We want the airwaves: KFJC's birthday party

Scratcher Radio Devil

At 8 p.m. on Oct. 20, 1959, the first words spoken on local college radio station KFJC came pumping through the air waves. It was station manager Bob Ballou, operating from a broom closet at the old Foothill Junior College campus in Mountain View. In the decades that followed, the station has grown known for its eclectic show lineup and in-house concerts: Noothgrush, Exhumed, and Foxtails Brigade, among so many others.

With KUSF ripped off the air earlier this year (an aside: Save KUSF), the debate about local college radio has, if nothing else, continued. It's part of a far bigger issue – where do people learn about new music and how do they listen? For those who tuned in to this type of programming as students, or those who live nearby and still click the dial as post-grads or never-grads, the gaping gap is felt. KFJC DJs have stood by KUSF throughout the protests and legal discussions, clearly aware of the brevity of the situation.

KFJC, 89.7 FM, which is operated as a teaching lab for the fine arts and communications department of Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, is thankfully still pumping – this year celebrating its 52nd anniversary. In honor of the milestone, there will be an open house Saturday, Oct. 22. Meaning: you can peek your nose around a living, breathing college station.  (It's just south of San Francisco).

The station also is on the verge of possibly receiving CMJ's most adventurous station College Radio Award – results are in this Thursday. On the eve of these events, I got the rundown on the news and events from KFJC DJ and volunteer Jennifer Waits and KFJC Publicity Director (and DJ) Leticia Domingo.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: What will take place during KFJC's open house?
Jennifer Waits: Listeners will get an opportunity to meet KFJC DJs and tour KFJC's studios at Foothill College. It's also during our annual fundraiser, so they will be able to pick up some KFJC goodies in exchange for donations to the station.
SFBG: How has the station grown in the past year?
JW: A big project this year was the installation of new shelving at the station. KFJC has tens of thousands of pieces of music, from vinyl to CD to cassette tape, and we've been bursting at the seams. The new high density shelves helped give us some breathing room so that we can continue to add music to our library at the current pace. We also traveled to Milwaukee this summer in order to broadcast live from the Utech Records Festival.
SFBG: Why do you feel KFJC is up for CMJ's most adventurous station award?
JW: During my tenure at KFJC, I've always felt like the station has been an innovator. Not only is KFJC's airsound unique – with music ranging from experimental to country to soundtracks to metal to electronic – but the station has also been a pioneer in international live remote broadcasts. KFJC's first international broadcast was from Brixton, England in 1996 and since that time we've traveled to New Zealand (2000) and Japan (2008) in order to present live music performances to our listeners. The 2008 live broadcast from Japan also featured a live four-camera video stream, so that listeners from around the world could both see and hear the musicians on stage.
SFBG: To what do you attribute KFJC's longevity?
Leticia Domingo: Obviously our listeners have kept us alive for so long. They are our staff, the hands that feed us. They've allowed us to indulge our creativity and breathe life into the ho hum/indie/college radio scenes.
SFBG: What's your take on the current state of college radio?
: I'm saddened by the loss of some of our peers from the terrestrial dial, particularly KUSF in San Francisco. But at the same time, we're lucky in the San Francisco Bay Area to have a number of thriving college radio stations on the dial. Personally, I've become even more connected with people from other stations this year and am happy to see the college radio community strengthening.
LD: Unfortunately and fortunately we are at crossroads. People don't need DJs and college stations to turn them on to music or shows anymore. However at KFJC we are still very fortunate to be able to continue to discover new sounds and keep the saw sharpened. Without preemptive action, radio broadcasting is going to phase out like broadcast TV signals. And for college radio stations, we are at the mercy of the colleges.

KFJC Open House
Sat/22, 1-5 p.m., free
Directions: Here

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