New equipment, new era at KGHP radio station [The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Wash.)]
(Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, WA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 16--Nick Nietfield was about to start his freshman year at Peninsula High School when he caught word of a stunt at the school's radio station. The KGHP-FM station manager, known as "The Walrus," was going to stay on the air for an entire week -- and he planned to sleep in the broadcast booth -- to raise awareness about the radio station.
"I never even knew we had a station before," Nietfield said. "It sounded like something I wanted to try."
Nearly three years later, Nietfield, now a junior, hosts a weekly show, "The School of Rock," from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Mondays with his friend, James Stojack. The two, both of whom play guitar, spin mostly modern alternative rock and talk about their favorite bands, new albums, upcoming shows and other trends in the music they like.
Nietfield said having his own show provides a valuable form of self-expression.
"It's a really good outlet for students," he said. "I use music as an outlet when I play guitar, but this is a totally different art form."
He learned the art of radio by watching older, more experienced students when he was a freshman in Peninsula's broadcasting class and in the after-school radio club. Nietfield soaked up both the technical and performance elements of being on the air.
"And one day the broadcast teacher finally said, 'Do you think you can handle this '" Nietfield said.
Just like that, he was a broadcaster.
"It just came very naturally to me," he said.
KGHP recently replaced much of its outdated broadcast equipment, some of which was 30 to 40 years old, and it has revamped its studio near the back of the school with new transmitters and in-studio devices. The last time the station updated its equipment was two decades ago, and that meant installing equipment from the 1970s.
"The Walrus" himself, Spencer Abersold, said the new equipment could mark the beginning of a new era for the station.
"It's important as a teaching tool," Abersold said.
The station has attracted many kids like Nietfield into broadcast education.
"But it can be a really great radio station as well," Abersold said.
The station's new look came about as a result of several years of community fundraising efforts, including the weeklong broadcast that attracted Nietfield's attention and that of donors from around the region, Abersold said. The renovations aren't quite complete -- the station still needs to replace an old auto-DJ system for times when it doesn't have a live broadcast.
The past several years have been about just trying to stay afloat, Abersold said. But the new equipment provides the station with a huge change in focus, from fundraising to programming.
"That's what I think will bring this station from a used Volkwagen bus to a Chevy Camaro," he said.
Nietfield said expanding the station's programming ability is important for a number of reasons that go beyond the skills -- and personal enjoyment -- he gets from hosting a show.
"It's really important to have a local station," he said. "A lot of the Seattle stations won't talk about Gig Harbor."
Nietfield recalled listening to KGHP during a snowstorm, when Abersold stayed in the booth late to provide live local weather updates.
"It's just a really important local asset," said Nietfield, who added that the station's variety means KGHP can offer something for everyone.
Nietfield and Stojack play music geared toward their own demographic, but other students and volunteer DJs play jazz, talk about the news or just read books aloud.
"There's always people listening," Nietfield said.
The station turns 25 this year and will honor its new-and-improved studio with a Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by an open house on Jan. 26.
"We needed to make sure we'll be here for another 25 years," Abersold said.
He believes the changes to the studio have gone a long way to ensure that happens.
"Now it's about implementing our new ways to entertain," he said. "We have new legs. We're ready to run."
(c)2013 The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Wash.)
Visit The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Wash.) at www.thenewstribune.com/gigharbor
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