Amplify KXCI Reaches Major Midpoint, New Transmitter Coming!

April 23, 2014

by James J. Jefferies

This is just one tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the floor-to-ceiling sonic arsenal housed at KXCI.

This is just one tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the floor-to-ceiling sonic arsenal housed at KXCI.

Now firmly ensconced within the age of digital music, an era in which it’s not uncommon for people to have their whole music collection with them at all times on their smartphones, radio itself can almost seem like a quaint relic of the past in an iTunes-driven, social media personality-obsessed modern media environment.

It would seem that most commercial radio stations are generally stuck in that nether-space, back in the good ol’ days when the music industry liked to target people that listened obsessively to just one genre of music. We know people are much more diverse than that, and certainly most folks’ own music libraries would speak to such complexity, but simply being able to gamble a lot of free time and/or money just trying out new music is a luxury most folks don’t have.

Just as there is the contrast between Google’s ability to give you 12 million answers, and a librarian’s capacity to bring you the right one, so exists the ability of a dedicated dee-jay who spends most of their lives listening to infinitely more music than you would ever have time to, versus your venturing out and attempting to find new stuff alone.

KXCI remains a largely volunteer-driven force of just these kinds of individuals, whose sincere dedication to a fresh selection of great music, unmotivated by promotional concerns or a pre-determined playlist, sets them apart from nearly everyone else on the dial.

KXCI dee jay Laura Adams spits microphone thunder! (Actually, she was recording bumpers, but they were thunderous, nonetheless!)

KXCI dee jay Laura Reese spits microphone thunder! (Actually, she was recording bumpers, but they were thunderous nonetheless!)

“Music’s been a part of our lives forever,” said Michelle Boulet-Stephenson, Membership Director at KXCI. She and her husband, Rusty, who spins records and does graphic design for the station, became members of KXCI shortly after they married 12 years ago. They first volunteered about six years ago, and the siren song of being increasingly involved with the ongoing mission of Tucson’s community radio outlet has proved irresistible. It’s very much become a family affair, as they frequently bring along their now five-year-old son on their community radio adventures.

KXCI has been on the air for more than 30 years, and currently occupies a largish three-story house on South 4th Avenue, just a stone’s throw from Broadway. It is, as you might expect, crammed from ceiling to floor with endless walls of vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, literally thousands of artists of every conceivable stripe.

Just walking into the old house, built somewhere between 1904-1906 (the stories are conflicted!) you get the sense that this is a place where committed people spend long hours working because of their love for the mission, and invest an awful lot of energy into making KXCI the best possible home for local and undiscovered music.

More remarkable is the station’s commitment to remaining focused on music that celebrates our heritage in Southern Arizona, but stays completely free of any sort of overarching compartmentalized format. In short, it’s a radio station that plays music in a manner more like someone’s listening habits than others on the dial.

KXCI also remains a terrific community linchpin with public-affairs programming and an endless number of volunteer opportunities for people who want to get their feet wet in the wild world of radio, in addition to their support of many other organizations & nonprofits in the Old Pueblo.

This is KXCI's faithful microwave tower, helping to pump that signal across the Old Pueblo. She'll soon have help!

This is KXCI’s faithful microwave tower, helping to pump that signal across the Old Pueblo. She’ll soon have help!

That’s not to say the station hasn’t had hurdles to clear. Early on, there were difficulties with the station finding a specific home on the dial from which to broadcast. The station continued forward, but to a certain degree, these hurdles have lingered, as they’ve never been able to broadcast to certain areas of northwest Tucson, Oro Valley, and Marana. Sometime during the middle of this year (June/July), the station will realize a major longtime goal, when they take delivery of gear for an auxiliary transmitter site.

“Having a stronger signal that reaches our entire community has been a dream of KXCI’s for the past 20 years and it is finally becoming a reality this summer,” said Randy Peterson, General Manager of KXCI. This was only made possible with their ongoing Amplify KXCI capital campaign, which to date has raised more than $428,000. Having the new auxiliary site on track is wonderful, but it’s only half the battle, as there are numerous improvements necessary to KXCI’s 4th Avenue home needed.

“The space we have now,” said Boulet-Stephenson, “produces a great sound, but it’s definitely on the cramped side, and definitely could use some aesthetic love.” The station is committed to getting more active on the social media side, and generating much more in the way of live streams and video content for the web, but the existing facilities are very much in need of those kinds of infrastructural upgrades, in addition to long-term goals of retiring the mortgage on the historical office and a number of improved storage, fire, and security overhauls.

If you’d like to get involved with the Amplify KXCI campaign, or just want to know more about a bona fide Southern Arizona radio treasure, please check out their page here.