By Jay Brakefield
“The Volunteer Jam is a way for KEOS to say ‘thanks’ each year to our volunteers and listeners who support us throughout the year with a day that showcases Texas music. It’s a great celebration of community radio,” says Krista May, president of the station’s board of directors.
The all-volunteer station at 89.1 FM is kind of like the little engine that could. It hit the airwaves on March 25, 1995, broadcasting from a leaky former tortilla factory. Now it’s comfortably ensconced in a building at 202 East Carson Street in Bryan.
Staying on the air in a changing media landscape hasn’t been easy, and things were rough during the Great Recession. But, the staff has persevered, bringing listeners folk, country, blues, reggae, jazz, Tex-Mex—you name it.
Programs such as the local “Brazos Valley Beat” and the syndicated “Democracy Now!” generally reflect a progressive viewpoint, as befits the station’s motto: “The left end of the dial done right.” Despite the progressive reflections, the staff is as politically diverse as the community it serves. In fact, KEOS programs five hours of gospel music and religious talk each Sunday. For a schedule, visit keos.org.
Even without paying salaries, it costs about $65,000 annually to keep the station on the air. That doesn’t include other needs, such as replacing the air-conditioning system recently (talk about hot!) and plans to upgrade the automation system and strengthen the signal to broaden the listening area. Most of the money comes from listeners, though the station does hold other fund-raisers and receives some grant money, including hotel tax revenue from the Arts Council of Brazos Valley. Just remember, when you see volunteers outside the LaSalle Hotel on First Friday, you’re free to drop a few shekels in the jar.
A lot of wonderful Texas musicians have played to help KEOS since the Jam kicked off in 2002. The lineup on October 4 will include Lloyd Maines, a renowned player and record producer, as well as father of Dixie Chick lead singer and solo artist Natalie Maines. Maines will perform with Terri Hendrix. The stellar lineup will also feature John Prihoda, Brooke Graham, Manzy Lowry, Mark Jungers, Susan Gibson and Larry Joe Taylor. Music will commence at noon and continue until 7:00pm.
Jay Brakefield is a retired newspaper journalist and has volunteered at KEOS for eight years. Jay hosts “Sunday Blues” and “Brazos Valley Beat.”
For the second year in a row, the KEOS Volunteer Jam will be held at the Lakeside Icehouse, 8200 Sandy Point Road. The popular spot at Lake Bryan proved an ideal site last year. The weather was perfect for sitting outside with friends, drinks and food while listening to some world-class Texas music.
A suggested donation of $15 gets you in the door. A silent auction, with all sorts of merchandise and perks to peruse, will be available to bid on. All proceeds will benefit the community access radio station.