By Morgan James
With The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival happening right now in the valley, excitement abounds as coverage from all local media is frenzied. Driving among the lines of hurried Coachella goers with windows down, music up, laughing carelessly, I wonder how the all the buzz is affecting KCOD, our local community college radio station. I sat down with Station Manager at KCOD CoachellaFM, Toni Bakal, and Faculty Advisor, Laurilie Jackson to find exactly how in tune the station is with Coachella Fest, what that means for the students, and where the station is headed from here.
“We look at our role in the community as helping local artists and musicians in our community rise up and get more attention, more ears listening,” states Toni. “We play music artists that play Coachella as well as local music artists. We do both because it’s a way that we not only take our listeners down that memory lane of listening to music artists who have played in our home at Coachella, but also the local music artists that are coming out of our home and that we are proud of. And the music quality of the local music artists is just as good as the Coachella artists.”
“Last year we entered College Radio Day and out of thousands of submissions, they picked our station because of our uniqueness,” Toni continues excitedly. “We submitted a “Best of Coachella” episode where we interviewed students around campus about their favorite Coachella memory, then we would cut directly to that artist and play a song. There are so many different memories out there and so many tastes. Coachella offers so many genres and styles of music so we made this epic playlist. Thirty students worked on the show. That was the telling thing. Even students who haven’t been to Coachella are affected because they sit atop their roofs and listen, or they go to the parties. It is so prevalent in our students lives, it is amazing to see how connected people are to this festival and how big the festival is now.”
“And it makes learning so much fun now,” Laurilie adds. “You can teach a radio course, or production, or announcing, but once you throw in assignments tailored around Coachella, it brings a whole new level of excitement. The students are probably learning more because they can associate with it.”
“I started the station 5 years ago, but my expertise was in television broadcast,” Laurilie explains. “We didn’t have a lot of courses in radio, but we had an opportunity to have a radio station. It was great to get Brad Fuhr, our other faculty advisor, in because he had been really successful starting his own radio station. Over the years the students have really stepped up and I am so proud of them. The interest has been incredible. The students are creating fresh ideas and reaching their audience. It is not something we as faculty create and make them implement. We advise them and give them ideas, but the students run it.”
“In 2011 we were 1650am and met in a little dungeon room and we would play local programming and just break in,” Laurilie continues, laughing. “It wasn’t until we went to a radio conference in Los Angeles where we met John Tesh, the keynote speaker, and he donated a program called Backbone to us, which allows us to be an internet station. By going to some of these conferences, even in New York, seeing that these other stations have been around for 30 or 40 years and are not as far along as we are. We have something so unique because of Coachella Fest. It brings in a lot of interest. Students this day and age love music and love the festival.”
“Then we also want to be a voice for the community,” Toni notes. “I really like KCRW. I would like to model us after what they are doing. Not only music and entertainment segments, but it would be great to have local city officials involved in segments as well. We have so many departments and opportunities… music, sports, news, events, social media, production, public affairs. We offer classes in radio announcing, radio and TV writing, and radio and TV production and those filter interested students into our KCOD station.”
“As Coachella keeps growing, so does the interest in our program,” Laurilie voices. “Whether the students want to announce, produce, DJ, work in social media, we are allowing them all of these avenues and they want to capture this feeling of the Coachella spirit and really be a part of something. The media world itself is so cuthroat and students struggle to get in,” Laurilie sighs. “Yet the feeling here, and I wish it could resonate throughout the world, is that mentoring concept. We don’t have to step on each other to be successful. We have an environment that is friendly and happy and supportive.”
“Sometimes in here, what is created is truly magical,” Toni adds imploringly. “My hope is that this station, just like Coachella Fest, becomes a staple here in the valley, with professional staff, yet always having the students creating the content. I think it would be great to have that type of apprenticeship- student voices melding with radio professionals and the output be KCOD Coachella FM. That would be the heartbeat.”
KCOD just took home 8 awards at the IBS Radio Conference & Awards. Listen to KCOD radio 24/7 on 87.9 FM in Palm Desert, or stream online at www.coachellafm.com.