Imagine, if you will, the excitement that still ripples through the halls of San Diego State after learning earlier this year that its beloved KCR won the prestigious Golden Mike Awards by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) as the best college radio station in the country.   And, after just two years, the thrill is not gone from when the one and only Paul McCartney of The Beatles made a congratulatory call to Sky Daniels, program director at Cal State Northridge's public radio station KCSN (88.5).

"Paul's call was so thoughtful, I found myself fighting back tears," Daniels later told a Los Angeles Times reporter.   "He told us of how his friends all loved the station, and they told him that KCSN was playing a number of songs from 'New' and he simply wanted to say thanks."

For Sir McCartney to reach out to the station was a feather in the cap of the entire California State University network of campus-run radio stations which are now highly recognized among the nation's elite in college broadcasting.  

Today there are about 32 college and university radio stations in California, almost half of them are affiliated with CSU schools and each serves as a platform of entertainment, information, talk and learning for aspiring broadcast talent, including on-air personalities and studio technical and management personnel.

According to a recent study by UNESCO, AM/FM radio listening accounts for 86 percent of the total time adults aged 25 to 54 spend listening to audio.   "Overwhelmingly, students are drawn to college radio stations, not only because they provide access to an underground music scene, but because they give timely updates to listeners on campus and local happenings."

Here are some highlights on the CSU radio scene.  If you haven't done so already, you might want to tune in:

KCR

Although nominated for the IBS top honor last year, winning this year's Abraham and Borst Award for best college station in the nation is a first for the student-run radio station which has been on the air since 1969.

"We're a small operation going up against schools with huge budgets and staffed advisors," said Matt Hoffman, KCR  general manager.  "When they called our name, everyone was so excited.  It was an incredible feeling."

The station also took home top honors for being best online station, best play-by-play baseball, best blog, best newscast and best station website.   It won three awards in IBS competition during last year's awards ceremony.

 

KSFS

One of the oldest stations in the CSU network is KSFS, formerly KRTG, at San Francisco State.   According to Station Manager Jeff Jacoby, the station started in about 1946 and began broadcasting to The Quad through two speakers and eventually through a cable connected to the dorms.  In the late 80's, he said, KSFS became part of the Broadcast & Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) curriculum and went on the internet where it lives today with two live streams at ksfmedia.net/radio.

Jacoby said the campus offers two BECA courses for students who want to work for the station but all majors are welcome to enroll.

"There is lots of San Francisco State and San Francisco history surrounding the station," he added.  "Many famous personalities hosted shows here, such as Ben Fong Torres, Stan Bunger and Steven Miller.  One of the most popular stories involves the 80's scene in San Francisco when Ken Kasey showed up at KRTG flanked with bodyguards from the Hells Angels and performed an 'acid test' in the air studio.   The event aired to listeners in the Commons, outside through speakers, and to the KRTG audience in the dormitories."

 

KCSN

Paul McCartney is just one of the music industry celebrities to recognize the Cal State Northridge station that began as the 10-watt KEDC at the then San Fernando Valley State College.   Its founder is retired professor Bert Barer who, back in the 60's, managed to convince the Federal Communications Commission to grant an FM station license to CSUN, and got a local FM station owner to donate a transmitter and tower.  

According to Sky Daniels, the thriving station is housed in the new CSUN Valley Performing Arts Center and at the Westfield Topanga Mall in neighboring Woodland Hills.  It is staffed by more than a dozen people, including full-time and part-time professionals and student interns.

Among the notable broadcast pros are Nic Harcourt, a long-time host of KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic show and Robert Hilburn, a CSUN graduate and 30-year rock music critic for the Los Angeles Times, and Daniels.

Joining McCartney in heaping praise on KCSN are major music industry stars, such as Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Stephen Stills, Lucinda Williams and Paul McGuinness, manager of U2, who told an LA Times reporter:  "In every era there will be a mold-breaking, groundbreaking, taste-making station, and KCSN sounds very clearly like something we ought to support."

 

KCPR

Cal Poly Pomona's radio station, KCPR (91.3FM), has been serving the community since 1968 when it was started by two students experimenting in their dorm room.

Says station general manager Steven Pardo, KCPR is the "embodiment of youth, staffed by artists and vanguards.  It embraces change, it champions the different and refuses to conform to the status quo."

 

KBeach

Cal State Long Beach and the surrounding communities have access to the campus' very popular radio station, KBeach at 88.1 FM.  

Jamie "Jay" Holloway, station GM, says "working with KBeach is consistently popular among students and attracts a great cross-section of the CSULB population as well as volunteers from the surrounding community.   You never know what our content will be when you tune in to KBeach, but you can rely on the fact that it will be unique, cool and student-driven."

He said many of the programs are "intellectually or opinion-based in conjunction with many gifted professors, our award-winning debate team and journalism department."

 

Dolphin Radio

The newest college radio station to hit the airwaves is Dolphin Radio at CSU Channel Islands.

Following three years of planning and partnering with the campus Communications and Marketing department, the "on-air" light switched on last April 11.

When listeners tune into CI Dolphin Radio with the TuneIn app they will hear a mix of music, podcasts, lectures, campus announcements and original programming, according to station manager Kayla Garcia, who is credited with doing most of the "heavy lifting" to put the station on the air.

According to Tracylee Clarke, Ph.D., the chair and associate professor of communication, and Gayle Hutchinson, Ed.D., campus provost, the station will enable students to learn station management, marketing, promotions and journalistic storytelling and other educational opportunities.

Learning is the central thread that weaves through all of the CSU campus radio stations which also include KSJS at San Jose State, KCHO at Chico State, KHSU and KRFH at Humboldt State, and KFSR at Fresno State.

If you tune into CI's Dolphin Radio, for instance, you might hear a student-produced podcast about the use of pesticides in the heavily agricultural area around the campus in Ventura County.   Or, you could enjoy a fictional radio drama about Camarillo in the 50's, also produced by a CI communications and performing arts student.

Whether online or through the traditional AM/FM channels, the evidence is overwhelming – CSU campus radio is alive and well.