KCSN Arts ‘ Roots Radio’s unique format earned the station a feature in the August 2006 edition of Los Angeles Magazine as the Best University-Sponsored Radio Station in Los Angeles. The Best-of-L.A. series chronicled the most notable of the city, and this year, the recognition fell upon CSUN’s own radio station.
“We’re just shocked and it’s so wonderful,” said Martin Perlich, KCSN’s program director.
Perlich’s specialty is classical music and he hosts a four-hour segment which features the kind of music that goes beyond the typical Mozart and Beethoven compositions. “We play music that dates as far back as 500 B.C. to the Middle Ages, even though the term ‘classical music’ started being used to describe this kind of music only about 200 years ago,” Perlich said.
As often as possible, Perlich hosts an Arts ‘ Roots forum which features live performances as well as interviews. One such display of KCSN’s unorthodox format took place on Sept. 15 and featured a group of three Russian musicians known as Trio Voronezh. The Trio filled the studio with their traditional Russian folk music, brought to life by unusual instruments like the domra, bajan and the double bass balalaika.
“We are all about providing something that an audience wouldn’t get anywhere else,” Perlich said.
According to Fred Johnson, general manager at KCSN, the station’s main competitors are KUSC and KMZRT, both of which use classical formats.
“We take an adventurous and fearless approach to classical music,” Johnson said.
The station airs classical music five days a week, Monday through Friday, for 12 straight hours, featuring a wide range of classical artists which comprise the “Arts” format.
The “Roots” element features bluegrass, country, rock and roll, and folk, as well as tunes from films and Broadway musicals. It is this combination of music that Los Angeles Magazine describes as the “sounds of America singing.”
“We present a very unique and hybrid format. It takes the discerning listener to truly appreciate it,” Johnson said.
KCSN traces its beginning back to November 1963, when CSUN was San Fernando Valley State College and the station was known as KEDC. The station then operated on 10 watts of energy and ran off pre-recorded class lectures for four hours.
“Today, the station features syndicated opera and philharmonic concerts so the station has truly morphed through the years,” Johnson said.
KCSN has not only adapted its format to the changing times, but has also allowed for the evolution of the careers of those who brought about the very music and programs. Meishel Menachekanian started as a volunteer, answering phone calls in order to earn extra credit for one of his classes, and is now the production director. After completing three volunteer drives, Menachekanian got involved doing data entry with student shows that aired alternative rock music. He was eventually hired as an actual staff member, lending himself to board operating, playing music, and announcements, all the while learning practical knowledge. “Throughout my experience I really learned a lot of things, like how to talk on the radio and do crossfades between songs,” he said.
He now hosts a program called “Galactic Voyager,” which features new age music. The program is often a forum for musicians to display their work.
“There aren’t many places for musicians to showcase their talent and we do our best to fill the void between music that is mainstream, and the music that is a bit different,” Menachekanian said.