With ringing telephones in the background, excited volunteers urged listeners to support Hawaii Public Radio by becoming paying members. Twice-a-year radiothons provide 56 percent of the $4.3 million spent supporting a string of radio stations covering nearly all of the islands.
On Maui, Hawaii Public Radio is just one of six noncommercial broadcast operations, but it's the giant. Begun originally in Hawaii to provide the classical music ignored by all the other stations, HPR has become a major source of information and the sort of entertainment that was at the core of radio more than a half-century ago.
HPR's spring fund drive had a goal of raising $886,000. With $253,000 in hand from a core of staunch members, HPR set its sights on raising $633,000 in only eight days. Wednesday was the final day of the drive. The islands' nonprofits can only look on in amazement.
Under President and General Manager Michael Titterton, who was missing from most of the on-air fund drive due to apparently successful cancer surgery, HPR has built a string of stations - including three on Maui - offering two streams of programming. One features national programs and classical music; the other BBC, jazz, and local talk of the sort long since gone from the airwaves.
The proliferation of stations led to announcers reading off a string of call letters at least once an hour. It got a little cumbersome so it was decided to cut it all down to HPR 1 and HPR 2.
HPR 1 includes KHPR (88.1) on Oahu, KKUA (90.7) on Maui and KANO (91.1) on the Big Island. HPR 2 includes KIPO (89.3) on Oahu, the 1-year-old KIPM (89.7) in Waikapu and the more recent KIPH (88.3) in Hana.
The Maui stations came about with the support of listeners who had been tantalized by what was available in only a few spots on the island, mostly up on the slopes of Haleakala. The then Cameron family-owned Maui Publishing Co., the owner and operator of The Maui News, was the main pusher for KKUA in the form of Maizie Cameron Sanford, who was an avid classical music fan. KIPM was the result of Maui listeners who wanted the jazz and the talk programs on KIPO.
Getting KKUA mostly was a matter of money. When it went on the air, one writer of a letter to The Maui News blissed out. "It's wonderful. Bach on the beach and Mozart on the mountain," she wrote. KIPM was delayed for years by the Federal Communications Commission, which had decided not to issue new licenses.
It was an FCC decision to allow low-power stations on the air that led to the cre-ation of three other noncommercial stations on Maui - Mana'o (officially, KEAO-LP at 91.5), KOPO-LP (88.9) and KAKU-LP (88.5).
Mana'o was the creation of the late Barry Shannon and current Maui News columnist Kathy Collins. They wanted a station that reflected a range of music that went beyond the calculated programming of the commercial stations. By maxing out their credit cards, they built a station, originally in a back bedroom. It's been on the air for 10 years.
Mana'o's programming is eclectic. That means you might hear just about anything being played by the volunteer disc jockeys. Many of the announcers are professional musicians. All of them are enthusiasts. Supporting local live music has become a major part of the station's mission.
Rather than running fund drives, Mana'o relies on small-business contributions and live events - a once-a-year "Barryfest," and first-Sunday-of-the-month performances at Casanova in Makawao. There are sporadic other concerts at eateries. Cover charges go to the station, and the host gets the proceeds from the food and drink.
There's a move afoot to get Mana'o's power boosted to 1,000 watts, which would extend its coverage into areas of the island where it can be heard only on the Internet. Both HPR and Mana'o have avid fans around the world, thanks to the Internet.
Four other noncommercial stations on Maui tend to operate under the radar with listeners being recruited by listeners. KOPO-LP (88.9) is located in and supported by the Paia Youth Council's beachfront facility. Kids do the programming. Lots of contemporary Hawaiian music. KAKU-LP (88.5) is an offshoot of Akaku: Maui Community Television, which is financed by cable television fees. Lately, the music has been mostly country and western. KLUA-LP (97.3) and KUAU (AM 1570) are operated by the First Assembly of God church. Religious programming.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.