A KVMR Love Story by Brian Terhorst
Written by Brian Terhorst on April 21, 2021
Brian Terhorst is the host and producer of Harmony Ridge. He has been a broadcaster since 1992 and was the General Manager of KVMR from 1996 to 2006. He currently serves as KVMR’s President of the Board.
I wandered through the doors of KVMR almost thirty years ago. I was 28 years old. I had moved to the Sierra Foothills from Sonoma County and was a stranger in a strange land. I had been an avid music lover and radio devotee since I was just a tot listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40.” In the Bay Area, I listened to and supported Pacifica Radio on KPFA in Berkeley and I reveled in the free-form broadcasts on KTIM out of San Rafael. But in the Summer of 1991, tuning in to 89.5FM opened for me a whole new world of wonder. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so alone. The voices and musical wisdom coming out of my stereo made me feel safe, made me feel at home; I quickly became friends with people I had never met, folks like Annie O’Dea Hestbeck, the late John Nichols, Eric Rice, Debra Weistar.
When my company housing stipend ended in Rocklin, I promptly moved up the hill to Nevada City, drawn by an inner calling I knew only as KVMR. I just wanted to be closer to whatever that was. Once in town, I quickly volunteered in the business office, helping enter memberships on their little McIntosh computers, writing PSA’s…hell, I was happy to take the trash out. It just felt so cool to be involved in any way with what was coming out of my radio. All of a sudden, instead of just listening to John Nichols on the radio, I was sitting next to him and his big black lab, Kizzy, in KVMR’s subterranean Miners Foundry office known affectionately as “The Pit.” I was welcomed into KVMR’s bare bones, rustic culture and, there, I made a home.
Little did I know that, just a few months later, I would be hosting my own radio program in the slot where John Nichols’ “Saturday Morning Wireless” had been and I’d be back-to-back with Eric Rice’s “County Line Bluegrass” – two programs that had been my lifeline when I landed in Placer County nine months earlier.
And as absurd and unlikely as it would seem back in the spring of ’92 that I would actually be on the air, never would I have imagined that I would one day serve as KVMR’s General Manager, that I would represent this little station in the Sierra Foothills as the Chair of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, or that my adventure at KVMR would propel me to manage an NPR network up in Chico for another eight years.
My relationship with KVMR has been my life’s longest love story. A continuous thread has woven through my life from my arrival in the Valley in the summer of ’91 – then on the periphery of KVMR’s signal area – to now. These days find that radio program I launched in ’92 – “Harmony Ridge” – back on the air at KVMR and my days of retirement are now spent serving as the President of KVMR’s Board of Directors.
I wake early in the mornings and tune in KVMR, like I’ve done for well over half of my life. And now, there’s a new cast of characters, producing radio, pouring out their passions, experts in their fields, music and radio junkies, just like me. The technology has changed. Heroes have passed on…new heroes have emerged…and the wonder of KVMR has continued on. Now housed in a palace, custom-build by our community, right across the street from the modest confines of the Miners Foundry from where the magic of KVMR emanated back in ’91, the tradition of Community Radio is like a heartbeat that pulses ever on.
And as I sip coffee from my favorite cup on a spring morning in 2021, now thirty years on from when I first stepped across the threshold of KVMR, I so deeply appreciate the constant place this radio station has held in my heart for so long. I’m so honored to have played my part. I’m so grateful that I was welcomed in…and welcomed back…that I could have had my boyhood dreams take flight. That I could have given my best years to something so beloved and worthwhile.
Vinyl has given way to CDs …and CDs, in turn, to digital downloads on thumb drives. Our broadcasters have diversified our skills from hovering over a glowing mixing console in the dark of night to producing brilliant shows on our laptops from home. In my lifetime, radio has evolved from my first handheld transistor…to my family HiFi…to a boombox…and now I stream on the web through a home network of smart speakers. So much has changed and yet, the essential magic is the same. KVMR serves our Foothills community more effectively than ever but, at its core, it makes dreams come true. And that really is its greatest gift.