Program Director Rebecca Danon leads preschoolers through a station tourand the wonders of vinyl. She got her start at 17 as a volunteer programmer. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Rebecca Danon began as Raven Radio’s program director in 2012 and in her time, has brought whip-smart programming, local voices and music, and beautiful graphic design to our station. Today, she’s stepping onto a plane with her husband Joe to start a new chapter in Spokane, Washington. But before she left, she graciously offered Raven News one last interview. 

Rebecca is the daughter of Michael and Jackie LaGuire and was raised in Sitka, attending both Mt. Edgecumbe and Sitka High School. She and her husband Joe, who worked at Sitka Fire Department, are working on a family  of their own. Their baby boy is due in May!

Listen to the full interview here:

Downloadable audio.

Emily: Rebecca, you actually started out as a volunteer at Raven Radio. As a volunteer DJ?

Rebecca: I got started here at Raven Radio because of a program through the Teen Center here in town (the “Gender Equity Program”). They were doing an after-school program and were pairing kids in the community with people around town who were in those non-traditional career roles. And I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to sink my hooks into Raven Radio and figure out what that was all about. I had known people in the community who were doing volunteer radio shows and it just seemed so awesome.

Emily: What year was that?

Rebecca: This was in 1997. We contacted Ken Fate, who was the program director at the time. I was probably 17. I got a whole run down of the station. Part of my internship was to go through the on-air training and do radio, which was so amazing.

Emily: What kind of music did you play during your first flight?

Rebecca: My show, that I had on Raven Radio, was called “Cultivating Moods.” My very first song on the radio – probably not the most original – was “Video Killed the Radio Star.” So there was some 80s pop in there. I know I played some reggae. There was some Beethoven. It was like an absolute variety show. I took the idea of variety show and went to the extreme.

Emily: And how did that impact you, hosting radio shows?

Rebecca: Oh my gosh. It made me want to…we had at one point a used CD store here. It was in a little house where that new hotel is being built across from the fire hall. I would go in there and just scour. When I was doing my radio show, I would scour through the library here and spend hours pulling out vinyl and CDs and listening to them figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t like. And feeling so cool when I discovered something that everyone else in the world probably already knew about.

Emily: Do you remember any specific song?

Rebecca: The song that I was really enthralled by was by a band called built to spill, which I had never heard of before. And it was a song called, “Made Up Dreams.” I remember sitting in my bedroom and it was probably 10:30 at night, being teenager self, and I remember hearing this song and being like, “What is this?”

Rebecca: Growing up on an island in the 90s, when our ability to ingest different types of music were on MTV, watching music videos and stuff, I was always craving figuring out and finding new music and Raven Radio was a huge influence. It’s how I discovered The Pixies and the Violent Femmes and all of these bands. It was truly an exploration of music for me at that age.

Emily: You know it’s not common in most communities to host your own radio show. I’ve never lived in a place where everyone and their neighbor can just have the chance to have their own radio show with such ease. What does it give a person over time?

Before returning to Raven Radio, Rebecca worked in commercial photography. Employing her design eye, she’s made the logos for nearly all of Raven Radio’s original programs.

Rebecca: I just it’s that connection to the community. But it’s also a creative outlet in that unique way that people don’t have access to a lot. When I was in high school, I absolutely lived for making mixtapes for people or getting mixtapes for friends. It was an expression of where I was in my life, something that I was feeling, or something that had impacted  me in some way. Music is so universal. I don’t know how many times I’ve been stuck in my car listening to songs or stories on the news – just not being able to exit the vehicle because you’re having that moment where you can’t turn it off. So that’s a really cool thing to be able to share with people you don’t know. It’s like the ultimate mixtape for the community.

Emily: And you are the ultimate mixtape overlord! We in local news are responsible for 20 minutes of programming a day. You are responsible for the remaining 23 hours and 40 minutes – which is incredible! You coordinate across all 50 volunteers the station as, you train new volunteers, bring in new programs, facilitate existing programs – Sitka History Minute, the Garden Show, the Library Show – you solve technical issues at all hours of the night. Thinking back across the five years, what aspect of your job do you love the most? What are you most going to miss?

