Since 1994, local radio station KVRX has played local artists for college students’ listening pleasure. But if the station hopes to keep playing “none of the hits, all of the time,” as their motto proudly declares, they need to make some changes. The station has been running on the same transmitter for 20 years, and it could give out any day. “In order to stay competitive and stay on top of our technological game, we need money to upgrade,” says Rodrigo Leal, the current station manager.
And new transmitters don’t come cheap.
By Jenna Million
For the 20-year celebration of KVRX, the station set a goal to fundraise $20,000 for a new transmitter. They hosted a benefit concert on Nov. 15 to help reach this goal — 20 years to the day since their first broadcast on 91.7 FM. The event slogan says it all: “20 Years On FM Radio and Still No Hits.”
Looking back through the history of the station, KVRX has always held up to this slogan.
In 1986, the Students’ Association created the Student Radio Task Force, a committee dedicated to identifying and evaluating student needs and gaining support. The task force raised funds and coordinated studio space and the donation of broadcast equipment. By 1987, the group was ready to propose a formal partnership with Texas Student Publications, which changed to Texas Student Media to incorporate electronic media. KVRX, then known as KTSB, was broadcasted on community cable systems beginning in 1988.
By 1993, there was only one remaining non-commercial frequency in Austin, 91.7 FM. In June, KVRX and KOOP, an Austin community station, requested to share the frequency, and one month later the FCC approved the agreement — KOOP in the daytime, and KVRX in the nighttime. On Nov. 15, 1994, KVRX began to broadcast.
Now years later, station workers had to search through old Cactus yearbooks to find alumni and contact them via email for donations. The support was so strong that KVRX hosted several alumni events throughout the funding weekend and created a KVRX alumni Facebook group to reconnect.
Frank Serpas, operations manager at Texas Student Media, says alumni were eager to help because of how valuable KVRX was to them.“They have such fond memories, and they got so much out of it personally, that they would like to see future students be able to get the same benefit,” he says.
Some alumni traveled across the country just for the benefit concert and reunion. Among those present were Kevin Tuerff and Sara Beechner, students who were momentous in getting KVRX off the ground. Carol Ramsey, station manager from 1994 to 1995, and student staff member Jet Garrison were also present. The former KVRX members shared memories of their time at the station during set changes throughout the show.
KVRX held its 20th Anniversary Benefit Concert in KLRU’s Studio 6A in the UT Communication Complex, Building B. The studio was famously used for ACL Live tapings until 2011, when the project moved to The Moody Theater. The concert featured performances by The Hickoids, Daniel Francis Doyle & The Dreams and Pure X, all local artists who have personal connections to the station.
The Hickoids have been making music since the ‘80s and were played routinely by alumni DJs. They opened the show in southern rock style, while several audience members took to the floor to dance to their hearts’ content. David Francis Doyle & The Dreams entertained the crowd with their new-wave combination of poppy guitars, playful synthesizers and honest lyrics. Pure X ended the evening, mesmerizing the crowd with their brand of experimental, psychedelic rock.
For 20 years, KVRX and TSM have given students the freedom they need, be it bringing artists into the studio, coordinating with TSTV for Local Live or setting up SXSW showcases for local acts. “There’s so much responsibility and autonomy given to the students to make these things happen,” Serpas says. “It’s a great compliment to in-the-classroom learning, where you get to put into practice some of the things you learn about just in theory.”
Although the final numbers for the fundraiser are not yet in, the purchase of the transmitter ensures that students will be able to continue making great things happen at KVRX for another 20 years.