Locals Only

Radio shows like Martin Ball's Locals Only are helping home-grown broadcasting station KSKQ delve deeper into the Rogue Valley's rich melting pot of musical talent.

"We're doing things that make us accessible to the community," says the radio station's program manager Carson Bench. "We've really worked hard trying to establish that connection."

Ball has hosted a slough of local acts, he says, and built a catalog of about 40 artists to select from during his two-hour Sunday slots on 89.5 FM, which start at 2 p.m.

"I think it (Locals Only) is a good representation of the musical diversity of our community," says Ball, 39, who holds a doctorate in religious studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and is an adjunct professor at Southern Oregon University.

"It's really fun as a DJ, because I'm not bound to playing any particular genre at any time during the course of a show," Ball says. "It's providing, for local musicians making music, the opportunity of a local venue."

His playlists stretch across all genres, he says.

Some of his favorites are playing Saturday at Jackson Wellsprings for a KSKQ fundraising event, Ball says.

He is scheduled to host Heather Hutton playing Celtic and Folk, singer and songwriter Gene Burnett, and vocalist Aletha Nowitzky for the event, which runs from 5 to 10 p.m., for a $15 entry fee.

The money raised will go toward day-to-day operating costs associated with the station, says Connie Saldaña, treasurer for the radio station and its operator, the Multicultural Association of Southern Oregon.

A campaign to raise about $15,000 to expand the station's coverage throughout Jackson County will begin in August, she says; the organization has a few thousand dollars raised for the upgrade, and is in the process of writing a grant that would cushion the fundraising effort.

"We're looking forward to being able to give the gift of radio to the entire region," Saldaña says. "We should be broadcasting with full power by fall."

The station's current antenna, stretching to about 6,200 feet atop an abandoned fire lookout on Table Mountain near Hyatt Lake, broadcasts at 18 watts. A new $5,000 antenna will push that to 300 watts, Saldaña says. New equipment to convert KSKQ's signal from mono to stereo will provide "a richer sound," Saldaña says, but will cost a few thousand dollars, and about $6,000 is needed to pay engineers for tuning the more powerful signal, so that it does not interfere with other radio frequencies in the area.

Currently, KSKQ is in a partnership with US Cellular, and the owner of the property where antennas owned by both organizations stand. The radio station signed a six-month use agreement on Dec. 5 with US Cellular, which owns a transformer on the mountain that KSKQ's antenna is now drawing electricity from.

"They provide the electricity for free, which we're very grateful for," Saldaña says.

A new agreement will likely be negotiated soon, she says, not sensing any trouble with extending something close to the current arrangement; though, the relationship between the two organization got off to a rocky start.

During the course of a six-month wait before the cell phone provider gave KSKQ the go-ahead to connect its antenna to an existing transformer powering a cell tower there, a propane generator for the radio antenna ran out of gas in November, killing the station's FM broadcast. After two-and-a-half days of a fuzzy frequency, the station was able to refill its propane tank and reestablished generator power to its antenna on Nov. 16, when heavy snowfall melted off in the mountains.

"It's amazing that we got this far "… but everyone has continued to plug away," Bench says, giving most of the credit to the station's volunteer staff. "I feel good about what we are offering program-wise. If we can get over the hump financially, I think we'll have a lot of success."

Bench says it's sad to see the future of Jefferson Public Radio, whose grass-roots beginning likens KSKQ's, unfolding in dramatic fashion, but KSKQ has a different mission, he says.

"We're a true community radio station. The community can come directly to us, we're that accessible, any one of our producers," he says. "JPR can't do that."

Like Ball's catalog of genres, KSKQ's schedule is a melting pot for oodles of radio content. Democracy Now, Tuesday through Friday, 7 to 8 a.m., Latin, blues, folk, electronica, jazz, rock, pop, and world music can be found, among other hard-to-finds, in its programs.

Ball says it's thrilling to host a live radio show, his only previous experience coming from his days as a DJ for a high school radio station in Chico, Calif.

He's is always on the hunt for new local acts to provide airtime to, he says, without any guidelines for genre. Those interested can drop off a recording at the station, located in the back of the business park at 330 Hersey St., or contact Ball through the station's website.

The radio station broadcast is always streaming live online, and can be heard at www.KSKQ.org.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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