By Mark Graven
The KANW Radio spring broadcasting class, postponed until further notice, will be back when the time is right, according to Kevin Otero, program director for the station.
KANW, located in the heart of the CNM campus at 2020 Coal Avenue, Southeast, is owned by the Albuquerque Public Schools, but the broadcasting class is open to the general public, including CNM students, says Otero.
“We get students from both CNM and UNM (University of New Mexico), noted Otero, adding that students enrolled in the Albuquerque Public Schools get to attend for free. Cost to the general public, including CNM students, is 300 dollars for the 32-hour, 8-week course, although one full scholarship is available, Otero said in a recent telephone interview.
The course covers both commercial and non-commercial broadcasting and such topics as:
- FCC rules and regulations
- Broadcast equipment
- Program Formats and Strategies
- Transmission systems, and
- Voice techniques
KNAW, at 89.1 on the FM dial, has been operating since 1951, and is the oldest FM station in the state of New Mexico. It moved to it’s current location in 1969, after staring out at the old Albuquerque High on Central Avenue. The station is still operating 24/7, with the corona virus situation, but with altered procedures, according to Otero. Currently, only the on-air personality and the engineer come into the studio, he said.
“We do a rigorous cleaning before and after each shift,” said Otero. “The corona virus situation has made me realize the importance of paying attention to keeping people safe, and the importance of being on the air every day to keep people apprised of important information.”
Otero said that KANW has a separate, designated studio for the broadcasting class, which can hold up to 28 students. “I prefer to have about 15 students,” he said.
Otero said that he plans to notify students who signed up for the course that was to begin April 2, of a new startup date, by email. The date will largely depend on public health guidelines, he said.
Many of the graduates of the course, including Otero, have gone into broadcasting careers, at KNAW or at the public radio station at the University of New Mexico—KUMN, 89.9 on the FM dial, as well as stations around the state.
Otero, 42, said he volunteered at the station, after taking the course, in 1995, and came on as a full-time employee in 2001.
Otero said that a “passion for performing,” and a flair for “knowing how to catch people’s attention” are good traits for future broadcasters–which tend to come out of English and Journalism majors.
KUMN AND KANW tend to split up the National Public Radio fare. KANW has a special emphasis on New Mexican music, as listeners well know. News programming, including National Public fare such as “Morning Edition” and “Fresh Air, runs from 4 a.m. to noon most days, Otero said, adding the rest of the schedule is dominated by New Mexican music.
The New Mexican music tradition was started by a then newly minted employee, Michael Brasher, on a Friday night in 1973. Brasher is now the general manager of the station, and is still an on-air personality. He is the Michael Brasher who has served as a Albuquerque City Councilman, Bernalillo County Commissioner, and as a regent of the University of New Mexico.
Brasher said, in a separate telephone interview, that he does not remember the exact date, or time of year, although it “might have been spring.” He does remember that there was a lot of vacant land, where now stand a host of CNM buildings, and he remembers feeling that there was a void where New Mexican music was concerned.
It was just something we grew up with, but it wasn’t being played on the radio,” said Brasher, adding that it is “something very important to the history and culture of our state.”
So Brasher said he decided to give it a whirl. He said that he doesn’t remember the song he chose. However, 47 years later, KANW, is still blasting out the strumming guitars and the blare of brass that typify New Mexican music. Now, the station can reach an audience around the world through on-line streaming.
Both Otero and Brasher cited the Hurricanes—Al Senior and Al Junior–as among their favorite New Mexican Music artists. “The whole family is talented though,” noted Brasher.
Al Senior, who died in 2017, is considered “The King” of New Mexican Music, having a major influence on such other stars as Darren Cordova, Tiny Morrie, and the Blue Ventures, according to Otero.
Sometimes artists will deliver a new CD or tape, right to the station. Music and other merchandise can ordinarily be purchased at the KANW store, located at the station. The store is currently closed because of the pandemic, Otero said, adding that aficionados can still purchase their needs on-line.
Otero said his favorite song might well be a duet by Hurricane Senior, and Cordova called “El Amigo.”
The station is known for playing requests and dedications, particularly in its Saturday morning time slot, according to Otero. “We even have servicemen call in from the Middle East for a dedication.” he said.