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Davis, California

Sunday, July 14, 2024

KDVS provides a creative hub for music lovers and students with an affinity for music production

The student-run radio station’s student DJs, producers and radio hosts create a diverse variety of shows to listen to on the air

By REBEKA ZELJKO — features@theaggie.org 

The biggest public music and media collection west of the Mississippi is right here in Davis, California. KDVS is a student-run and operated radio show that has been around since the 1960s, according to their website

What started as a small broadcast station in a laundry room of the all-male Becket Hall eventually became what it is today: “a laboratory for learning broadcast, production and managerial skills, [providing] its listening audience with diverse, challenging, noncommercial, freeform radio.”

Andy Carson, a fourth-year music composition major, is one of the many student DJs that work for KDVS. He’s been DJing for over a year and is also involved in training new DJs at the station. 

“I got involved with KDVS last year when a couple DJs who were in my ethnomusicology class told me I should check out the station,” Carson said. “The community at KDVS is what makes it unique. Everyone there is so amazing, and they all just love music and want to share their tastes.”

Embracing different music tastes and genres to promote creativity is a key component of the way KDVS operates.

“No one is judgemental or anything; everyone just uplifts each other through music,” Carson said. “It’s a really one-of-a-kind place.”

KDVS catches the attention of students who simply have a knack for music, like Carson, whether they are into DJing, producing or even just cataloging their large collection of media. Sabrina Colacion, a third-year plant biology major, initially joined KDVS because of her shared affinity with a fellow UC Davis student.

“I got involved with KDVS because of a random UC Davis student I met online,” Colacion said. “I bought Dead Kennedey’s tickets off of him and we became friends over our similar music taste.”

KDVS brings together students with a shared interest in music of any genre with any level of experience. Positions are open to anyone. 

“I chose KDVS because they provide a safe place for people like myself,” Colacion said. “We have a zero hate tolerance policy and welcome people of all backgrounds.”

KDVS advertises its broadcast by hosting live shows for students and community members to attend. Basira Dadajan, a fourth-year psychology and sociology double major, was initially exposed to KDVS through these live shows hosted by fellow staff members.

“I got involved in my winter quarter of my third year and I joined with my best friend […] after going to a KDVS house show,” Dadajan said. “I love being on the scene, and it’s just a community I feel I could be myself and feel safe.”

The shared musical interest held by all staff and volunteers also makes for a diverse selection of shows to tune in to. With tens of thousands of vinyls and CDs to choose from, students are given the opportunity to air any and every type of music available.

“My favorite part would just have to be the opportunity to share my musical tastes through the music at KDVS to listeners,” Carson said. “I just hope that they like what I have to share.” 

Over the decades, KDVS has been home to thousands of students, all with unique tastes in music. The station is reflective of this great variety in taste. Posters, art and stickers plaster the walls surrounding the stacks of media, commending the hundreds of students and shows that were there before them. 

“The selection of physical media and music is literally world-class,” Carson said. “You could spend multiple lifetimes trying to listen to everything in the stacks, and I personally play a lot of jazz records, some of which are close to 50 years old, all kept in immaculate condition.”

KDVS has been operating for decades, and so the collection of CDs, vinyls and media is also decades in the making. Located in the basement of the MU, over 100,000 vinyls and CDs fill the neverending shelves, color-coded by genre. 

“The best part of KDVS is getting to consistently contribute to history myself,” Colacion said. “We’ve been active since the ‘60s and have never stopped since then. Because I am one of the people responsible for training new DJs, I feel like I’m constantly increasing the longevity of our station’s history.”

The progression of bands and musicians that have contributed to KDVS creates a rich history and culture. The layers of posters and photos of performers and show hosts engulf every surface at the station, including the ceilings.

“Our history and how we formed KDVS is what makes us stand out,” Dadajan said.

KDVS has amassed an impressive media collection and a long-standing reputation in the over 50 years it has been on the air. 

“KDVS is unique because we have the largest broadcasting range of any college radio station,” Colacion said. “I’m pretty proud of this. We are a completely student-run radio station, so all of our core staff members are currently at UC Davis. We are also home to the largest public physical media collection west of the Mississippi, which is primarily made of music community members and record labels [that] have donated to us.”

Tune in to KDVS at 90.3 FM, and enjoy the decades of history, thousands of selections and hours of work each student dedicates to keep the station alive. If you are interested in working or volunteering for KDVS, refer to the KDVS website.

Written by: Rebeka Zeljko — features@theaggie.org