Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Radio Station Field Trip 49 - KJCC at San Jose City College

 KJCC stamp above the studio console (photo: J. Waits)

About a year ago a fellow DJ at KFJC told me about a college radio station in San Jose, KJCC, that I'd never heard of. He was taking part in the broadcasting program at San Jose City College and had happened upon the low power FM radio station there. Ever since that time, a field trip to KJCC had been on my to-do list, so I was excited to finally make the visit this week. I kicked off a whirlwind day of San Francisco Bay Area radio station visits with a stop at San Jose City College station yesterday.

View into KJCC from the Cyber Cafe (photo: J. Waits)

Station Manager Brian Bertrand met with me at the station yesterday morning. Located in the school's Student Center, KJCC is in a central part of campus near the bookstore. The small, glassed-in studio is adjacent to a student lounge and an area with tables and public computers (dubbed the "Cyber Cafe").

Cyber Cafe rules (photo: J. Waits)

Warning signs and rules dot the surrounding area, alerting Cyber Cafe users that they cannot eat, drink, visit "inappropriate" sites, defraud, vandalize, move furniture, or commit theft. The most official of all the signs contains warnings about penal codes and ominously states "this room is under surveillance." After waiting in that bleak room for awhile, the livelier KJCC space was an oasis of calm (although it did have some of its own whimsical rules signage).

KJCC Studio looking out onto outside courtyard at San Jose City College (photo: J. Waits)

Windows on one wall of the station look out to a courtyard that borders the cafeteria. The cozy studio has the radio station basics, including a console, turntables, computers, CD players, microphone, vintage hand-me down equipment (including a funky old board from Portugese station KSQQ) LPs, and CDs. KJCC has been in this location since the Student Center was built (maybe 7 years ago) and was in a building housing a cafeteria and arcade before that.

2011 flyer announcing broadcasting classes at San Jose City College (photo: J. Waits)

As Bertrand greeted me at the station, another KJCC volunteer, director of finance Jonathan Calamateos, arrived with his young daughter. She'd never been to the studio and he wanted to show her around. As we all chatted, Bertrand and Calamateos filled me in on what the station had accomplished in the last year and gave me some details about what's in store for KJCC in the fall.

KJCC Station Manager Brian Bertrand behind the board (photo: J. Waits)

They weren't able to give me too much information about the history of the station, as they have both been there for 5 years or less. A 2011 article in the San Jose City College Times states that the station has been around since 1978 and has been operated as a club since 1994. Today, students who are taking radio broadcasting classes or who are members of the Media Club are able to volunteer at KJCC. KCBS reporter Betsy Gebhart currently teaches broadcasting classes at San Jose City College.

Map showing KJCC broadcast radius on campus (photo: J. Waits)

An unlicensed low power FM and online station (its 104.1 FM signal reaches a small radius of listeners around campus), KJCC is quiet this summer between sessions. Bertrand said that volunteers have been coming in to do production work and to prepare for the fall semester, but told me that there aren't any regularly scheduled programs on the air during the summer. The station will resume broadcasts when classes begin on September 3. He guessed that there were around 9 programs airing from around 11am to 5pm last semester. KJCC has to vacate the studio after 7pm when the director of their department is gone and in advance of the closure of the Student Center every night at 8:30pm. Even though there aren't live DJs after hours, KJCC airs a mix of music through automation.

CDs at KJCC (photo: J. Waits)

As far as music goes, KJCC airs a wide range of sounds. The record library contains some old rock LPs (I saw albums from King and Hall & Oates) and the CD library includes metal, hip hop, soundtrack music, gospel, ska, country, and more. Recent DJs have done shows focused on motown music, metal, '80s sounds, and local artists. Bertrand joked that when my KFJC colleague was at the station, he played "apocalyptic jazz" that sounded like "violins falling off a building."

King LP at KJCC (photo: J. Waits)

Bertrand told me that it's been exciting to have some local bands in to the studio to play live. He laughed when recounting a visit from one band and said that he asked himself, "How are they going to fit in here?" He said that with all of the band members and instruments crammed into the studio, it was a "really crazy set-up," but that it was an amazing example to him of what makes the station so great. He said that moments like that make him want to "stay here forever."

Board in KJCC Studio (photo: J. Waits)

Bertrand and Calamateos told me that they were really proud of the station's accomplishments in the past year, particularly in regards to sports programming (their former advisor was a long-time sideline reporter for the San Jose Sharks hockey team). Bertrand hosts a wresting talk show and in recent years KJCC has broadcast football, softball, and basketball games with play-by-play. Last year the station aired softball and football games along with play-by-play and live interviews during the games. A few years back the online sports broadcasts drew listeners from as far away as Denmark. In the fall, they'd like to try to cover some nearby away games, add more sports (maybe volleyball), and do more sideline reporting. Bertrand said that he'd also like to have a microphone at the 50 yard line during football games in order to capture more live audio.

Equipment in KJCC Studio (photo: J. Waits)

Bertrand told me that KJCC's terrestrial broadcast only makes it as far away as the visitor's side of the football field. He'd like to increase the potential audience for the station and Calamateos agreed that he wished that KJCC was more visible on campus. In the past, speakers piped the sounds of the station in to nearby and common areas at San Jose City College and it's hoped that the old tradition can continue. Even though the station is in the thick of things in the student center, Calamateos said, "Half the people here think it's a storage room." Bertrand has even bigger plans and hopes to take advantage of the upcoming LPFM license application window in October, as he'd like KJCC to obtain a broadcast license in order to broadcast to an even larger potential FM audience.

KJCC staffer Jonathan Calamateos (photo: J. Waits)

Thanks so much to Brian and Jonathan for taking the time to talk to me about KJCC. I wish them well as they start the new semester and will be checking back to see if KJCC ends up pursuing LPFM.

Sign on wall at KJCC (photo: J. Waits)

Here's a complete list of all of my Spinning Indie Radio Station Field Trips. Come back to see more tours from stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland, and beyond.

No comments: