Shawn joined KALX as a student DJ in 1999 and was Operations Coordinator after graduation.
“When I first walked into KALX, I was a new-ish transfer student (and political science major) at UC Berkeley and I was convinced that my knowledge of emo bands and anthemic trance records was going to blow everyone away. In retrospect, I was just the average overconfident kid, but the station quickly cut me down to size, albeit never in a cruel way. There’s no question that I had a lot to learn, but the general attitude was, “It’s great that you like what you like, but we’d like to teach you about a whole lot more.” Perhaps an even more telling example of KALX’s warm-hearted nature is that I can’t remember anyone ever making fun of my (admittedly stupid) DJ name. I mean, ‘Disco Shawn’ was flat-out ripe for ridicule.
It’s easy to talk about music when reminiscing about KALX, although it would be impossible for me to truly quantify just how much I learned about different artists, genres, eras, etc. (All these years later, I still miss that massive music library.) However, my love for the station goes much deeper than music. KALX is such a diverse place, and during my time there I met so many people from all walks of life. Of course there were lots of other students, many of them like-minded young people who’d been drawn to the station by their love of music or simply because they thought it might be fun to get on the radio. Finding them was absolutely life-changing, and I’m happy to say that many of these people are dear friends to this day.
But part of what makes KALX special is that it’s not just students. Life on the Berkeley campus could sometimes be insular, but on any given day at the station, there was a chance to get out of my bubble and interact with a diverse swath of the community that included everyone from record diggers and arts aficionados to plain-old radio diehards. These people came from different backgrounds, different places and even different eras, but they all had unique stories to tell and their own passions to share, and they often did so gladly. More importantly though, everyone – students and community members alike – was at KALX because they absolutely wanted to be, and witnessing that kind of communal love for an overachieving little radio station tucked away in a campus basement was truly transformative.
In the end, I wound up sticking around KALX for the better part of a decade, continuing to work there long after I finished school and picked up that political science degree. Nearly another decade has gone by since I left the station, but even now, my life continues to revolve around music. I work as a music journalist, I’m still on the radio and so many of the values that underpin my work – community, diversity and the importance of alternative/underground culture, to name just a few – can be traced back to KALX. In the grand scheme of the station’s history, my time there was just a flash in the pan, but for me, it was everything. Simply put, I wouldn’t be where I am and I certainly wouldn’t be who I am if it wasn’t for KALX, and for that, I will always be grateful.”
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