KUZU-FM (92.9) has officially hit the airwaves four years after its conception.
Peter Salisbury, the chairman of the board running the station, founded Real Waves Radio Network, the nonprofit behind KUZU, in 2013 with board members Erin Findley and Sashenka Lopez. The nonprofit was formed with the intention of offering a community source for artistic expression and music, as well as matters related to public affairs and debate.
At noon Saturday, that dream finally became a reality. Board member Paul Slavens hopped into his truck at midday and heard the crystal-clear reception from the radio inside.
“We all knew today was a great challenge — emphasis on the word great,” Slavens said. “We learned a lot, and a brand-new animal has emerged out of the cocoon. Now we just have to get the butterfly to fly.”
KUZU kicked off with 24 hours of music entirely from local artists from various stretches of North Texas, but it will begin broadcasting a variety of producers' shows Sunday and throughout the week. News coverage and live commentary of events also are on the radar, as far as long-term plans go.
The new low-power FM station joins KNTU-FM (88.1) and various other radio broadcasts in Denton. Originally, KDNT was the premier radio station in Denton when it began broadcasting in 1938, but owner Galen Gilbert sold the station in 1993 due to hard economic times after 55 years of continuous service, according to a history on DFWRetroplex.com.
With KUZU's 2.5-mile signal radius, only listeners in Denton and nearby can tune in. But the limited access is a part of KUZU’s draw, said Slavens, who has hosted a Sunday night show for years on Dallas public radio station KKXT-FM (91.7).
KUZU has been able to corral about 40 regular shows for its premiere lineup. As with any new venture, Slavens anticipates the nascent station will learn and adapt accordingly as new bridges to cross appear. That includes figuring out effective fundraising methods, Slavens added, but he acknowledged it comes with the territory of the nonprofit radio business.
“A year from now, I would think that the things that you could see is that the programming itself would have maybe solidified a bit in certain ways,” Slavens said. “We also would have learned how certain things might not work, perhaps getting rid of one hour of reggae music for new producers who want to do stuff.”
Slavens mentioned the station’s intentions to eventually partner with groups from local universities and high schools, such as KNTU at the University of North Texas, for internships to show prospective talents the ropes in a working radio station. Such a program also would aim to include troubled adolescents who could be shown a constructive path.
But for now, the folks at KUZU want to continue to smooth the cement on Denton’s newest radio station.
It’s a process Salisbury said he believes will take time and largely will depend on how the Denton community receives KUZU content.
“Our image is going to be created by the town. We aren’t going to spearhead it that much,” Salisbury said. “Everything has gone right. It’s been beautiful. Everybody has been very helpful in getting the project going and are super excited about their own shows.”
Bruce Burns, a producer at KUZU, will host his show, Colonel Burns Honky Tonk Hour, from 7 to 8 p.m. each Wednesday. He started working with Salisbury in November 2009, back when he and his crew operated a smaller radio station, 1670 AM.
Burns has worked as a railroader since moving to Argyle in 1993. He says he's helped renovate the KUZU building at 317 S. Elm St. and fundraise when he can, because he believes in the power behind uniting those with a shared interest.
"I've met people from all walks of life I wouldn't have otherwise," Burns said. "It's cool because it's another unique way of bringing the community together. Sometimes, it can be isolating when you have an interest.
"You don't have to be an expert at whatever you're doing. It's all about passion and not the money."
Those interested in volunteering with KUZU can sign up on the station's website, www.kuzu.fm.
MATT PAYNE can be reached at 940-566-6845.