Primarily fueled by the dedicated efforts of community volunteers, Austin Community Radio operates as KAZI 88.7 FM. KAZI is a public educational radio station that offers a plethora of news, music, and information. Music genres include Gospel, R&B, Hip Hop, Jazz, Neo Soul, Zydeco, Reggae, and Southern Soul.
Steve Savage, KAZI’s general manager, says he was “tricked” into coming to the station. Larry Williams, a former colleague at the Attorney General’s Office recruited Savage as a KAZI volunteer. In the early 80’s, Williams hosted KAZI’s “Quiet Storm.” Williams had heard Savage deejaying at a party and invited him to KAZI. Savage repeatedly refused the invitation over a two-year period saying: “Y’all sorry.”
Our volunteers are what make KAZI unique
Williams admonished Savage, saying he should come to the station to make it better rather than complaining. According to Savage, Williams finally got him to the station by stating that he had a death in the family. Williams’ ploy to train Savage to cover his shift worked. Savage has been at KAZI since August 14, 1986. He’s been at the helm of KAZI as general manager for 21 years. Besides his role as station manager, “The Savage Jock” also co-hosts the Thursday morning edition of KAZI’s “Juice ‘n Jam” show and deejays on other days. Steve Savage and the KAZI crew are still giving life to KAZI and its listening audience.
“Our volunteers are what make KAZI unique,” Savage proclaims. “If it wasn’t for our volunteers, there would be no KAZI.” KAZI does not have the “luxury” of paying everyone. Only a few individuals, including managers and directors, are compensated with a monthly stipend or salary to keep KAZI operational. KAZI relies primarily on community support and underwriting dollars from local businesses and organizations. KAZI does offer a commission for sales accounts.
Savage asserts that the station receives more financial support from listeners by not asking. Thus, except in emergencies, the station has not scheduled regular on air fund drives over the past 10 years. According to Savage, “people want to hear their name on the radio, but don’t always follow up with their pledged contributions.”
Savage understands the crucial need for accountability and transparency. One of the major funding goals listeners often heard throughout the years is KAZI’s need to replace its antenna. Savage says that goal was finally accomplished in October 2016. “The antenna was actually purchased in 2014, but dealing with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and purchasing other equipment to go along with that, it took two years to install.”
It’s time for us to move forward and own our own building.
Savage says the station’s reach has increased at least another 19 miles, extending to the San Marcos, Round Rock, and Taylor listening radius. KAZI also has a global reach as well since it streams on the world wide web. “If you can’t listen in your car, you can listen online crystal clear.”
Savage promises improvement in the KAZI developing news room. According to Savage, listeners can expect more “originals” and community forums under the leadership of Billy Carr, KAZI’s news director; and Marion Nickerson, who serves as programming director. KAZI has been in its current location for 24 years. Savage shared that long ago he created a list of 10 goals for KAZI. “I have accomplished nine of those goals in that letter.” Only one goal remains on the list: “It’s time for us to move forward and own our own building.”
Savage has witnessed the worst of times and the best of times at KAZI. Over the years, there have been cut off notices, disconnects, etc. The day-to-day challenges of operational expenses has been a constant. Today the station is making greater strides and becoming more financially stable. Through community support — and often using personal funds — Savage, as well as the KAZI board, staff, and volunteers have strived to make KAZI a thriving force in the Austin community and beyond. “Each year, we’re getting better and better,” Savage emphasizes: “We have never left the community.”
On Saturday, August 26, 4pm-11pm KAZI will host its 35th Birthday Jam (formerly SummerFest) at The Doris Miller Auditorium. The community is invited to celebrate this monumental milestone of 35 years of Austin Community Radio.