KAFM Community Radio Celebrates 20 Years of Local Programming
Tune in to KAFM Community Radio, 88.1 FM, and you’ll find a wide range of musical genres — different programs dedicated to jazz, rock, blues, bluegrass, singer-songwriters, Broadway musicals, and more. It’s all programmed live in the KAFM studio at 1310 Ute Avenue in Grand Junction.
“Our mission was to be local — not play canned music sent here by satellite,” KAFM cofounder and longtime programmer Suzi Radosevich says. The station celebrates its 20th year on-air in March. “We wanted to be community powered, community owned, and community operated. We also wanted to be a consistent platform for local nonprofits.”
Radosevich, whose on-air moniker is Suzi Crème Cheeze, is one of 100 volunteer DJs who program shows, choosing from a rack of brand-new music, their own personal stock, or from KAFM’s huge music library. The station strives to highlight new music and emerging artists in roughly 30 percent of its programming. Radosevich plays a mix of new and old — including a “Fab Four Friday” of Beatles’ music — during her Paradise Café variety show every other Friday, from 1-4pm.
Programs are as varied as the volunteers themselves. Each show is carefully curated to reflect a wide variety of musical tastes — including Celtic music (Mondays, 6:30-9pm), bluegrass tunes (Tuesdays, 4-6:30pm), and jazz (Saturdays, 9am-noon). You’ll also hear songs of the 40s, 50s, and 60s (Mondays, 9am-noon), and the newest releases in independent music (Fridays, 9-11am).
Randall Reitz, whose day job is director of behavioral medicine at St. Mary’s family medicine residency, shares a show with his 13-year-old son, Paolo, on the third Friday of each month, from 9pm to midnight. The father-son duo’s Riddle Radio show incorporates 80s rock (Paolo’s hour), brand-new music (Reitz’s segment), and an hour of songs that include a puzzle or riddle.
Programmers span all ages and include nurses, lawyers, educators, coaches, builders, taxi drivers, students, musicians, real estate agents, and more. “We are a true cross-section of our community,” Program Director Jeff (Coach) Shuldener says.
Though you’ll find mostly music on KAFM, public affairs programming is an important part of the station’s mission. From noon to 1pm, Monday through Friday, representatives of nonprofit and other organizations come to the studio to talk on-air about their missions and upcoming events. In December, the Junior Service League awarded KAFM a $1,000 grant for its support of nonprofits that address hunger issues and help abused children and veterans.
On Fridays, the public affairs programming is called Kitchen Sink, and listeners call in with various announcements, or something to sell, trade, or buy. Occasionally, the hosts of Kitchen Sink give away free tickets to upcoming Radio Room concerts.
Want to know what else is going on in the valley? Tune in to KAFM to hear the entertainment calendar, aired five times a day, seven days a week. The calendar is updated twice a week. Organizations submit details of their events two weeks prior to be included for free in the entertainment calendar — which is also posted on the KAFM website, kafmradio.org. The community radio station received the City of Grand Junction’s Champion of the Arts award in 2017 for its support of music, arts, and cultural events in the Grand Valley.
There are no advertising jingles and none of the hype of commercial radio. Instead, KAFM is supported by grants, underwriting, miscellaneous fundraising, and member donations. Six paid employees (three full-time, three part-time) run the station with the help of a handful of volunteers -- not counting the on-air programmers who donate their time.
The Radio Room
The Radio Room, a concert and special events venue that seats 75-80 people, is located in the lower level of the station’s two-story building (KAFM offices, music library, production room, and studio are all located upstairs). The Radio Room’s high-quality sound system makes the intimate space a true listening room.
Tony Furtado, Imagine Dragons, David Starr, and Cosy Sheridan are just a few of the many artists who have performed there over the years. In January 2019, Heartbeat — an all-female a cappella group from Telluride — performed songs before a packed house. Wine, beer, soda, and water are for sale during Radio Room events.
“What I love about it [is] no matter where you sit, you can hear and see beautifully,” Radosevich says. If a concert falls on a Friday, musicians will often come into the station early for a live, on-air performance and interview with Radosevich during her Paradise Café show.
Additionally, the Radio Room hosts classic film showings, three radio theatre productions each year, a children’s theatre camp, Chautauqua presentations, an ongoing art exhibit, and more. On the first Wednesday of each month, from 7-9pm, there’s karaoke. KAFM Executive Director Ramona Winkeller says, “I look out into the crowd, and it’s all ages. Whole families get up and sing together; some are awesome. Anyone can come and sing. Everybody gets cheered.”
Also in the Radio Room is KAFM’s annual art auction in February, showcasing the works of local and regional artists. The event includes an opportunity to meet the artists at a champagne and appetizer reception prior to the auction. “We do all the promotion for it — on air, postcards [mailed to members], and artwork images posted on the website,” Winkeller says. Artists earn 60 percent of each sale, with the station receiving 40 percent.
Last summer, the Radio Room hosted free, live World Cup soccer screenings at 8am — with the option to purchase Bloody Mary cocktails and an omelet breakfast cooked by a chef from Palisade’s Wine Country Inn. “KAFM is more than just music — it’s about creating community,” Winkeller says. “We’re truly community radio.”