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Always local, always independent 

KCPR breathes life into the Central Coast radio scene

Do you remember when there were many local radio stations--some independent, others part of major networks, but nearly all featuring some locally produced programs? The major networks produced a wide variety of shows, ranging from the Jack Benny and Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy shows to The Metropolitan Opera and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I can remember with great pride when my hometown of Paso Robles first broadcast KPRL (1230 AM) from a transmitter and studio in town. The station received a national award for Dog Gone, its lost pet announcement that was part of the daily Noon News.

Now, most of the radio spectrum is dominated by a few national companies that broadcast the same narrow styles of music or talk to hundreds of stations nationwide, with loss of much local color.

Take heart! There are still a few stations that are locally run with a wide variety of programs. One such station is KCPR (91.3 FM), our Cal Poly radio station, run 100 percent by students and local volunteers who select their own music. In addition to young adult pop, independent rock groups, hip-hop, etc., some of the hosts feature a wide variety of their own musical interests, often from personal collections. This station offers much material not available elsewhere. One KCPR T-shirt features CPR in progress with the message of truly breathing life and live programming back into radio.

Sue Bee and I co-host Musica Americana, heard on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon, featuring "America's stories told in song," including Dixieland and other jazz, along with blues, ragtime, etc. We highlight musical styles with topical and seasonal themes and discuss social and cultural contexts and stylistic elements. Seasonal themes include remembering the sacrifices of our Armed Forces for Memorial Day. For the Fourth of July, we feature Revolutionary War period music and a reading of the complete Declaration of Independence (with fife and drum in the background). Labor movement songs are played around Labor Day, and, of course, for Christmas we feature carols, hymns, and popular songs of the season.

We have featured specific artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, etc. We have also done bluegrass, '50s and '60s rock and roll with Elvis and others, and '60s and '70s with the Beatles, Credence Clearwater, etc. Needless to say, in the course of preparing these programs, we have gained a deeper appreciation of our musical heritage that we also wish to share with the community. We also encourage enjoying live local musical performances by playing samples, such as Basin Street Regulars (www.pismojazz.com), Pocket Productions (www.pocketproductions.net), Pacific Repertoire Opera (www.propera.org), The Live Oak Festival (www.liveoakfest.org), our local Mozart Festival (www.mozartfestival.com), SLO Folks (www.SLOfolks.org), and more.

KCPR Sessions exists to provide local musicians an outlet for radio airplay and as a place for the community at large to hear new music by their friends and neighbors. Each Sunday, 8 to 9 p.m., Sessions features a live, in-studio performance, as well as new demo releases and concert updates. Sessions aims to book artists who don't fall into the mainstream of pop music and more or less fit the established programming format of KCPR. If you or someone you know belongs on KCPR, please contact us at www.kcpr.org/sessions.

Other programs include Miles (Davis) Ahead, a jazz program by Dr. Jim Cushing on Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m. Burnt Dog Blues on Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. Rasta Revolution (reggae) on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. Bandwagon (a specific performer or group) on Sundays from 5 to 6 p.m. and Burnt Dog Rodeo (country and western) on Sundays from 6 to 7 p.m.

For more information, check the program grid at www.kcpr.org, which also features live streaming broadcasts of the current show for people outside of our broadcast range.

Democracy Now airs 9 to 10 a.m., Monday through Friday. This is an option for people not able to hear it at noon on KCBX. And remember, KCPR carried it for nearly a year before KCBX broadcast it throughout the week.

KCPR is the only station in the area that offers the venerable live broadcasts of the New York Metropolitan Opera (in its 77th year) on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. till the performance is completed, from Dec. 8 through May 3. Check www.operainfo.org for details.

The KCPR broadcasts are among the many ways Cal Poly enriches the cultural life of our community. All of the DJs truly enjoy sharing the music we treasure. We "learn by doing."

Our major fundraiser is the KCPR Auction, Nov. 5 through 9, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Although KCPR receives basic support from Cal Poly's Journalism Department, funds are needed for additional music and other activities. Donations from local merchants and organizations for the auction are most welcome. Underwriting of spot announcements throughout the year will help as well. Our business contact is www.kcpr.org/business/underwrite. Opera enthusiasts may want to help support the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. Since KCPR is a 501c (3) nonprofit organization, all donations and underwriting are tax-deductible.

Please support us at 756-5277 (SLO-KCPR).

Charles Blair (Charlie B.) and Suzy Sittig (Sue Bee) are co-hosts for Musica Americana on KCPR. Send comments to New Times Editor Ryan Miller at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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