For jazz fans in Colorado Springs, a new radio station has been a long time coming.
KCME-FM plans to launch Jazz 93.5 FM on Sunday at noon, live from the Colorado Springs Jazz Party at The Antlers. It will be the return of jazz music to local airwaves after a decade of hiatus.
Nonprofit broadcaster KCME had played jazz since its inception in 1979. About 10 years ago the station decided to focus on classical music – disappointing many local jazz fans, said George Preston, director. General of KCME for nearly four years.
“There was an uproar when they stopped playing jazz on KCME,” Preston said. “We think a jazz station is really the missing link. We didn’t want to bring it back a few hours a week.”
The new station will be “a focal point for the jazz community to come together so that people are more aware of places and times,” he said. “There are all of these venues – they just aren’t connected. And there are jazz bands within the community – both the old guard and the young. Like the Friends of Colorado Springs Jazz.”
KCME, owned by Cheyenne Mountain Public Broadcast House, is transferring an existing frequency – 93.5 FM – to Colorado Springs for the jazz station, which will also broadcast on KCME’s hybrid digital radio subchannel (a second adjacent channel on the same frequency, similar to high definition television).
“We are moving an asset from west of Woodland Park to the west side of Colorado Springs. It will be a new transmitter and also a secondary signal for HD radio. But most people here in town will only listen to frequency 93. , 5, “he said. “It will be a very good signal just for Colorado Springs, but not as strong a signal” as KCME’s 88.7 FM.
The 170-watt transmitter, a fraction of KCME’s 12,000-watt transmitter, will cover an area from Palmer Lake south of Fountain and from Rampart Range to Falcon, Preston said.
The station will be located at KCME, 1921 N. Weber St., and will use the facility and its equipment. It will play a wide range of jazz – “not just bebop and swing,” Preston said. “With jazz and classical music, there is an almost endless variety.”
The station’s initial start-up budget was $ 30,000, but it has grown to around $ 50,000, he said. The annual cost of operating the station will be $ 100,000, or about one-tenth of the cost of operating KCME, Preston said. KCME and the jazz station will share resources.
KCME has sought grants, commercial underwriters and donors to raise funds for the station’s first year of operating expenses, he said.
The new station will also save money on staff costs and overhead.
“We will have the option to put it in automatic mode overnight. This is the cheapest way to do it,” he said. “Our deejays can do a four hour shift in an hour.
“There is certainly a thirst for jazz in the community. And a jazz station carried out on a budget was viable in this city.”
He delegates some of his tasks to focus on KCME and Jazz 95.3. Longtime KCME Music Director Jana Lee Ross will be the program director for the jazz station. Keith Simon will be promoted to Program Director at KCME.
“It will be a really fun sandbox for us to play,” Preston said. “We will be playing some favorite jazz tracks, but we will also be a showcase for jazz in this community. We will be playing local music directly with the Motif Jazz Cafe and the Colorado Springs Conservatory.”
The Motif Jazz Cafe is setting up equipment this week to be able to simultaneously broadcast performances on the jazz station.
“I’m really excited for this partnership. We have a lot of great players in town who needed a place to play,” said Steve Draper, owner of Motif. “Our room is a very good acoustic room. I think it’s going to be very useful to the community.”
Preston said, “I hope the station will attract and keep talent in town, so that Colorado Springs becomes a hotbed of jazz. With this station, we will be able to provide a whole new additional service to the city and to add a deep opportunity for music. “
Gazette economics reporter Wayne Heilman contributed to this report.