KUOI FM 89.3 Kicks Higher Ed into a New Frequency
by Matt Maw
Courtesy of the Argonaut
Anthony Saia, KUOI radio station manager, said it provides an important supplement to textbooks and classrooms.
“I’ve always felt that KUOI is somewhat of an alternative to the standard educational experience,” he said. “Students are stuck in a classroom or whatever, and it gives them a chance to express themselves, share the music that they like with their friends and listeners.”
Opportunities for expression are myriad with free-form, DJ-devised programming and a library stacked with more than 60,000 CDs and records. The music selection mostly consisted of “indie rock” when he took the manager position in 2010, and Saia said he wanted to supply more variety to keep up with KUOI’s free-form vision. The library now consists of different kinds of rock, “garage,” dubstep, electronica and other genres. He said it’s important for student radio to provide such diversity to its listeners.
“Not everybody wants to sit and learn about Napoleon,” Saia said. “They want to learn about … Green Day, or the Stiff Little Fingers, or The Who or whatever. That’s what they care about. Giving them access to that - being able to listen to that kind of stuff is important.”
World War II servicemen began broadcasting KUOI in the Engineering Annex building in 1945, now the Graduate Art Studio building. They sent the two-watt signal through wires strung across campus using Navy ROTC equipment, and the signal wouldn’t stretch beyond the Wallace residence center. The station now boasts 400 stereo watts and Internet streaming and can reach listeners within about 10 miles. Saia said it can be heard in Colfax “on a good day.”
Janae Hakala, incoming station manager in May and current DJ for the program “Common People,” said many students aren’t aware of KUOI, but one of her projects will be outreach across campus and the larger Moscow community. She said there can be a lot of appeal in a student radio station because classmates can hear one another on the air. She said being a DJ for KUOI made her care more about her time at UI, and it’s been one of her favorite activities.
“A place like this, you’re going to meet friends, it’s going to give you ties to your school and the community, it’s going to make you want to appreciate it more, hang out longer and finish your degree,” she said.
She said that she’s stretched herself through the opportunities KUOI has afforded her. She never saw herself as a person to interview bands and she had never been published, but her time as a DJ gave her shots at both. She said she took the chances and talked to the bands, and recently saw one of her interviews published in the Argonaut. Other unique opportunities the radio station has given her and other DJs include intimate interviews with bands inside the KUOI studio, such as The Horse Thieves and the Deftones.
Saia said he’s “essentially worshipped” the Deftones since 1995.
“To be able to sit across the table and interview one of my idols was just awe-inspiring,” Saia said. “Holy crap, I am here, right now, talking to this person that I’ve been listening to for years.”
Hakala said there are many skills the radio station can offer volunteers and payroll workers alike, such as audio editing and management skills needed to run the station. Cataloguing the library also offers a plethora of opportunities to expand musical knowledge.
Brian Hakala, co-DJ for “Common People,” said the DJ experience is a resume boon, particularly for students without jobs during school. He said his own experience also helped him overcome much of his shyness problem.
“There was a time when going on the air could almost cause a panic attack - it was terrifying to me,” he said. “It’s really helped me in that regard … I still stutter and stammer a bit, but I definitely don’t freak out anymore.”
He said he’s found music in the KUOI library that doesn’t exist on the Internet, and that reflects the advantage of the different perspectives the station provides.
“There’s really only so far that digital downloads and (websites like) AllMusic.com can get you, because what (student radio) does offer is another point of view, somebody that can expose you to music that you wouldn’t otherwise listen to, that you would never have even heard of,” he said.
Janae Hakala said KUOI is dear to the alumni who’ve worked for it, and they describe it as the ultimate experience of their college years. Currently touring bands with members who are former KUOI DJs - Finn Riggins and Le Fleur, for instance - cite their experiences with KUOI and the frequent exposure to varied music as significant influences on their sounds, she said.
Saia said he’s spent much of the past three years in the studio and it’s one of the only things he’ll really miss about UI when he leaves this year. It’s a part of who he is, “for better or worse.”
“That’s the thing about this radio station - (it’s) student owned and operated,” he said. “It’s for the students, by the students and that’s the way it should be.”