While most stations can be tuned in on a Key Peninsula radio dial, there’s one that can be found a little closer: 89.9 FM KGHP, broadcasting from the Peninsula High School campus to Gig Harbor and the Key Peninsula.
Four former World War II communications officers founded KGHP about 30 years ago. The station was established at the school to provide emergency information to the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula areas and give students experience with broadcasting.
“I think we give people a reason to tune in because it’s an experience,” said station manager Spencer Abersold. That KGHP experience includes interviews with local figures, on-air personalities and live coverage of high school sporting events by high school students.
But it’s mostly about the music.
KGHP’s library is made up of four terabytes that span half a century of popular music. A day’s programming could survey classic rock, reggae, jazz, ‘90s hip-hop, movie soundtracks and indie rock.
This eclectic music library wasn’t easy to construct; in the early days of the station, each individual DJ brought in CDs or tapes to play from their private collections. As digital music storage became available, Abersold began adding to the station’s song bank by “ripping” (copying) music from his own CDs.
“I went to my DJs and said, ‘Why don’t we rip your collections, too? We’ll create a library,” Abersold said. “Now I’m just going through all that music file by file and listening to it song by song. If it gets my feet tapping, it goes in the mix.”
KGHP pays fees to music licensing companies to ensure they can broadcast their collected music legally.
Costs are sometimes reduced by the station’s nonprofit status and a mostly volunteer staff runs it, but operating a radio station isn’t cheap. “When I started, it was right about the start of the recession,” Abersold said. “The school district was thinking to themselves, ‘We can’t keep this station on the air; we need public funding.’
“We rallied, we did a Guinness World Record attempt, did a bunch of fundraising, and were able to come up with the money to basically replace the entire radio station, down to the paint and the carpet, and get all this brand-new equipment,” Abersold said.
The fundraising involved Abersold attempting to stay at the console for 200 hours—nine days—to beat the existing continuous broadcasting record of 187 hours.
“I didn't lose my voice, but I did go crazy,” he said.
(The current record was set by a DJ in the Netherlands who broadcast for 198 hours straight in 2014, according to Guinness World Records.)
The station is kept running by a group of volunteer DJs, many of whom are current PHS students. “We have student DJs after school from 2 to 5 p.m.,” Abersold said. Initiative is one of the main qualities he looks for in student DJs. “I like when people come to me and say, ‘I really want this. I have an idea for a show.’ It shows passion, and you need passion because sitting here doing this is a lonely thing.”
KGHP also has a number of nonstudent program hosts. Some are music-focused, like Mike Kelly’s Wednesday night reggae show, which has been running on KGHP for over 18 years. Others, like the interview-based K&A’s Harborchat, examine local culture and events.
“I think the most important thing is I’d like to thank all of our sponsors and supporters and the listening audience for tuning in,” Abersold said. “I’m grateful that they enjoy and are appreciating what we’re doing, because they’re the reason that we’re doing it.”
KGHP can be heard on the FM dial at 89.3, 89.9 and 105.7, depending on the listener’s location. Broadcasts can also be streamed at 0n TuneIn.
For more information, go to kghp.org.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS