BETWEEN THE PAGES: FINDING MY VOICE – The Women of Jazz Takes It To the Next Level

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 3, “The Women of Jazz Takes It To the Next Level”.

In Installment#2, I talked about the earlier part of my college years behind a microphone for a small college audience. Since no one was watching, or even called in, I never really knew how many people might be listening.

In the time period between the end of Radio Free Cheney and the approval and completion of the carrier current station (also discussed in Installment #2), I didn’t have an outlet to be behind the microphone. Also, once I graduated high school and came to Eastern Washington University full-time, I’d received a work-study based scholarship in my home department for a year. Unfortunately, the Radio-TV department didn’t regularly have need for an office assistant, so the staff and faculty found themselves creating busy work for me.

I’m not sure who finally got the idea partway into the Fall that they could create a temporary position for me at the 10,000 watt jazz radio station KEWU-FM. Unlike Radio Free Cheney, KEWU-FM carried over the airwaves of eastern Washington State and northern Idaho, and could be heard as far away as parts of Canada. Here’s a picture of the office I worked in, taken about a year after I graduated, looking fairly close to the way it did then.

They gave me the title of Assistant Music Director, where I helped the Music Director catalog incoming new music. However, I wasn’t a musician and specifically didn’t know much about jazz. My student boss had a drummer background, though his interests more lay in rock, so I know I frustrated him sometimes. I still loved working with him, though.

Even though the year ended, I maintained my ties with KEWU-FM. You could take one airshift a week for a credit, and I soon realized they had a hard time filling the weekend slots, and it only got worse during breaks. Having grown up locally, I signed on board to work a weekend shift, and usually opened the station for its broadcast day on Saturday mornings for a show from 9 to noon.

Behind the scenes, we went through several faculty members serving as station manager. At one point, they hired a woman who took on managing KEWU-FM as  part of what she did. I’d been around a little while by then, and also observed that some that had been around the station as long as I had graduated into being able to take over specialty shows like Friday Night Blues or a late night Jazz fusion show. While I’d gotten to learn about radio, I wanted to stretch myself to learn more about jazz music, and once the new manager came in pieces fell into place in my mind.

I walked in to her office one day and pitched a weekend specialty show, which given what I’d gotten to know about her, I couldn’t see her turning down.

From that pitch meeting in the 1990s, WOMEN OF JAZZ was born on KEWU-FM. For 3 hours – originally Sunday nights from 6 to 9, though the timeslot has moved with subsequent hosts – only female artists, both classic and contemporary, would be showcased. I’d need to learn about them in order to do the spots between the music.

If I’d only known then, what I know now, if someone only told me what would come to pass, I don’t know if I would have had the courage to walk through the door that day.

Now, in 2020, Sunday mornings at 9AM, I can use the Internet to tune into KEWU JAZZ 89.5 from miles away in California, where I now live. On the readout I can see three words, as the notes begin to play.

“Women of Jazz”

I didn’t think I would built something that lasts. My thanks to the listeners for keeping it going so long, and I’m pleasantly surprised that did something that meant more to the community than a few credits for my Bachelors Degree in Radio-TV production and performance.

So what role did television play in my years in college? Find out next installment as I take what I learn about radio and channel it into a script that earns notice on a national level.

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