KUZU 92.9 FM spices up the Denton music scene with volunteer radio and local artist endorsement

Article Originally Published by Nick Lawrence on North Texas Daily

Tucked in a little nook on Elm Street is a small, colorful building that could easily blur into the busy background of Denton. On particular days, residents can hear the sound of a local band resonating through the walls, or they can listen by tuning into 92.9 on their local FM station for seamless radio programming.

KUZU is a local nonprofit radio station that wants to focus on creativity and community involvement. It has put a big focus on the number of its radio shows and the volunteers who run those shows.

One of these radio shows, “Mechanical Breakdown,” is run by local musician Meg Hilkert. Hilkert, also known as DJ Megz, is one of about 50 volunteers who make up KUZU’s programming.

“I play new wave and explorations of new wave subgenres from the 1970s onward,” Hilkert said. “I try really hard to go outside of what you think of as typical new wave music.”

Many of the volunteers who share the airwaves at KUZU share the same mentality as Hilkert. They want to draw the audience in with unconventional music choices and expand the minds of their listeners as well.

“We always tell our producers in training that we are here to educate, not placate, the listening audience,” said Peter Salisbury, 46-year-old co-founder of KUZU.

KUZU is a fairly new station in the Denton scene. Its influence has steadily grown over the years since starting as a low-power AM station.

“My wife Erin Findley and I started what is called a Part 15 AM station, which is another legal way of low-power broadcasting, but without a license,” Salisbury said. “The power limitations on Part 15 stations is 0.1 watt, which definitely lends itself to being a neighborhood station.”

To put things into perspective, full-power radio stations operate at around 50,000-100,00 watts while KUZU operates at 67 watts with a 100-watt ceiling, Salisbury said.

“The whole idea behind [low power] FMs is to allow for small community empowerment which coincides well with a low wattage allowance,” Salisbury said. “Limitations arouse creativity.”

KUZU often includes local artists in its creative process, and a big goal for Denton artists at the end of the day is to support one another.

“Local artists are really involved with this station,” Hilkert said. “Half the people here are in local bands or they record some kind of music.”

Much of what producers talk about on the radio shows are the technicalities of music.

“I put about 3 or 4 hours into one show every week,” Hilkert said. “Other KUZU producers are really interested. They really listen to other people’s shows.”

There is also more room for producers to play off one another because KUZU takes in a lot more producers than a conventional radio station would.

“I see KUZU as a daily rejection of the big media [and] radio conglomerates that are taking over airwaves across the U.S.,” said Rachel Weaver, 30-year-old board member and radio host of KUZU. “People should tune in to radio shows on KUZU so they can hear what never gets played on mainstream radio, so they can find new bands, so they can hear their friend’s band on the air, and so they can be a part of our radio community.”

KUZU doesn’t just focus on the musical aspect of radio either. While that may be the bulk of the experience, it also has a small handful of non-music shows on the air.

“My show is called ‘IN FORMED Radio,’” Weaver said. “I curate shows that feature fiction, non-fiction, poetry, literary works, interviews and field recordings. I don’t think I would ever have a radio show like ‘IN FORMED Radio’ if it wasn’t for a station like KUZU that supports the creativity and drive of volunteer producers that want to curate unique and original material for radio.”

 With the growth of the city, Weaver said the station plays a vital role in keeping the artistic freedom of Denton alive.

“Denton’s getting a lot bigger,” Hilkert said. “We need to be really careful to protect our precious resources here.”

Interested listeners can tune in to KUZU at any hour of the day for a radio show or to expand local and underground musical tastes.

Featured Image: DJ Megz, weekly host of new wave-focused KUZU radio show “Mechanical Breakdown,” prepares for her show to air at 9:00 p.m. Image by Ryan Gossett

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Source: North Texas Daily