Kathryn Smith, after 18 years, still considers broadcasting and volunteer work at the station as "creative dharma." "I heard KVMR in my first months in Grass Valley during Celtic Cadence, and said to myself, What the heck is this station?" and tuned in daily over the next weeks. She loved the eclectic mix of music, offbeat commentary, and local flavor of the station, and signed up to be a member.
In 1989, she completed the broadcaster training class. Because of a busy schedule as a family practice physician, she initially served as a substitute, usually at night. "I really only met the night people, back when KVMR was still located at Miner's Foundry."
Kathryn was especially interested in the local songwriters and new artists featured, and says the KVMR smorgasbord of ethnic music broadened her horizons. She has played theme shows with the changing seasons, and featured artists such as Janis Joplin, Kate Wolf, Nina Gerber, K.D. Lang, Loreena McKennitt and Billie Holliday for two hour stints. Because of her Irish heritage she at times accompanies Annie or solos with programs on immigration, Irish history, and Celtic fusion bands. "And of course I follow my own agenda of featuring women artists whom folks may not hear often, or at all..." "Returning to the county of my parents and grandparents and meeting Annie Hestbeck at the same time were great gifts of inspiration to pursue my roots and share that richness with the listening audience." (She grew up in Texas, but visited Grass Valley in summers to see her grandparents.)
When the Women's Collective formed in the early 1990s, she discussed women's music in the Monday night rotation. "But when Joan Buffington strongarmed me in 1995 to cohost a Halloween show on witches, that was a turning point for me." Galvanized after reading 30 books on the witchburnings, and determined to discuss the demonization of women for centuries, she credits Joan for pulling her into a more active commentary role on programs. "I still get requests for copies of that program- we spent weeks writing dramatic parts and planning the music and dialogue. Then I was hooked-I did programs which combined music with history, such as the poetry of Mira Bai, Shakespeare's characters, Queen Elizabeth, Hildegarde, goddess lore from other cultures accompanied by world music, troubadour music, medieval women mystics. At times I would wonder if anyone was listening; then someone would call and tell me how much it meant. My all-time favorite call was from the father of an 11-year old girl, thanking me for the program on Queen Elizabeth."
Like many broadcasters, she has gone through phases of interests. "I felt that with the growth of the station and increase in the number of women broadcasters, I wanted to turn to other things. I am very grateful to the Women's Collective for their support." Now she hosts one of the South of the Border programs each month. "I am interested in all styles of music, but here I see a chance to educate and promote tolerance as well as entertain, plus I can exaggerate my Texas accent shamelessly." Some compare her wit and irony to Molly Ivins. ("When I was in Texas, we thought Dubya was dumb as a post. Now he's like a telephone pole- still dumb as a post, but with high-powered connections...") Drawing on her childhood in Wichita Falls and medical training in San Antonio, Texas, she has played Tex-Mex, frontera, LA fusion, older band numbers and corridos with a little history, and what she calls "Latin pizza." Since other programs feature Brazilian, salsa, and Latin jazz, she likes to feature new and crossover artists, especially vocalists, in the US and Latin world, and announcements of interest to the Hispanic community on education, health, and cultural events. She still likes to sub on other shows and flex musical knowledge and enjoyment.
Is there more on the horizon? Kathryn says she may do health commentary in the future. "I like Public Planet, Soundings, Bioneers, and other ecology-oriented programs at the station-they give me hope." She has hosted the blues show, the classical show, the garden show with herbalist Kathi Keville, and shows with science host Alan Stahler. Along that line, she has volunteered as a River Monitor for SYRCL, and hikes when she can. That has been limited by multiple injuries. "I have more time to read and think about history and literature, play music, be with friends, but at times it is very difficult. I was so busy being a physician- I was living with diffused attention. I live more in the now and being part of the KVMR family has truly kept me going during some dark times-these challenging times need people of integrity to speak out and to be involved-locally, regionally, nationally- however possible. I consider it part of my grandmother duty."
If you hear a haunting or poetic note in her programs, no wonder. She has written poetry all her life, and recently has printed four chapbooks, and has performed at the Nevada County Poetry Series and at various open mikes. She performed in a two-woman show on Our Lady of Guadalupe with Christine Irving last December. She is working on a book of essays on her medical/ human encounters over 20 years, and a book of prayers entitled "Purple Smoke- Prayers for New Times."
"I think our ideas of the universe and spirit have evolved, and we need new words, and special rephrasing of older words for those ineffable universal moments. For me, poetry OR music can be medicine, prayer, fun, celebration, and doorways to other worlds. KVMR has helped me with this process. Participating in the KVMR community, has helped me refine and strengthen my voice. Thank you for being there-and supporting community alternative radio!"