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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment July 25, 2017

4/29/2014 12:54:00 PM
KZSO radio makes a comeback
By Diane Goble

With only the power of a light bulb, KZSO radio (94.9 LP-FM) is coming back from a near-death experience and lighting up the airwaves around Sisters with music, news, weather and local information, 24-7.

The low-power FM community radio station license is owned by the Sisters School District and overseen by Superintendent Jim Golden. The original intention of KZSO was to provide local high school students with access to creative inventions using the broadcast medium of radio.

Golden met Michael Richards at a Sisters Rotary meeting, and over coffee they found both had an interest in reviving the fallow "radio" program. Those must have been some powerful coffee beans because now Richards, who retired to Sisters four years ago, has stepped up to revive KZSO as general manager and make it into an exciting community asset for locals and visitors alike.

The studio was relocated to the Sisters Art Works building on Adams Avenue with the assistance of Jack McGowen, Brad Tisdel, and Kathy Deggendorfer; otherwise the school district would have lost the FCC license.

Richards' ambitious crew consists of Rick Olson - a former missile technician with 20 years experience as a radio communications engineer - as program director, and Nick Newport, who works with Horizon Broadcasting in Bend, as assistant program director. They also have executive jet pilot Karen Cardin as their volunteer person-on-the-street doing interviews and checking out local happenings as she continues her training at the KZSO studio.

As a non-profit, grants are helping to get things off the ground and will be pursued for future funding, and the station will be looking to the community for support to evolve the program content - both financially from those who want to sponsor specific programs and from those who have time and talents they wish to donate.

The station isn't able to promote sales per se, however individual and business memberships and sponsorships consistent with organizations such as OPB are available. KZSO is offering a "try it before you buy it then choose your time slots" promotion through the summer season in an effort to offer a hand to local businesses.

Richards emphasizes, "You will not hear commercials on our station!"

The format is comprised of 55-minute segments of music or programming with five minutes of news and information. Bill Baker, who has more than 20 years experience in news radio, broadcasts a Sisters Country Update, currently at 40 minutes after the hour.

Olson plans to showcase some of Sisters local music programs, including holiday performances, Sisters Folk Festival venues, and possibly Starry Nights events. Meaghan Ellsworth, a sophomore at Sisters High School, is producing the Americana Hour. Local groups playing local events may be featured in segments. Programming includes an eclectic mix of music, more textual than genre, including classic country, doo-wop, old cowboy, blues, jazz, bluegrass, folk music and more.

"This is your radio station," Olson says. "Let us know by posting on our Facebook page what kinds of music you like, what kinds of programs you want to hear, and what times of day you listen. We are here for all age groups, all tastes in music, culture and the arts."

KZSO is looking for an opportunity in nearly all aspects of what happens in Sisters Country - local sports, health and wellness, public safety, civil government, local interest and entertainment. Richards has been arranging direct access with the sheriff's office and fire department, the Forest Service, search and rescue, emergency services network, and the city manager for timely reports about events, meetings and information.

The station will broadcast public meetings, including city council, planning commission, school board, etc., starting May 1, as a public service to encourage citizen participation.

As a public broadcasting station, church services will not be broadcast, however all-inclusive topics, inspirational storytelling and spiritual music are welcome. Mike Silva, Steve Roche, and John Gerke, among others, are developing weekly inspirational programming.

Since the FCC license is held by the Sisters School District, programming must conform to basic rules, which apply regarding topics that otherwise may appear to be of special interest, thereby excluding portions of our community. The same applies to politics. Talk shows will be informative with full intent of being inclusive, not divisive, in an honest attempt to show both sides of issues, focusing on facts.

If you would like to host a talk show segment, these are considerations.

Upcoming programs include "The Kelsey Collins Show" (see related story, page 20), and there are plans to reintroduce "Author's Corner," sharing poetry and stories from people in Central Oregon. Check out "Student Reading Radio" to hear Sisters Elementary School second-graders reading books for all to enjoy. And for those still awake after 10 p.m. there will be old-time shows like "The Shadow," "Fibber McGee and Mollie," and "Sam Spade."

Golden, Richards and crew are mentoring teenagers aspiring to become DJs, journalists, talk show hosts, or learn about programming, engineering, marketing. KZSO will continue to serve youths to seniors, veterans, and special needs organizations (e.g. FAN, Circle of Friends, and others) with free airtime and offer volunteer opportunities for talented locals.

That 100-watt transmitter reaches out 17 miles in all directions to about 5,000 households from Tumalo to Eagle Crest to the top of Hoodoo.

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