It has been a week since I announced in this space that Mana'o Radio would be taking a brief hiatus from broadcasting. Now it's time to drop the other shoe.
When my late husband, Barry Shannon, and I put our low-power FM station on the air 12 years ago, we really didn't expect it to last a couple of years, let alone a dozen. We certainly didn't anticipate moving the studio out of our spare bedroom, nor did we dream that we would eventually share our airtime with more than 50 volunteer DJs. Our original intent was simply to do the radio show we'd always wanted to do, without program directors admonishing us to stay within a strict music format, or sales managers filling up our logs with seemingly endless commercials.
We invited a handful of Maui radio veterans to join the fun: Bill Best, Scott Sherley, Michael McCartney, Kirk Hamilton, Nick Jackson, Daryl Scott. Mana'o Radio would be our refuge from the tyranny of corporate broadcasting, even for McCartney, who was - and still is - the only one of us who hadn't retired or been fired from the local commercial stations.
In our first week on the air, we all delighted in playing music previously forbidden to us as mainstream disc jockeys, minions in an industry that adhered to the LOP (Least Objectionable Programming) principle. A few, like Barry, had enjoyed the creative freedom allowed at progressive stations like the legendary KMPX in San Francisco, but Mana'o offered even more opportunity for expression. Twelve-minute album cuts and obscure musical gems were mixed with spoken word snippets of poetry and stand-up comedy. We broke all the rules of standard radio; no playlists, no prescribed format, no 30-second limit on talk between sets.
We didn't bother to advertise our debut. Building an audience didn't even enter our minds. To our astonishment, people not only discovered Mana'o Radio on their own; they embraced it. Barry and I were overwhelmed by the response from listeners and aspiring participants. Musicians, especially, wanted to join our crazy endeavor. Our personal playground became the property of many, and it was a welcome, if unexpected, change. We moved the studio into Wailuku town, though the transmitter and antenna remained at our house. I remember Captain Kirk telling me that he appreciated the new business location, but he missed my greeting him at the kitchen door in my bathrobe every morning before his 6 a.m. shift.
In its first two years, Mana'o Radio grew far beyond the little mom-and-pop station that Barry and I had envisioned. After our fifth anniversary, we agreed that we would spend the next five years taking it to the next level - full power and islandwide coverage - and then, even further. Barry had more dreams to pursue, including the completion of his third novel. He proposed that we retire after Mana'o's 10th anniversary. I didn't think he meant it, but I said OK.
He never got to pick up the pen again, nor did he live long enough to see the station graduate from its low-power designation. But he died with no regrets, fiercely proud of what we had accomplished. And he would have been prouder still, to see how our extended 'ohana rallied to keep Mana'o Radio alive over the past seven years.
Don Lopez carried on as sound and recording engineer and John Bruce took over broadcast engineering duties. Dorothy Betz continued to produce Upcountry Sundays Acoustic Style, our monthly benefit concert series at Casanova. Alan Sheps became a staunch supporter and key to our fundraising efforts. And for the past year and a half, Tony Novak-Clifford has steered the ship as our program director.
Thanks to them and many other volunteers and supporters, too numerous to name, Mana'o Radio has provided thousands of magical moments for our listeners, through presentations of live music, in-depth interviews, eclectic sets of music and more. Most remarkably, we have achieved full-power status, becoming KMNO-FM (91.7) last year.
Through it all, I've been the general manager and mommy, but my role has evolved, just as the station itself has. When it returns to the airwaves in a couple of months, I'll be on the other side of the microphone and monitors. The folks mentioned above will be running the show entirely.
It's time for me to let go of our baby. Past time, in fact, according to Barry's plan. Our child has come of age, and I am confident in its ability to soar without Mom and Pop. Only I'm the one leaving the nest. I do so with a great deal of pride and no regrets, knowing that Tony and the rest of the family will carry the Mana'o torch with the same passion Barry and I felt when we ignited it.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.