KZMU staff and volunteers posed for a celebratory photo at the station. They are holding up a sign that says "KZMU."
KZMU staff and volunteers posed for a celebratory photo at the station when the spring Radiothon met its $40,000 goal two days before it ended. Back row, left to right: KZMU News and Public Affairs Director Molly Marcello, volunteer and fan Jeff Gutierrez, trustee and DJ Glenn Kincaid, and DJ Paul Smyth. Front row, left to right: Station Manager and Executive Director Serah Mead, Music Director and DJ Crystal Bunch, volunteer and DJ Sam Newman, and volunteer Tara Kincaid. Credit: Courtesy photo

Local community radio station KZMU broke all records when it collected $44,191 in donations during this year’s annual spring Radiothon. 

“This is an historic turnout,” said Station Director Serah Mead. The success of this fund drive suggests to her that listeners are able to donate more generously—either because they are earning higher wages, working longer hours, working longer seasons, or some combination of those—and that people deeply value their local radio station. Some donors don’t even live in the FM broadcast range. 

“They hear KZMU when they visit and then take it home with them as a way to stay connected to this amazing place,” Mead said. 

Usually the station asks for $35,000 at each of its spring and fall radiothons; the ask was bigger this year because in addition to the current regular operations that donations help to fund, Mead hopes to attend to some needed maintenance and to expand youth and community outreach and education programs. 

Local listeners may have noticed that the broadcast on the 90.1 FM frequency has been glitchy: The audio is periodically broken by hiccups of silence. That’s due at least in part to a faulty component on a piece of equipment on a tower, Mead said, but staff haven’t been able to address the issue for several months because the tower is on Bald Mesa in the foothills at the north end of the La Sals. Snow, mud, and rough roads have prevented access to the tower. The station’s contracted engineer lives in Colorado, so coordinating assessment and repairs with the engineer’s availability and favorable weather and road conditions has been a challenge. Repairs, and possibly replacements, of some equipment will make the broadcast more reliable.

On the outreach and education side, Mead hopes to build sustainable, year-round programming for youth, from elementary school age kids to recent high school graduates. She would also love to facilitate access to broadcasting equipment, skills and knowledge for the whole community.

The station has already sponsored some events that meet those goals: before the pandemic, KZMU helped sponsor Youth Rock Camp, in which kids could learn an instrument, form a band, and write and perform a song all within a week-long camp. This past year, KZMU put a twist on the annual radio drama and created a radio play festival, in which community members could submit ideas and learn to record and produce short radio plays.

Current station staff don’t have the capacity to sustain consistent community and youth programming, so they’re applying to have an AmeriCorps member serve at KZMU and focus on youth programming and outreach. Even if they aren’t awarded the position, KZMU plans to move forward in those areas in some way, and the generous Radiothon community donations will support the effort.