Nevada City’s KVMR turns 39 | TheUnion.com

Nevada City’s KVMR turns 39

KVMR's birthday party Sunday included a community jam session, featuring songs by Bob Dylan, John Prine, Tom Petty, Grateful Dead, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell, along with several originals.
Adela Wilcox / Submitted to The Union |

“Are we on?”

Those were the first words spoken by broadcaster Jima Abbott during KVMR’s inaugural day on-air on July 14, 1978.

The Nevada City radio station has come a long way since its early years, when it began broadcasting for four hours a day out of a small miner’s shack on Banner Mountain.

Nearly four decades later, the station continues to play eclectic music, report local news and announcements and give a voice to the community, operating 24 hours a day from its Bridge Street location.

Community members gathered at Pioneer Park Sunday to celebrate the station’s 39th birthday party. A community jam session, featuring music that Program Director Steve Baker called “a really KVMR-ish kind of mix,” was the highlight of the event, along with a barbecue and potluck. Musicians, which included a local doctor, therapist, web designer and teachers, among others, played guitar, stand-up bass, harmonica, mandolin and flute.

Asked to describe the KVMR music style, Baker said the station tends toward folk rock, and plays “everything from The Beatles to Joni Mitchell to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” along with a variety of different sounds from around the world.

Nearly 200 active volunteers host community radio shows on KVMR, Baker said, and the station provides training classes for those interested in joining the team. Shows range from “Fat Music Radio,” which plays country and bluegrass tunes on Monday afternoons, to “Dead Air,” which plays Grateful Dead music on Saturday nights, and “KVMR Evening News” on Monday through Friday nights.

KVMR relies on community support for the majority of its funding. Baker said the business model is an odd one, because subscribers decide to pay for content after they’ve already consumed it.

“In some ways we laugh that we have one of the world’s most cockamamie business models, but it seems to work for us,” he joked.

Sunday’s birthday party was one of KVMR’s fundraising events, which help keep the music playing. The station hosted a massive “Summer of Love” celebration earlier this summer in Pioneer Park, which saw a turnout of nearly 700 paying guests, according to Baker.

The station also receives funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which makes up about 17 percent of its budget. The federal government has threatened to discontinue funding to the corporation — a threat that has rallied local support.

The Nevada City Council recently created a resolution asking for continued federal funding for public broadcasting.

“KVMR enriches our community by providing the opportunity for community members to connect through the development and production of music, news and public affairs programs that entertain, inform and educate,” the resolution said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.


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