Sharon Hickox with Note-Able Music Therapy Services plays a song during an RGJ interview at KWNK, Reno’s community radio station on Nov.2, 2020. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)
This article is part of RGJ’s ‘Gift of Giving’ series running Thanksgiving week. We are spotlighting local nonprofits that have given back in creative and impactful ways during this particularly challenging year. If you would like to give to this organization, please scroll below to the donation link and info.
From under a black and white mask, Sharon Hickox sings a spiritual that has been sung for at least 200 years for healing and hope.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,” sings Hickox with a guitar under her arm in the sunlit studio of KWNK Radio.
Hickox and Nate Eng, of Note-Able Music Therapy Services, are one of the most recent additions to the lineup of 97.7 FM, or KWNK, the city’s only 24/7 community-run radio station.
For three years, the station has hosted shows that center on everything from “death rock” to “dad country,” to indigenous music and “Car Talk”-style shows. But this year, more than ever, it’s also become a platform for the community to hear itself speak and sing.
The three-year old station has had a 40 percent increase in listeners online since the beginning of the year, to about 5,000 listeners a month. Tom Snider, KWNK general manager, credits part of that increase to the number of people at home and craving local sounds and voices.
“Every city needs a community station because it’s one of the best ways to accurately reflect what’s going on in the community,” said Snider.
KWNK, which evolved in collaboration with the Reno Bike Project, Holland Project and Wolf Pack Radio, not only records the past, but acts as a beacon of the future.
KWNK community radio co-founder Tom Snider smiles as he talks with the RGJ in KWNK lobby on Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)
It gives a large portion of its air time to youth who are active in the community. The radio station has become a home of sorts for young adults to have conversations about uncomfortable topics and alternative perspectives that might not always be welcome in other media.
“When George Floyd died, we were able to have people come on the air who were directly involved in the movements to have some of the difficult conversations that people couldn’t have necessarily in person,” said Snider.
KWNK has also been a lifeline for artists to stay relevant over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the cancellation of most live arts events, the station has promoted music from local artists, musicians who were previously scheduled to perform in the Reno area as well as favorite new sounds that those artists are listening to.
“There’s nothing like having an audience, but it’s something,” said Snider.
Nate Eng, left, and Sharon Hickox, both with Note-Able Music Therapy Services, work in KWNK studio on Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)
“The Bluebird Hour,” hosted by Eng and Hickox, is another show born from the pandemic.
The medley of history, music and wellness resources is geared towards the senior population, which largely has been forced into lock down since spring.
“Because of COVID, a lot of our services had to go online,” said Hickox, who normally provides regular music therapy to seniors in person. “Going online is almost one more way of isolating them and making them feel disconnected.”
Many seniors have zero interest in signing on to a virtual performance, and many are flustered by the process of finding it online, she said.
Hickox and Eng devised a plan to work with KWNK so seniors could simply tune their radio dial rather than futz around the Internet. There, they can find, among other offerings, Hawaiian or jazz music or storytelling.
Nate Eng with Note-Able Music Therapy Services, talks with the RGJ while at KWNK, Reno’s community radio station. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)
“All of these people are of age where you’d sit around the radio and listen to the baseball game, the news, stories on the radio,” said Eng. “This is part of their history.”
No matter who’s listening to KWNK, there is something for everyone, Snider said. That’s not to say everyone will like everything, he added, but there’s at least one segment for everyone.
“It’s therapy. It’s an escape. It’s a release. It can take you to a different time, but most importantly during this time, it’s being able to hear what your neighbor is listening to,” said Snider.
How to donate
KWNK uses donations as follows:
- $5 supports recruitment and training of new DJs.
- $20 supports KWNK’s studio operations.
- $100 affords donor a yearlong membership and helps pay nearly a third of the monthly tower lease for one month.
If you would like to donate to KWNK, go to KWNKradio.org and click the “donate” button or send a mail donation addressed to KWNK,1717 S. Wells Ave., Reno, NV 89502. For more information, contact the station at [email protected] or 775-273-8668.
Jenny Kane covers arts and culture in Northern Nevada, as well as the dynamic relationship between the state and the growing Burning Man community. She also covers the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry (Check out her podcast, the Potcast, on iTunes.) Support her work in Reno by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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