By Marcy Stamper
KTRT-FM is broadcasting from a new studio at TwispWorks, but it will still be several weeks before the station can resume live programming, which is awaiting new, customized microwave equipment expected to arrive “any day now.”
Station General Manager Don Ashford was monitoring music programming, ads and public-service announcements from a sophisticated computer between construction jobs and touch-ups at the new studio, which was also decked out with cans of paint, tools, lumber and a Shop-Vac.
In addition to the computer that runs the station – affectionately known as K-Root – there is a spacious, angled desk to accommodate live interviews of several people at a time and fixtures for additional computer monitors.
Broadcasting from Twisp after six years in Mazama has helped KTRT achieve other goals, such as being more accessible to DJs and others interested in participating in a community radio station, said Ashford.
“Being accessible was something we needed for all the DJs,” said Ashford. “And I really want to have a radio station where businesses and organizations can almost spontaneously get on the air.”
The move and equipment upgrade were made possible by the station’s Give a Hoot! fundraising effort, which has raised more than $40,000 since it was launched in September.
“The response to the fundraiser was bigger and faster than we dreamed – we couldn’t hardly believe it,” said Ashford. “It enabled us to buy new equipment – like mics – that was on our wish list, and to look at our future differently.”
The station has sold 280 Founders’ cards – more than half of the target – priced at $97.50 to match the station’s frequency at 97.5 FM. K-Root also received many smaller contributions, and is still selling the rest of the 500 Founders’ cards.
The station has raised enough money to pay for the new broadcasting equipment and studio, which cost about $25,000, and to work toward a more sustainable financial future where they can begin to pay people for their work at the station, said Ashford – who ran KTRT for the first four years with no salary, and only draws a partial salary today.
The total raised includes a $12,000 anonymous foundation grant earmarked for educational and scientific programming, as opposed to day-to-day operations.
While the system for delivering the signal to their transmitter on McClure Mountain will be different (and more reliable; microwave technology is the industry standard), the signal will not serve a larger area.
The station will continue – and expand – its local, largely original programming mix, with music, radio theater and interviews, as well as some syndicated shows.
Ashford has assembled an eclectic music archive of more than 1 million songs, and he keeps about 50,000 of them in regular rotation. He considers himself a “custodian of music” and avoids categorizing songs by traditional genres, instead tagging them by the time of day – music suitable for morning, noon, night or anytime. Ashford also relies on a dozen DJs for their expertise, particularly for certain types of music.
“I like music to take you on a journey, particularly if you are surprised by what you hear,” he said. “I really like some of these oddball genres, like post-punk/Goth/dirge.”
K-Root will broadcast from the new studio, in the Gateway Building at TwispWorks, at least for the winter. Ashford ultimately plans to move to another space on the TwispWorks campus once renovations are complete, he said.