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KSQM celebrates first anniversary

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by MATTHEW NASH

KSQM-FM 91.5 is Sequim’s volunteer radio station.

The 50-plus community members celebrated its first anniversary Dec. 7, bringing original programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Whatever we do is a reflection of what the community wants to hear,” says Robert Spinks, disc jockey and Sequim Police chief.

“When I used to go to the grocery store I was stopped about police business by people but now it’s all about music.”

Before starting the station, KSQM founder Rick Perry did an informal survey and found people wanted music from the 1940s-1960s.

“There is absolutely nothing like this on the radio along the coast from here to San Diego,” Perry says.

“Los Angeles doesn’t even have a station like this.”

KSQM is the city’s first licensed Sequim-only radio station.

Expanding horizons
Perry’s original vision was to use the station to update the community in times of emergency and with news updates.

“Thankfully, since we don’t have a lot of (emergencies) there’s a lot more music played,” he says.

“It’s developed into something much greater.”

Developing the station took more than three years and he was unsure what the response would be, with media outlets across the nation struggling.

However, volunteers say the local and global community has been amazing in supporting it.

Through its Web site, KSQM has been streamed online in 118 countries and in 1,400 cities.

News director Jeff Bankston says people are finding them online because of the big band, swing music and theme shows they play.

“I feel a lot of our listeners are listening and being transported back in time,” Bankston says.

One example is from Sequim’s Arlene Kennedy who heard her favorite song, “Emma Jean” by Les Reed, played by a disc jockey early in the station’s run.

She called in and said it was the name of a girlfriend she used to play with in Iowa and that hearing it resonated with her.

“Emma Jean” now is played daily in the evening and, according to an undocumented agreement, Kennedy bakes cookies for the station volunteers.

“I think it’s great that we have that kind of station that would play it just for me,” Kennedy said. 

Working as the community
Volunteer numbers continue to grow at the station.

KSQM has 15 trained DJs, 20 receptionists, eight newsroom writers and a number of others who do a variety of tasks.

Afternoon DJ Pepper Fisher says he volunteers because he believes community radio is valuable.

He says the most memorable part of working at KSQM is that he reported and gave updates on two Amber alerts issued while he was on shift.

“That’s when you know what community radio is all about,” he says.

Graham Reaves, co-host of “Romantic Rendezvous,” tried other volunteer opportunities in Sequim but working at the radio clicked for him.

“Being on the air feels like you are entertaining people and making their day,” he says.

Those without a background in radio receive intense training before they go before the microphone.

Disc jockey Dorothy Zapata saw an ad for volunteers. She thought she’d do clerical work but was approached about going on air.

Now she hosts an afternoon program twice a week and the popular “Doo-Wop Drive-In” from 7-8 p.m. Saturdays.

Working with the community
Bankston says KSQM reaches out to service agencies and other nonprofits as often as possible. They have announced events and activities on-air for more than 100 nonprofits.

“These groups are finding that their attendance is going up after partnering with us,” Spinks says.

KSQM announcers also update listeners with time of day, weather and road condition, bridge and ferry delay or closure, school and other community reports.

Despite being a nonprofit with no staff salaries, there are business expenses that must be met, Bankston says.

Diane Reaves, a volunteer in the newsroom, says they have received $43,000 from about 500 donors.

Bankston says that amount is good but they need $55,000-60,000 a year for utilities, equipment and paying music royalties. KSQM is looking for grant writers and other volunteers.

Programming
Perry says they are going into 2010 with the goal of perfecting what they did in 2009.

Volunteers are downloading thousands of donated records to the station’s system.

DJs are researching artists, songs and their history to add extra to their programs.

Volunteers are developing new programs for 2010 on animal care, traditional jazz and radio dramas set in Sequim.

Station tours are available most hours at 577-C W. Washington St. Appointments can be made by calling 681-0000.

Listeners can go to 91.5 or visit www.ksqmfm.com.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.
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