With Station Closed To Public, Many KVMR Hosts Are Pre-Producing Their Shows From Home
Written by Steve Baker on April 29, 2020
No one’s being snooty about it, but KVMR 89.5 FM just doesn’t want dozens and dozens of people coming into their building each day during the coronavirus pandemic, both for their volunteers’ health, the station staff and, obviously, the public.
So they’re closed, even though KVMR remains on the air 24/7.
But literally all of the station’s 200+ volunteer broadcasters are on the outside looking in, and, pretty much, they all want to be doing radio. And increasingly, more of them are. It’s just being pre-produced outside the station, with fewer shows being re-edited from the station’s archives, as almost all shows were when this started March 23rd.
KVMR 89.5 FM Content Director Sean Dooley-Miller, Chief Engineer Dave Barnett and Producer Felton Pruitt have been enticing a growing number of volunteers to learn how to produce shows at home that can be played on the station during the “Stay-At-Home” edicts. And what these volunteers almost all have in common: they’ve never produced a radio show at home before.
In fact, last Friday (April 24), every program from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. was either live or, in most cases, pre-produced with new music content, none of that KVMR archive stuff, as fun as it is to hear. So how’d that happen within a month?
One example might be teaching an old dog new tricks, like an eager Brian Terhorst, nearing 30 years experience in community and public radio, including stints as general manager of KVMR (1996-2006) and, later, at North State Public Radio in Chico. After retirement a few years ago, he returned to KVMR as a volunteer broadcaster, now hosting the folk scene’s “Harmony Ridge” once again alternate Thursdays, 2-4 p.m.
“Okay, I was very impressed with the one archive program that was aired when the shelter-in-place orders went into effect,” he said. “But I was aching to do an original show again. I was totally up to the challenge because planning and producing my program is one of the greatest joys of my life.”
Now after doing two remote shows?
“I have no doubt that, when we begin to ease back into the world, I will be using what I have learned producing at home and integrating those skills into my live shows at KVMR,” according to Terhorst. “I think this process has made me a much better and better-skilled broadcaster.”
“Carefree Highway” roots music host Gary Wells (alternate Sundays, 7-10 a.m.) admits he’d “never recorded a radio show from home, but I’ve created many in my head.”
CAT IN LAP RADIO
“It’s easier (at home) in some ways, like not having to drive from Auburn, I can have a cat on my lap at home and a fresh cup of coffee when I want one,” Wells noted. “But it’s difficult not being able to make that live connection with the listeners over the airwaves, on the phone or internet.”
“I really feel for the musicians who are struggling to make a living without the ability to perform for an audience,” he added. “Still, I feel this (training) may open the door to trying other things at home for my show, like recording interviews or putting different music types and segments together.”
“But nothing can replace being live on the air at KVMR headquarters.”
Talk about missing the studios, ask Prickly Pear and her young son, who patiently waits in studio for mom every other “Monday Music Magazine”, 4-6 p.m.
“Not being home as at KVMR home” was the most difficult, according to Pear.
“Being in the studio connects me to the KVMR family” staff and volunteers there on Mondays. “Just being in the studio with other humans is rewarding. Every other Monday I get to leave work early to go into town and have a special treat with the Succulent (her nickname for her son) and meander down to the studio for our show…that routine and ritual is gone…that’s the most difficult part. Going inside KVMR is a huge, huge piece of why I’m a broadcaster.”
“Prickly Pear misses their people. ..KVMR listeners. Archives are wee throwbacks, but that wasn’t fulfilling the Pears juice pockets,” she added. “We are missing the rhythm of our days so being able to create and submit a playlist was a way to connect, a little bit of normal has come back into our lives.”
Whew. We’re talking dedicated.
Meanwhile, Andy Dooley-Miller is creating shows for “Celtic Cadence” (Wednesdays 8-10pm) and his monthly 2-4pm Wednesday afternoon “Music Grotto” during the pandemic.
“I have learned a lot about the software and hardware that I have and how to use shortcuts,” said Andy. “The hardest part is sounding spontaneous and live when you are sitting in your closet recording your voiceovers. ”
“My favorite part is organizing the music of the show and the endless quest for the perfect transition,” he noted. “I’m conscious of the things I say going out to listeners who may be having a difficult time.”
Also caring about how listeners are doing is relatively new broadcaster Peter Blachley, a rock music photography curator off the air, who hosts “R Town”, a combination of creative music, talk and visual art explained twice a month Sundays on KVMR 89.5 FM at 7 p.m. While he hadn’t produced a radio show before in it, Blachley has a music studio in his house.
“I feel like our community is really feeling unsure and vulnerable right now,” Blachley pointed out. “When I’m doing my show I’m trying to say we are all in this together and really let’s try and be very kind to each other.”
“For sure, I’m having a great time coming up with shows that are pre-recorded.” According to Blachley, “it makes you think differently about planning and producing which is different than in the KVMR studios.”
Mark Leviton — whose “Pet Sounds” honors the music and artists of the ’60s and ’70s each Monday 2-4 p.m.– “was missing it (his program) something fierce.”
“So the chance to prepare a show, even on a remote basis, was too good to pass up,” he recalled.
“It was fairly easy to pick the music because I’m always thinking about music anyway,” according to Leviton. “Mastering the technology of recording my voice and importing recordings was a bit daunting.”
Still he “got a real kick out of hearing it on the air” and feels more knowledgeable about producing it now. “Maybe I’ll even use what I’ve learned about the technology in some other context someday.”
Then there’s John Rumsey, alternate week host of “Four Strong Winds”, a folk music program Wednesdays usually 10 a.m. to noon but currently on at 11 a.m. while KVMR carries KQED’s California edition of Forum weekday mornings at 10.
“My first adventure with home production was somewhat frustrating,” Rumsey recalled. “Once I caught on, it wasn’t that difficult but time consuming…I still have a lot to learn about song transitions and balancing volumes.”
“I will be very happy when this (pandemic) ends and things return to as close to normal as they ever do at KVMR,” Rumsey said with a smile.
Thom Myers, still another first-timer at pre-recording shows, didn’t find the KVMR pre-production progress easy or hard for his long-running, bi-weekly “So Many Roads” blues show, a longtime 2-4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon tradition.
“It was a bit inconvenient,” he said.. “But that’s what we do at KVMR….stand-up in emergencies like this.”
“We always knew we have the most adaptable volunteers and staff on the planet,” Myers added. “But it’s great to see it in real time and in action. Go Team!”
Blues deejay turns cheerleader?