Subscribe for 17¢ / day

COOS BAY — The student-led Pirate Radio is bringing a new genre of music to the bay area. KMHS is transitioning its 1420 AM classic country station into the new 105.1 FM modern country.

“A lot of low-powered AM stations are struggling to get by,” said Drew Jones, Marshfield High School’s station manager for Pirate Radio and broadcast journalism instructor.

Because there are so many AM stations having a hard time staying in operation, the FCC issued a translating license to essentially rebroadcast onto the FM frequency.

Since getting the license to do just that, Pirate Radio received its construction permit last week allowing them to change the station’s format.

“Now we’re building up our music catalog,” Jones said. “We subscribe through a hit disc to get songs sent to us every week. For the last few years we’ve had country and current hits sent to us, but now we have to fill the gap between the mid-90’s to the 2010s, which is where we’re lacking.”

On Monday, the student management team for KMHS flipped through 2,000 to 3,000 songs. Those songs were sent to the station by request so they know what they are getting before buying.

“We’re making sure we pay for what we need instead of pay for something we will mostly not use,” Jones said. “Purchasing one of these catalogs costs $1,700, so less than $1 a song. That’s why we have to make sure it will be something we use.”

Money for the station comes from business sponsors, who pay for air time advertisements, making the radio self-sustained.

“The kids are pumped about this,” Jones said. “We’re going to be hitting both sides of what kids are listening to. Right now our country station is aimed at an older audience so it’s harder for the kids to sink their teeth into it, but with the new 105.1 and our 91.3 FM popular music station, we will have more student coverage and that’s just what we’re going for.”

All of the radio classes at Marshfield will have a hand in the new station’s establishment. Jones explained that right now there are just over 20 students per class, with five classes a day.

“It’s a great learning experience,” he said. “We start with our Radio 1, which is the introduction into the software and different spots we do, or anything that isn’t music being played.”

Radio 2 introduces students into the business aspect of the station, while Radio 3 adds on more responsibility and requires students to work on their voice and talent.

“Then we have the management team that decides which spot goes on air,” Jones said. “They create assignments for the rest of the kids. Once they hit that level, then they are running it. I supervise and try to give as much responsibility to them because that’s the best way to learn.”

Oddly enough, very few of the radio students plan on entering broadcast journalism. Because of this, Jones gears the course mainly to teach basic job skills.

“They do this to have fun and get experience for how to be in the workplace at least one hour a day,” he said.

The new modern county 105.1 FM station won’t air until late February or early March.

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.