New voice for islanders

Volunteer Tom Vorhees works on the antenna used to broadcast KWPA, Whidbey Island’s newest community radio station that will based in Coupeville.  - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Volunteer Tom Vorhees works on the antenna used to broadcast KWPA, Whidbey Island’s newest community radio station that will based in Coupeville.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

With a new radio station set to start broadcasting on Central Whidbey Island, organizers are looking for volunteers to make sure it keeps a local flavor.

KWPA supporters plan to start broadcasting soon when its transmitter is erected north of Penn Cove. To help with the broadcasts, volunteers are needed for programs. A training session is taking place in December to show participants the ropes of broadcasting shows.

Tom Laurenson, programming director for the radio station, said there are already several programs slated for the station but there is more airtime to fill.

“We’re not in the business of turning anybody away,” Laurenson said.

He said several folks have expressed interest in broadcasting music shows. One person wants to focus on alternative and new bands while the other wants to feature local musicians.

Another wants a program featuring interviews of people focusing on why they moved to Whidbey Island while another prospective voice wants a program promoting items that are made or grown on Whidbey Island.

“There’s quite a variety of things in the pipeline,” Laurenson said.

KWPA (the WPA is short for Whidbey Performing Artists) has taken about four years to get off the ground.

“The Egyptians managed to build pyramids in less time,” Laurenson joked.

It took quite a bit of time to set up because organizers were doing the work in their spare time. It was a feat for busy people to find the time to to work on the radio station, and also to learn how to navigate through the bureaucracy of getting a community radio station approved. He said that even though FCC officials were helpful, it still took time for volunteers to learn about setting up a new radio station.

While the station’s transmitter is located on a farm north of Penn Cove, it will be broadcast from an office on the Coupeville Wharf.

The studio will be known as the Michael Nutt Studio, named in honor of the well-known Langley musician who passed away last spring. He headed up development of the station and was a source of encouragement for the volunteers over the years.

Laurenson said Nutt was the one who inspired them to keep going while others wanted to give up.

Rounding up a stable of volunteers isn’t the only thing organizers have to complete before programming begins. They have to put the finishing touches on the transmitter. However, windy, rainy weather has hampered efforts to finish the work.

“Just getting that last step is difficult to do because of the weather,” Laurenson said.

The transmitter gives the station a broadcast radius basically from Wal-Mart in Oak Harbor to the north, to Outlying Field south of Coupeville. The radius depends on terrain.

The volunteer training session takes place Sunday, Dec. 7 beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing until 3 p.m.

Sometime in the future, the radio station will start streaming content over the Internet from its Web site at But that is a project that will be completed down the road. Currently volunteers are working to get their transmitter up and running.

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