Arts and Entertainment

Capturing the waves on Penn Cove

William Bell works the controls in the Michael Nutt Production Studio at KWPA radio station on Coupeville Wharf. - Patricia Duff / The Record
William Bell works the controls in the Michael Nutt Production Studio at KWPA radio station on Coupeville Wharf.
— image credit: Patricia Duff / The Record

The legacy of musician and beloved South Whidbey luminary Michael Nutt lives on at the end of Coupeville Wharf on Penn Cove.

KWPA, Whidbey Public Radio at 96.9 on the FM dial, is up and running 24 hours per day thanks to the indefatigable Nutt and various local supporters who stuck with the project from its humble beginnings in 2003.

In 2008, KWPA became a volunteer-based, noncommercial, community-broadcast station fully licensed by the Federal Communications Commission.

But although it is on the air, the station needs money to keep running.

A benefit concert for KWPA starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 5 at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters on Crawford Road in Langley. Performers include Levi Burkle, James Hinkley, David Licastro, Rachman Ross and Stephan Ross.

Burkle said he sees the radio station as a great addition to the vibrant artistic community that Nutt knew and loved.

“I think this radio station is a huge opportunity for local emerging talent,” Burkle said.

“I am seeing a lot of budding local talent that could use the radio station to play their first song, or to promote an event like a concert,” he said. “Plus, this local radio station will bring a new canvas to Whidbey Island. If someone has an idea for a radio show, they would actually have the opportunity to make it happen.”

Indeed, the station’s board chairman and early KWPA strategist William Bell said the station welcomes ideas and participants who would like to create shows.

“We would like to cover every possible aspect of Whidbey Island,” Bell said.

That includes music, farm events, coverage of festivals such as Choochokam Arts, Loganberry Festival and the Mussel Fest, to name a few.

“Anything topical or interesting that is based on the island,” Bell said.

Programmers do not have to be practiced in the art of broadcasting. The station is completely digital, so a person could actually create a program at home and bring it to the station on an iPod, or bring in a raw program that the team can edit for a show.

Bell said the station is also looking for people with broadcasting or radio technical experience.

Marty Behr is one of the station’s new board members who signed on just before Nutt’s death in 2007. Board members raised the FCC grant money and private donations to put the station on the air and created more than 30 hours of local programming.

“All of us are dedicated to the growth of the station as a legacy to Michael Nutt,” Behr said.

“Our studio on the pier in Coupeville is called ‘The Michael Nutt Production Studio,’” he added.

KWPA runs every day with about six hours of local programs and the remaining hours with music. The station creates about two to four hours of new local programs each week which are pre-recorded and transmitted at scheduled times.

Some of the current local programs include “Dawn Chorus,” bird songs by Academy Award-winning sound editor Kirk Francis; on-the-street interviews with actors and participants of Langley’s Mystery Weekend; and “The Libbey Sisters,” a chat with some of the pioneers of Central Whidbey.

Some programs in the development stage include the Rural Characters annual concert at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts and county commissioner meetings.

The benefit for KWPA is mainly a celebration for being on the air. But another goal is to raise money to extend the reach of the station to the South End by streaming on the Internet and broadcasting in Langley, Freeland and other locations.

Board members also hope to raise money through station memberships and underwriters. Current underwriters include Bob Thurmond of New York Life Insurance of Langley and the Lavender Wind Farm in Coupeville.

Burkle is excited by the prospect of what KWPA can do for the community and the support it can lend to local musicians.

“We are very thankful and plan on recording the performance so that it can be broadcast on KWPA for our listeners,” Burkle said.

Tickets to the benefit are $25 and are available at Mulkilteo Coffee Roasters; call 321-5270.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for dinner and spirits. The music starts at 7 p.m.

Forty percent of ticket sales will go to KWPA.

Click here for info about submitting a program to the station.

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