San Juan Silver Stage Online • Ouray, Colorado 
Serving Colorado and the Four Corners since 1996
KURA, Ouray

Story by Nancy Nixon

<>Ouray, Colorado [Fall 2003]  WE TEACHERS SPEND OUR LIVES instilling hope in and encouraging the dreams of young people, so when a student with a dream asks for our help, there’s no question what the answer will be. That’s how I, a veteran teacher of 31 years, came to be station manager and founder of the new low-power FM student-run radio station, KURA.

I am supposed to be in those years of ‘falling action,’ when I am handing off jobs and responsibilities to others, saying “I’m too old for this.” And, “I already had a full plate.” A former classroom teacher, I am the Media specialist at Ouray School and coach both drama and speech for the high school. Now, I also teach radio broadcasting eight times a day. 

But Brandon Gonzales, class of 2000, had a dream. The web radio station the high school students had initiated in 1999 was not enough for Gonzales. He wanted a ‘real’ FM station. Luckily for all of us, the low-power initiative by the FCC had begun and our four-day Colorado application ‘window’ opened in January of 2001. These are licenses issued to non-profit organizations for 10-100 watt stations. Ouray School applied for a 100 watt station and was granted a construction permit in late January of 2002, flipped the on-air switch in August 2002 and the fun began. 

The excitement was and is contagious. The possibilities for the merging of creativity and technology are limitless. “It’s never dull around the station,” says student Catie Pitts, who serves as alternative music director for KURA. “If only we had the time to follow through on all our ideas. The station is such a blend of personality and tech.”

KURA is unique because it is one of very few student-run community stations in the nation.

KURA is Ouray’s only station of local origin. Each year, with the help of the school, Mt. Sneffels Education Foundation and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), the more experienced staff attend the youth and low-power segments of the NFCB Conference. Most youth involved in radio have a weekly time slot on their local public radio stations. They produce feature and news pieces which are aired during their ‘slot.’ Our students at KURA are in charge of an entire station and all its operations, music, public relations, programming—everything.

We are thrilled to provide an around-the-clock source of communication for our citizens. Without cable television or a daily newspaper, Ouray County residents have lacked the possibility for instantaneous communication. On air at KURA, we have announced lost dogs and spur-of-the-moment local events, as well as producing our hourly community bulletin board which lists all happenings in and around Ouray County for the upcoming days. The students produce these segments using the sophisticated sound-editing software ProTools. You might see staff members all around Ouray gathering street audio to use in promos and “bugs.” They come equipped with a mini-disk player and microphone to capture the local color that dots KURA’s daily programming. The audio is mixed with sound effects, movie sound bites and music to create some lively pieces of production. “We try to utilize the voices of all ages with our ready supply of young students at school,” explains student station manager Ross Meinert.“Four-year-olds say the funniest things.”

In the fall of 2002, KURA received a Public Telecommunication Facilities Program grant to purchase equipment for the station. This funding enabled us to buy not only the very best for basic transmission, but also a wide array of other items we wouldn’t have been able to afford. We can have call-in talk shows, remote broadcasting and studio guests thanks to this grant.

Since that time, support comes from the Ouray School, underwriters, local business people who support the kids’ efforts, individual donations, other smaller grants and our student snack store proceeds. The Ouray Chamber Resort Association is donating printing costs for motel room tent cards that advertise the station’s programming and live events calendar. The support from this community has been strong. The students are learning the how-tos and how-not-tos of small scale marketing. It’s a great experience for them.
Seven former radio kids are now working for their college stations around the country. Parker Fagrelius, Ouray High School class of 2003, plans to volunteer at WFRD-FM, the student-run station at Dartmouth College in the fall. “I have been music director for KURA this year, talking each day to record label representatives everywhere and planning the Morning Show and Night Blast for our station. I haven’t had enough yet. It’s been a blast.” 

Former Ouray grad Matt Rushing now does sports broadcasting for KVCU at the University of Colorado. KURA even had Elizabeth Hoffman, President of Colorado University, in its studio for an interview. “I’ve never been interviewed by high school students before,” relates Hoffman. “The girls did a wonderful job.”

Yes, the students are doing a wonderful job and KURA is a wonderful addition to Ouray County. Tune into 98.9 FM and see for yourselves. 

Please note some information in this story may no longer be current. For up-to-date information, please contact the radio station directly.

Phone: 970-325-7289
Mailing address: PO Box N, Ouray CO 81427

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