On Friday, Oct. 7 in Laurie Auditorium, KRTU will celebrate 40 years on the air with a free concert featuring renowned saxophonist Benny Golson with special guest Henry Brun and the Latin Playerz. Oct. 7 also marks the start of Alumni Weekend.
The concert comes several months after the official 40th anniversary of the day KRTU went live on Jan. 23, 1976.
“We are welcoming many of the station founders who were there, that started it all,” said JJ Lopez, General Manager of KRTU. The five original founders are Don White, Jim Blakemore, Ron Zimmerman, Anne Conger and David King.
Blakemore and White have confirmed that they will be attending the concert.
Lopez explained the story of the Trinity students who founded the station.
“It was on January 23rd, 1976, we went live,” Lopez said. “A bunch of students were hanging out in the morning, and one of them got a phone call that … they had a telegram from the FCC and they needed to come pick it up.”
The student drove downtown to pick up the telegram, which read: “YOU ARE CLEAR FOR BROADCAST.”
“The station originally broadcast at a mere 50 watts. It only broadcast right here on campus. And that was the original goal,” Lopez said. “Just on campus, to entertain the people in the area, and then it kind of grew from there.”
Today, KRTU broadcasts at 8,900 watts. The station will expand to 32,000 watts in the near future, the culmination of the Tower Initiative, a project over two years in the making.
To put this growth in perspective, the station currently has a service area of 541 miles; with the increased wattage, it will extend to 3,059 square miles.
“Expanding KRTU’s tower wattage from 8,900 to 32,000 will be a major improvement not only in audience reach, but it will also create a stronger 91.7 FM signal,” said Monica Reina, station manager at KRTU.
The new tower was originally intended to begin broadcasting on Oct. 7, as a part of the anniversary celebration. However, the process has been delayed due to a technical change regarding KRTU’s position on the tower.
Lopez explained that an amendment had to be filed with the FCC, and is currently pending approval.
A suggested donation of $5 for the Benny Golson concert on Oct. 7 will benefit the Tower Initiative.
The station’s goal is to raise $300,000 “” enough for the first three years’ rent in the new tower “” by May 2017. According to the KRTU website, they have currently reached about $160,000 of that goal.
“We have to fundraise in a slightly different way. We’re not selling anything we have to get an engaged listener who understands that it’s a mission that I’m buying into, it’s a mission that I’m part of when I support this radio station to help sustain this rich thing we call jazz, but also that they do community good “” and that’s not for everybody,” Lopez said.
But operating as a nonprofit organization also has its benefits.
“Not only can we support something like jazz, which is very difficult to do anywhere else on the FM dial … But then we can utilize our airwaves, utilize the fact that our underwriting, our commercials, don’t cost as much as they do on the commercial side, so we can help needs-based organizations,” Lopez said.
KRTU switched to a jazz format in 2002. Before that, the station was “free form” and primarily driven by classical music.
Lopez explained that the decision to switch to jazz was one of the best decisions that KRTU has ever made, because it helped fulfill the radio station’s mission of being a leader in the arts.
“We became part of the national conversation of jazz radio stations, which we’re still a part of today,” Lopez said. There’s less than 60 across the country, less than three in the state of Texas, and if you think about those that program 15 hours like we do, there’s only two in Texas.”
In addition to contributing to the greater community and the arts in San Antonio, KRTU provides many opportunities for students to get involved, both through internships and classes such as radio announcing, production and media management.
“The knowledge and experience Trinity students receive while working at KRTU help them get jobs in radio and the entertainment business,” Reina said.
Benjamin Gomez, events and promotions manager for KRTU and senior, explained that students contribute in a variety of ways including scheduling, programming, event planning, on-air shifts and website content.
“Our social presence, as our physical presence, as our on-air presence is pretty student-run, which is pretty exceptional considering that many of us are just trying to balance this between that and getting our papers in on time,” Gomez said.
Indie Overnight, which runs from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly, is largely student-driven.
“When the decision was made to go jazz, there was a group of decision-makers who said, there still needs to be a part of the programming that is satisfying to students.,” Lopez said. “Because not all students are going to want jazz. There has to be something else there.”
Gomez explained that KRTU’s unique format garners credibility and connections with the community.
“We’re of a dying breed, there are a very few amount of radio stations that not only play our formats, both jazz and indie” Gomez said. “But also stations like that that are nonprofit, and stations that that are nonprofit and run on a college campus by college students.”
Gomez explained that despite changes to genre and format over the years, KRTU has remained committed to the original goals of the radio station. They will continue to serve the Trinity campus and the greater San Antonio community.