Rebecca: So there’s been a lot of opportunities for me to do a lot of different things in this job, which is awesome. But I still think the thing that makes me the most proud and the most excited in this position is getting to introduce people to doing radio. Getting to train new volunteers and sit with them in their first flights and support them in those ways and craft radio and figure out how they’re going to create a gift to the community. It seems like a simple thing when there are all these other things that I do, but that is so fulfilling to me.

Emily: You’ve trained hundreds of volunteers in this five year stretch. What is the emotional arc you see when people sit down in front of the mic for the first time?

Rebecca: I’ve seen everything from people trying to maintain composure and turning off the mic and looking at me with horror like, “I have no idea what I just said!” To people waltzing and feeling like they were made to be there. And there’s no right to wrong way. Equally those two people on either end of the spectrum can end up being incredible programmers. You do get feedback from your audience. People call all the time and tell you what they like. That’s wonderful. So if you’re listening and you hear something on the radio you like, please don’t feel hesitant to call the station (747-5878) and let that programmer know you’re digging their music. Because there is nothing more rewarding than that person to know that someone’s listening and that they’re reaching you.

Emily: There is another aspect to your job that people may not know about which is not audio – it’s visual! You went to school for graphic design and do freelance graphic design work on the side. Everything from our website design to the images for our pledge drive to the new logo for the Library Show is being cooked up on your computer. You’re kind of the visual voice for Raven Radio as well.

Rebecca: Yeah, I’ve gotten to make everything from “Support” buttons for the front page of our website to posters for the Solstice Cruise or Stardust Ball. It’s nice getting to do a passion as the side part of the job you’re already getting paid for. There’s a lot less pressure to be honest! Having total freedom to be able to make whatever I wanted, thankfully people have liked it. I’m sure if there were major problems people would have let me know about it.

Emily: Nah, we like your aesthetic. When you created that Frankenstein, with the afro for the Stardust Ball two years ago, I remember I made it my phone background for awhile.

Rebecca: You did?

Emily: I thought it was really cool.

Rebecca Danon – KCAW Designs

Emily: What is your favorite memory of working here?

Rebecca: I think there have been many times where I’ve marveled at the fact that this is my job, specifically for any number of bizarre reasons. There’s memories for example…at Stardust. Here we are. Ken Fate is dressed like Brad Majors from the end of Rocky Horror Picture Show. And we’re having some technical thing. He’s standing there in fishnet stockings and we’re talking about business and he’s like, “Come with me,” and we run around the outside of the Centennial Building. Here I am chasing my boss dressed in this costume. I think I was dressed as Mary Poppins this year. And I thought, “I’m at work right now. This is my job.” There is such a sense of humor here amongst the staff.

Emily: It’s true. We yuck it up quite a bit.

Rebecca: We do. We humor ourselves. We find ourselves quite amusing.

Emily: When you think about being a mom, do you think about that new role? Because you’re stepping away from this job and you’re not going to a new job – your new job is to be someone’s mom.

Rebecca and her husband, Joe, are expecting a baby boy in May. They snuck in a trip to Hawaii before the big move to Spokane.

Rebecca: It’s crazy actually, I think. I have to give mad props to people who do the parenting thing, which is a lot of people on the planet. It’s going to be an exciting new challenge. I’ve been challenged so many different ways in this position. I’m excited for a whole new set of challenges. It’s going to be something I don’t fully know because I don’t know who this person is. We’re going to meet him. He’s going to let us know what kind of relationship we’re going to have and what he’s going to think is funny or important or stupid or whatever. It’s going to be fun to get to find out who I am as a mom through him. But I can’t know too much about it yet. It’s been very mysterious. I can imagine. But until I know who he is for sure, I don’t know what kind of mom he’ll need me to be. It’s going to be fun to find out.

Emily: Well I’m sure once you’re at the threshold, you will do as you’ve always done, which is pull it off with enormous grace and humor and individuality. We are going to miss you so much here. It’s unfathomable – Raven Radio without you – because you are a part of pretty much every facet of programming in one way or another.

Rebecca: I’ll be in touch. I’m just going to be excited to come back and volunteer again as a regular host DJ. Come and fill in when I’m in town. This far from the last time you’ll ever hear from me. Just try to keep me away.

Raven Radio’s interim program director is another outstanding former volunteer – Max Kritzer. Raven Radio will hire a new program director sometime in late spring or summer. To contact Max, e-mail programdirector@kcaw.org.