KMUZ 88.5 FM

This photo essay is part of “We Are the Change,” a series telling the stories of local causes. View all the “We Are the Change” essays.

It took several years of fundraising, applying for licenses, finding a site to place a 90-foot transmission tower, and locating volunteers to provide on-air programming. But thanks to the persistence and creative problem-solving of a group of people dedicated to telling the story of the Mid-Valley and the people living in it, KMUZ 88.5 FM went on the air in 2012 — and has not looked back since.

KMUZ is the first, and only, listener-supported community radio station operating in the Mid-Valley vicinity. The 100 percent volunteer-run station offers up independent, non-commercial and distinctively local programming. Its mission is to celebrate and connect communities through locally-produced talk shows, information, music and events.

“We are a mirror, reflecting back to the community its pulse and identity,” says Melanie Zermer, KMUZ board president. “We are not influenced or run by any corporate restrictions. This is radio by and for the mid-Willamette Valley, free of censorship.”

The station acquired its license in 2011 only after raising the $45,000 necessary to meet complicated FCC requirements and deadlines. Fundraising remains essential to keeping the station on the air — to meet monthly expenses and to help KMUZ obtain a translator to increase the radio frequency and reach many more listeners.

Despite its initial limited airwave frequency, KMUZ was voted by Statesman Journal readers as the Mid-Valley’s Best Radio Station in 2012 and 2013, its first two years on the air.

The station’s diverse program schedule covers a wide array of musical genres — from funk to punk to symphonic music to Russian rock — and blends in talk shows focusing on eclectic and diverse topics.

Learn about local news, the challenge of aging successfully and parenting children with special needs. Throw in Oregon history, gardening, human and pet health, a teen book club, a program for techies and philosophy, and you’ll find there’s something for everyone — and endless ways to get involved in telling our community’s story.

Contact KMUZ

Phone: 503-990-6091
Email: (general), (for volunteer inquiries)

Jennifer Carley, an original member of Salem Photo League, has shown and published her work in multiple venues. Formerly a labor and delivery nurse, she now works as a private practice psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner.

Diane Beals is a freelance photographer who has been published several times while transitioning from 12 years of owning a portrait studio into documenting people’s everyday lives through street photography.


Lead engineer Rick Quendun and Karen Holman, founder and current board member, outside the KMUZ 88.5 FM broadcasting station on Division Street, just north of downtown. Photo by Jennifer Carley.

Marc Nassar works the soundboard for Kris Rieck’s “Transgender 101” show. Photo by Jennifer Carley.

Keely Baca, anthropologist, is interviewed on “Transgender 101” by host Kris Rieck. Photo by Jennifer Carley.

The KMUZ tower, second from the right, is flanked on the left by Santiam 911 and Verizon towers and on the right by T-Mobile. Located on Wipper Hill in Turner — at the highest elevation in Marion County — the tower sits on land leased to the station by a local tree farmer. Photo by Diane Beals.

David Hammock, station manager, with the KMUZ transmitter on Wipper Hill. The transmitter is connected to the Emergency Broadcast System through Oregon Public Broadcasting and requires numerous pieces of equipment to make the appropriate connections. Photo by Jennifer Carley.

KMUZ board members wore leis to celebrate their 2015 budget on “New Fiscal Year Eve.” Front row, left to right: Ron Johnson, Bill Smaldone, Melanie Zermer (president), Verland Kelly (treasurer) and Deanne Bass (secretary) with Griffin, the studio corgi. Back row, left to right: Mark Fancey, Dave Hammock, Karen Holman and Coy Alexander. Photo by Diane Beals.

KMUZ board president Melanie Zermer (center) interviews a member of the Disabled Veterans of Oregon in a live broadcast from the Marion County Fair, while board secretary Deanne Bass (right) sends the broadcast to the radio transmitter via a cell phone. Photo by Diane Beals.

Melanie Zermer (left) watches as board member Ron Johnson (seated) interviews FFA students during a live broadcast from the Marion County Fair. Photo by Diane Beals.

Bob Howell, host for “The Real Thing,” works to boost KMUZ’s community presence by making a plug for the station at an outdoor concert series in Monmouth. Photo by Jennifer Carley.

“Northwest Notes” host Mick Hickman spins vinyl. His show features musicians from Oregon and Washington. Photo by Jennifer Carley.