Feature

KCCK brings smooth jazz to local community

George Gorman, a news producer for KCCK
George Dorman, a news producer for KCCK, works on a segment in the KCCK Studio on the second floor of Linn Hall on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. PHOTO BY DEBRA MCROBERTS

On the second floor of Linn Hall, students may hear jazz music in the halls as they walk to class. 

Kirkwood Community College is home to the jazz radio station KCCK, the only such station in the state of Iowa. KCCK, an educational public radio station has been in operation for 47 years while being a large part of the community.  

“KCCK actually started as a class project in the early 1970s,” Dennis Green, the station’s director, explained, “when some mechanical engineering students received a nonfunctional radio transmitter that University of Northern Iowa was getting rid of. So, they went in and refurbished and repaired it and then applied for what was then an experimental FMY license to put it on the air. They did that as just a class project.”

He continued, “After a while faculty got involved to help bring some organization, and they decided in 1975 that they wanted to have the radio station permanently. So at that time we were issued a permanent license, and they became a noncommercial radio station, today known as public radio.” 

 KCCK became a jazz station after noticing the popularity of their weeknight jazz and wanting to create a niche in the 1980s in order to stand out when they were one of the fun radio stations in the Cedar Rapids area. Green said, “We think of being a jazz station and promoting this artistic music is not just fun music to listen to, but is also something people can study and look at and perform critically that elevates our program beyond good songs on the radio.” 

KCCK also offers many opportunities for Kirkwood students, as Green said, “We do programming both on and off the Kirkwood campus that is an opportunity for students who might want to looking into an interest in education. We run a jazz band camp for middle students at the Kirkwood canvas every summer and always hire some students in high school and college. If a student might be interested in becoming a teacher, particularly a music teacher, that’s a really great opportunity to get their feet wet in that, making sure that’s something they actually want to do.” 

KCCK has lots of opportunities to get involved, some even including internships at the radio station.  

 “We also have regular programs like internships that Kirkwood students are eligible for, where students will come in and work in our office and because KCCK is a public station, we’re organized as a nonprofit, so that means we do a lot of events and fundraising. This is a place where we do this kind of work right here on Kirkwood’s campus. If students are interested in learning more about aspects of being on the radio or the associated audio production that is associated with podcasting and things like that, there’s an opportunity for that,” said Green.

He added, “There is an opportunity on how to learn more about nonprofit art agency works with our office and also opportunities to join and help with our jazz education programs.” 

Green said he enjoys having the radio station located on Kirkwood’s main campus. “We can have this artistic mission as opposed to worrying about profit making situation. Commercial radio stations, their second job is to be entertaining, while their first job is to make a bunch of money for the owner. Well, here at KCCK our first job is to be an excellent resource in our community for education, arts and culture.”

He added, “Because we’re owned by Kirkwood, we have the luxury of having that be our first mission and obviously not cost them a bunch of money, to pay our own way, and we take that very seriously. But the mission comes first and that’s the great thing about public radio.” 

Students can listen to KCCK on 88.3 FM, download the KCCK app or stop by 2180 in Linn Hall.

Image courtesy of Debra McRoberts

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