Thursday, March 23, 2006
831>>TALES FROM THE AREA CODE
Most local radio stations sound like a broken record—playing the same Jamie Foxx joint or the latest mediocre rock song by Yellowcard with the reliability of Old Faithful. Fortunately, there’s an adventurous alternative, run by high school students, over at Pebble Beach’s Stevenson High School. On KSPB, 91.9 on your FM dial, one minute it’s electro pop by Fischerspooner, another it’s contemporary country courtesy of Tim McGraw, classic reggae by Bob Marley, tunes by top regional acts like Santa Cruz’s The Expendables or music by unknowns like South Dakota’s The Spill Canvas.
In addition to their eclectic playlists, KSPB is refreshing because their DJs do what most radio DJs don’t: They reveal their true selves rather than just simply reciting the names of tunes. This becomes apparent one recent afternoon when KSPB music director and RLS junior Matt Wolowodiuk, who also has his own dub rock and reggae show called “Breakfast All Day” on Fridays from 3:30pm to 6pm, gets behind the microphone to take over a friend’s show. As Jacob Genauer, the station’s webmaster and a DJ with a Tuesday afternoon indie and alt rock show, looks on, Wolowodiuk begins the program with a rapid-fire update of what he’s been up to. He talks about a recent trip to New Hampshire and confesses he just got over an allergic reaction to the drug azithromycin, a treatment for strep throat, before playing Pepper’s “Stone Love.”
KSPB, which has been broadcasting since 1979, is currently run by 123 Stevenson students under the supervision of teacher and station general manger Hamish Tyler. Students are able to get their own show only after completing two classes—Beginning Radio and Advanced Radio—and assisting with the broadcast of three shows by other RLS DJs.
Tyler says there is no radio station like KSPB anywhere else in the nation. He also notes that the station’s 1,000 watt transmitter, located atop Huckleberry Hill in Monterey, allows KSPB’s programs to reach Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
“We are the most powerful secondary school station in the world,” he says.
KSPB moved into a new space in the Rosen Family Student Center from a room in the school theater two years ago. Since the move, the station has acquired state of the art broadcasting equipment and has started to stream shows over the Internet. “We have got a 10-fold increase on our streaming hits,” says Genauer. “On a regular basis, we are heard on five continents.”
Tyler says the work at the radio station attracts two types of Stevenson students. “The science students are enamored with the technical part of it,” he says. “The other grouping is more in the sense of a disc jockey. They tend to be hip and intellectual.”
Wolowodiuk and Genauer fit the description. Though Genauer is a DJ, he believes he will go into chemical engineering or economics after college. Wolowodiuk wants to continue pursuing a career in the music industry. He says he wants to start his own record label somewhere down the line and hopes to shake up the existing music business.
“It would be my dream to put Clear Channel out of business,” he admits.
Wolowodiuk has already gained plenty of hands-on experience. As music director, he has struck up relationships with record labels, worked with bands, and charted KSPB’s playlist for the College Music Journal, a publishing company that keeps tabs on the music industry, especially the college radio. The relationships definitely have benefits.
“I could get backstage passes to Coldplay,” Wolowodiuk says. “But I don’t have a ride.”
As a DJ, he has interviewed one of the most popular bands in the nation, My Chemical Romance, among others. But his biggest coup might come in the near future: Wolowodiuk is currently working to secure an exclusive interview with Senator Barack Obama, the popular Democrat from Illinois.
Meanwhile, Wolowodiuk has clearly learned his way around a modern radio station. Dressed in shorts and the top portion of a Polo tracksuit, Wolowodiuk oozes comfort and confidence as he munches on a burrito between selecting songs by Thicker Than Thieves and Ribsy’s Nickel.
He’s also learned a ton about the contemporary music scene. In addition to two hours in studio, he admits to researching bands on the Internet for two hours a day.
Wolowodiuk isn’t afraid to employ his knowledge to school listeners, as he did on air later that same afternoon.
“That was ‘Pawn Shop,’” he says. “If you don’t know who that is, you should jump off a cliff.”