BY PENNY WEBB
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
Feb. 7, 2013
KWPA, Whidbey Island’s very own public radio station, sits at the end of the wharf in Coupeville with a gorgeous view of the Cascades and Penn Cove. Think “Chris in the Morning” on the old TV show “Northern Exposure,” without the moose.
The quaint studio on the water is an all-volunteer-run internet radio station dedicated to bringing the many voices of Whidbey to the internet. Known as Whidbey AIR (short for All Internet Radio) the station hosts a variety of shows, all locally flavored and voiced, as well as air time for local musicians, writers and artists.
Founded by the late irrepressible and irreplaceable Michael Nutt, KWPA was at first a low-frequency FM station, covering only a 5-7 square mile radius. As such, folks could tune in as they drove toward Coupeville and then lose the signal as they rounded Penn Cove. When Michael became ill in 2008, he made it known that he didn’t want the station to die with him. And so, a dedicated board of directors and contributors took the reins and began live streaming on the internet in 2009. By 2011 the board decided to give up the FM station completely and become an internet only station. Whidbey AIR was born.
Now with a listenership that spans the globe, Whidbey AIR is poised to grow and flourish as internet radio becomes more and more accessible and desirable for listeners. Whidbey AIR is available through iTunes, on smart phones, and of course one’s home computer. And with the coming advent of cars equipped with internet programmable stereos, Whidbey AIR may soon be the soundtrack for tootling around this lovely island.
An eclectic mix of regular programs keeps things lively on Whidbey AIR. On his show, “From the Crate,” J. Christopher picks randomly from his extensive collection of LPs and highlights one artist per show, with plenty of backstory and opinion. “Songs Come Down,” hosted by Art Durand, features dulcimer music and Native American storytelling, while “Isle of the Arts,” co-hosted by Annie Zeller Horton and Mary Rose Anderson, delves into local artists and their work. Horton also hosts a show she calls “Random Acts of Reading,” on which she or others read aloud from works in the public domain. These shows, along with recordings of local events and concerts, are also available on podcast.
There’s always room for more programs and that’s what’s really exciting about Whidbey AIR — it’s OUR station! If you’ve got a great idea for a show, or want to learn how to be a radio engineer, Whidbey AIR wants to hear from you. Are you a local musician with a CD? Whidbey AIR wants it. The station would like to fill any non-programmed space with recordings from local musicians. Want to contribute by volunteering for the board or help with fundraising? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Presently, this reporter is tuned to KWPA. A recording of “Bach by Jove!” sung by a past Langley chorus is emitting some part of Whidbey Island history onto the air and the DJ asks listeners if any of them were present when it was recorded and to send any information about dates and who the singers might be. It seems Nutt’s bright vision for a truly community-minded KWPA is coming to fruition. Tune in and get involved at http://kwparadio.org.
Here are the links to the KWPA shows that were mentioned:
(Pictured at top: Isle of the Arts musical guests Karen Blaine and Russell Clepper.)
Penny Webb is a writer, musician and mom. She is currently working on a memoir, “Come Back to Me. A Widow’s Journey.”
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