Welcome to the limited series return of BETWEEN THE PAGES, running Mondays and Wednesdays now through mid-December 2020! Dubbed BETWEEN THE PAGES: FINDING MY VOICE, follow Shannon’s journey as she learned and grew to become more of a public speaker, and how she’s still learning today! Today is Installment 2, “Over the Cable and Carrier Current Radio”.

I’ve heard more than a few times people joke that they got into something because someone they were interested in was doing the same thing. I need to confess I’m no different.

Because of an arrangement our high school had with the local university, I was able to take courses at the university, and bear in mind this pre-dates the “bridge” programs that are more commonplace nowadays. I needed to agree to take certain classes in my sophomore and junior years through the gifted program, in order to be eligible to take multiple courses at the university.  It wasn’t easy, but I pulled it off.

Knowing I wanted to write for television, and with the rules about General Education Requirements not as strict as they later came to be, I found myself able to enroll for courses such as RTV-100, Introduction to Broadcasting. I’d hoped to blend in with the other students, but my hopes were quickly dashed when our professor decided to get a demographic read on the class’ age levels. He asked if anyone was under 18, not expecting anyone to raise their hands. One hand went up, and you can guess who that was! (Ah, the curse of having a summer birthday.) Given his own daughter went to high school with me, and we’d both taken Driver’s Education together that summer, I don’t know if he knew he’d intentionally out me that day or not, but I know that I found it difficult to escape.

Surprisingly (to me), though no one in my high school expressed interest in me, someone in my college courses did. Besides having classes with him, he also happened to be station manager of something called Radio Free Cheney, which was kind of like a streaming internet station today. We only ran student produced TV productions a couple hours in the evenings, but during the rest of the time graphics with our weekly schedule appeared. Unless something played under those graphics, it was just dead air. The school used this opportunity to allow students to have shifts playing whatever type of music style they liked, seeing it as a training ground of sorts for the more professional jazz station KEWU-FM (more on that next installment).

Short version here was that I stepped in as music director over the summer and into the start of fall. At that point, our relationship started to fall apart, and in a very odd twist, so did Radio Free Cheney due to something beyond any of our control. As everyone took Radio Free Cheney for a grade, everyone stressed if we’d pass the class, but our advisor (the same instructor who taught that Intro class) saw to it everyone was fine in that regard.

However, Radio Free Cheney opened a new door for me. The advisor wanted to see if people in the dorms would be open to a carrier current radio station – one that could be picked up via the electrical lines – that targeted the dorms as a specific audience. I finished out the semester working with him developing a survey that I then had to distribute to the dorms, and then collect and compile. We took our data to the Associated Students, who approved funding.

So, from the ashes of Radio Free Cheney came what was known as KOOP-AM, which the “oop” a nod that students were free to experiment and make mistakes. As with Radio Free Cheney before it, students dictated the genres of each show.

KOOP-AM would remain running while I stayed in school, and long enough for my sister and her now-husband to also participate, and in my sister’s case be part of its management. After I graduated, and KOOP-AM was in danger of losing funding, I came back along with several other current students to speak on behalf of saving it, but our efforts did not pan out, and KOOP-AM also fell silent.

While KOOP-AM’s infrastructure was being built, I became more involved in the school’s 10,000 watt jazz station, KEWU-FM. More on its affect on my life, both behind the microphone and behind the scenes, in the next installment.