Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/5/2019 (938 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On April 30, 1999, the University of Winnipeg’s campus radio station was broadcast across the city for the first time.
Several weeks later, Keith Black hosted his first show on CKUW 95.9 FM.
"That was 20 years ago and I’m still sitting here," he told The Metro during a musical interlude in his three-hour weekly program, Voyage.
When Black began volunteering at the station he had no prior radio experience but was on a mission to "keep jazz alive and in the public eye." With its philosophy of radio for the community and by the community, CKUW has been the perfect platform for Voyage — which presents a blend of melodic and experimental music under the wide umbrella of modern jazz.
"This is a very special radio station that plays an immense variety of music and topics that would never be played on a commercial station in a million years," said Black, who estimates he has played more than 19,000 tracks over more than 960 shows.
While the station’s mandate hasn’t changed in the last two decades, Black has noticed a considerable shift behind the scenes.
"Twenty years ago very few of us had anything to do with radio and so we’d be sitting in front of this board having a complete breakdown, not knowing what to do if anything went wrong," he said. "We’ve become much more professional and our goal is to be not only just a community station but a really, really good community station."
Voyage is one of a handful of talk and music shows that have been running on CKUW for the last 20 years.
Station manager Rob Schmidt was around during the jump to FM and remembers the excitement of the first week of broadcasting.
"Everyone was so excited," he said. "Lots of people had been thinking for years what their first show was going to be, so you had some very special programs, some real thoughtful presentations."
The station will revisit some of those first shows throughout the year as part of its ongoing 20th anniversary celebration — the kickoff of which is a community party at the Good Will Social Club on May 16.
While the station had been broadcast on-campus at U of W since the early 1960s, breaking onto the public airwaves added a new voice to local radio offerings.
"As a downtown station, I think it was a different style, a different community," Schmidt said.
Schmidt got his first taste of community radio as a student at McMaster University in Ontario and has been involved in the format ever since.
"It just made me realize how important it is to have a diversity of voices on the air because a lot of people feel like their opinions aren’t heard in society," he said. "Community radio, then and now, is a very easy way to reach a large audience and add to that conversation."
CKUW program director Sam Doucet is originally from Edmonton and was involved in that city’s independent radio station, CJSR FM 88, before moving to Winnipeg.
"As a person in a new city I wanted to get involved with a community radio station," he said. "It’s the place to be for sharing music, for meeting like-minded people."
Today, the station has more than 100 volunteers involved in filling the weekly schedule. Doucet has been program director for just six months and says his favourite part of the job is teaching others what radio is all about.
Visit ckuw.ca for more information about the station’s anniversary.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.