The Story Of How My College Radio Station Changed My Life

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Life is funny, in that all we have is the present moment. The past is a memory, the future is a guess. You never know when your present moment might change your future and shape who you will become. It’s been eight years since I was a freshman at Colorado State University, so I have enough mental distance to look back and recognize how a single random occurrence not only transformed my college experience, but shaped me into the guy who gets to review music festivals for a living.

I had just arrived on campus, and was filled with excitement and fear. Everything was new to me. It all seemed so much bigger than the little high school I had attended. I had been on campus for a week and was exploring the student center – literally. I was just wandering down random hallways to see what was there. I figured that if I was going to be here for the next four years, I might as well get to know my surroundings. As I journeyed down a long hallway, I came to a door marked KCSU. There were lots of pictures on the wall of people having fun. It looked like something that I might like to be involved in. I was nervous, though. Going through this door and introducing myself to new people was a scary thought. I had an urge to take the safe route and just walk away, but something in me said, “Just do it. Just go for it.” So I opened the door and put myself out there.

This was a defining moment in my life.

As I passed through the doors, I met a group of smiling people. They all introduced themselves to me and gave me information about what I had discovered. It turns out that this was not your average student-run radio station – KCSU was a 24/7 student-run radio station. They invited me to an orientation session where everything would be explained to me in more detail. At the orientation, I learned that anyone who completed training could become a real radio DJ. This was the coolest thing I had ever heard. In addition to being on air, students could join different teams – the promo team, production team, and a music team whose members reviewed recently released albums.

Within a week, I had my first radio show. I was DJ Hollywood, on air on Tuesdays from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. It sounds crazy, but I loved it. My entire week revolved around my show. I also joined the music team and was exposed to all sorts of music I never knew existed. Before I knew it, KCSU had become my home. The people who worked there were my crew. I had people I looked up to, who were living examples of what it’s like to be a good person and lead a team. 

Thanks to my newfound music knowledge, I learned about all the concerts happening across Colorado. I became a music fanatic. Fortunately, being involved with the radio station also gave me access to tons of free concert tickets. The station would give tickets away in on-air contests, but the winners rarely claimed them. But my friends and I did. Every week we would drive to Denver, Boulder, and even Colorado Springs (two hours away) to see our favorite acts. These trips are my happiest young-adult memories.

Time went on, and I grew as a person and as a member of KCSU. As my skills evolved, I earned better time slots. By the second semester I was on from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. Then it was midnight to 2 a.m. Before I knew it, I was a paid member of the KCSU team. By junior year, I was the Training Director. My job was to teach new freshman how to operate the sound board and within FCC rules. I loved this job and couldn’t believe I was paid to do it.

In my senior year I applied to be Music Director. This was the coolest job in the entire station. The MD was in charge of all of the music the station played. I remember filling out the application and realized that I’d been training for this job all through college. I’d reviewed hundreds of albums and attended more than 70 concerts during my first three years of college. The Training Director position had taught me how to lead a team.

When the time came to learn my fate, I sat down with the Station Manager, a close friend. I was a sweaty mess. Regardless of what happened, I would still love my radio station, but getting this job really meant a lot me. As I sat down the Station Manager said, “Relax, you obviously got it. You’re perfect for it.” So I spent my senior year getting paid to listen to music and decide what my 25,000 fellow CSU students would listen to. The job also included free trips to Austin for South By Southwest and New York for College Music Journal – my first festivals.

After college, I left this amazing world and became engulfed in the so-called real world. I found success, but I missed the music and relationships that KCSU had blessed me with. Four years later, I went to a music festival and was reunited with the music and awesome people that had been absent from my life. I loved it so much that I quit my real-world job to follow my new passion full-time. I’ve been at it for four years now. I’ve lived my dream by reviewing more than 60 festivals across North America. Taking the leap was hard, but I’ve been rewarded with a new idea. All of this experience gave me the skills to start a new a mobile app called FestEvo, which allows users to listen to the line-up of festivals worldwide. It’s fun for me to think of it as a new way for me to share great music with the world around me – just like my music-director days at KCSU.

All of these experiences, and all my lifelong college friends, are a direct consequence of my opening the KCSU door my freshman year. I took this for granted until last May, when KCSU had its 50th anniversary reunion in Denver. All KCSU alumni were invited to attend. I traveled from Los Angeles to get there. Others came from as far away as Boston. Of course we were going to go! KCSU was the best thing that ever happened to us. KCSU gave me the opportunity and the skills to live my dream – all because of a random occurrence. If you’re in college, or know someone who is, I beg you to tell them about college radio. I’m not the only one who feels this way. I asked my friends how they felt about their KCSU days, and their opinion was unanimous. The station was where we met our best friends, introduced us to our favorite bands and helped turn us into awesome people. For that, I will always be thankful. 

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