The Arts

June 15, 2013

Behind The Radio

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For over 40 years, national public radio has been synonymous with good programing and education. Our local KMBH 88 FM radio station provides a welcoming alternative to highly commercialized radio stations by featuring a variety of music throughout the day. In addition, the news segments provided by KMBH are presented in a conversational format easy to appreciate. But who is behind this music? Beyond Arts & More recently paid a visit to Chris Maley, Program Director and Radio Host and Producer Mario Muñoz, at the KMBH Harlingen station.

Chris and Mario were simultaneously hired almost 19 years ago to lead the programming schedule for KMBH. Since then, both have developed a solid audience of music loving people.   They are a dynamic pair that exemplifies all things public radio. “And it is not just about education,” said Mario “I’m talking about something exciting here. Public radio offers alternative information, alternative approaches to music; of listening to the world!”


Two years ago Robert Hernandez came on board as the station’s CEO, and a year later Nick Rice joined the team as Radio Station Manager bringing a solid broadcasting experience to local public radio. With Nick’s guidance, Chris and Mario have been able to enhance the sound and feel of radio programming.

Mario is a passionate news broadcaster and history lover. He is responsible for the content aired during the show Closer to Home, for which he relies on several sources like the Texas News Service, the Texas Tribune and local journalists with whom he has established professional partnerships. Mario is adamant about providing a fresh approach to the news every day by doing extensive research in preparation for his daily news show. “The news happen, and I pick it up to share with our listeners; we cover a lot of the news other stations don’t pick up,” stated Mario. His passion and love of history allows him to bring the composers back to life during the daily classical shows.  “I love classical music, but also the history behind the music and letting people know about a particular composer; why is he important”? Mario passionately recalled a time when Beethoven insisted on conducting his own work at the premiere of his Ninth Symphony, and how his colleague had to turn him around to see the audience’s applause because he was unable to hear it.  “Beethoven was composing music without hearing it!” Mario exclaimed. He also admires the life of pianist Murray Perahia whom he calls the “Persevering Pianist” for his relentlessness in the face of adversity.

The sometimes monotonous daily radio operations have not deterred Chris from loving what he does. A people’s person, Chris enjoys meeting interesting people in the jazz & blues music business, and musicians he showcases during his show On The Roadside and Sahadi’s Jazz in the Afternoons. Public radio has provided him the opportunity to share ideas with the local educators, and especially those in the non-profit art organizations. Public radio provides an outlet for promotion and advertising of cultural festivals and events to non-profit organizations.  Every day, Chris and Mario share valuable information through interviews with local organizers.

Prior to working for KMBH, Chris was enrolled in sound engineering courses that led into audio production and voice over work.  He would also record local bands for demo tapes, and sold customized radio commercials before realizing he needed on-air, and audio production experience. This experience has become a career. Just like Mario, Chris likes to keep his music lineups fresh, and goes beyond naming the performer to giving his audience a little bit of background history.  Chris values his one hour blues program without lengthy commercial interruptions that only public radio can provide. KMBH does have underwriting announcements for support of the programming, but they are carefully placed within the parameters of the daily programming avoiding unpleasant interruptions.

Much has been written about music’s restorative benefits. How it soothes the mind, heals the heart and can be an antidote to psychological challenges.  Chris shared two interesting anecdotes about a couple of women who said they enjoyed listening to the classical and blues music shows while expecting a child. Years later, these women approached Chris thanking him for their children’s interest in music. Both of those babies grew up to play musical instruments and appreciate music, one of them is a blues guitar player who actually performed live on Chris’ radio show.  Coincidence? The fact is that public radio provides something that inspires people to do better, and the people behind the radio are undoubtedly aware of this important mission.

It is incredibly hard to believe such good programs could face any challenges, but just like other organizations promoting arts and education, KMBH public radio has its struggles. “The programming is there, and with Nick Rice’s help we have balanced a good product. But we need more listeners. Not enough people know about us,” said Chris. Getting the word out is one of the new administration’s main goals. Supporting local music events such as the Latin Jazz, Blues on the Hill and Conjunto Festivals is a way to present 88 FM to the people, and to reinforce public radio’s support for music education.

“Because of the current economic situation, raising money to support our programing has become a huge challenge” said Chris. The station conducted an important 10-day membership drive in February called “For the Love of Public Radio” hoping to raise $8,800 dollars.

Whether for the love of music or for the love of art, or simply the love of community and its art scene; tune in to 88 FM, and find out what the buzz is all about.

“Once people tune in, people kind of sway away from what they were listening to before. They want to keep listening because we are different,” concluded Chris.

Chris Maley

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About the Author

Tapia - Gonzales
La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" living in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Life, art and culture, poetry, prayers, travel, and camping! yes, that's my new thing. I blame the heat and high humidity for the madness. Contributions and comments are always welcome .


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