelievably difficult,” Holman said.
The foundations are having a hard time supporting KMUZ. “We are not helping kids on the street, and feeding the hungry. Those stories are much more compelling, the money needs to go there,” Holman said.
However, interest has been good. ”People are excited to be on the air and to be a DJ,” Holman said. “It is just the grassroots building and the formation of the station that people are not excited about. The wait has been difficult.”
The current goal is to embrace that grassroots approach and generate money to get the station on the air before the license expires.
“It’s a pretty small group doing it, but we are chugging away. Tim Patterson came up with the idea to ask Roger Steffens to come out for the fundraiser. This guy is amazing. He has credentials like crazy. But he is also a lot of fun. He has a large collection of over 3,000,000 items shoe-horned into 7 rooms, and it is known as the world’s largest reggae archive. The collection has over 10,000 hours of live concert recordings, including all of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ live concerts.
“The Life of Bob Marley” is an ever-changing two-hour multi-media show that Steffens has been presenting around the world for over 25 years. The show, which began in 1984, has played to packed houses in Australia, Israel and Jamaica, as well as hundreds of halls across the US. Bob Marley, who died in 1981 at age 36, is considered reggae’s greatest artist and a cultural icon. When he died of cancer Jamaica gave him a state funeral and hundreds of thousands of fans lined the roads as Marley’s body was transported back to his birthplace of Nine Miles.
“It’s never the same show twice, especially in recent years, with the ability of computers to assemble a lot of various things,” said Steffens, who shares video, audio, and still photographs during the show. He maintains that even though he has been doing the show for 25 years, he’s always learning new things about Marley.
The show will be on October 29 and will raise funds for the transformer to get the station started.
If fundraising goes well at the reggae event, then hopefully the station will be streaming online in the spring. “We are hoping to make that happen. We are looking into purchasing used equipment, and there is a station that is considering giving us some equipment. But we can’t do it without community support.”
“We are the second biggest market in Oregon, and we don’t have a community radio station. I have worked in radio a lot, but this is difficult because we are blended with Portland, so the listenership goes there; it is just the nature of the market.”