Music Spreading the word

UIW's new Internet radio station launches without limits

"Sam & Sam in the Morning" co-hosts Samantha Duncan (right) and Samantha Najera get the morning going with lively discussions and music on KUIW internet radio. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Standing face to face in a small radio webcasting studio on the grounds of the University of the Incarnate Word, Samantha Najera and Samantha Duncan engage in whimsical banter between songs. Najera and Duncan, both communication arts majors, co-host a Top 40 show called "Sam & Sam in the Morning" on KUIW The Word, UIW's new student-run radio station, which circulates through online airwaves five days a week.

After U2's single "Vertigo" comes to an end, Duncan, a Laredo native, argues that not enough young Latinos in San Antonio speak Spanish. Najera, who admits that she falls into this category, attempts to pronounce a few Spanish words before Duncan stops her for a public-service announcement. Once the PSA is completed, Duncan begins to show off her multilingual talents by speaking to her online radio listeners in French, then in gruff German.

"It sounds like you're trying to hawk a loogie," Najera retorts right before the Chemical Brothers interrupt with "The Test."

For Duncan, a junior and the station's operations manager, who hopes to one day own her own radio station, the show is all about having a good time while pleasing their audience. For Najera, a sophomore and the station's programming director, the show is a stepping stone for a future in the broadcasting field.

"Instead of just playing the music, we get to talk, hang out, and just have fun," Duncan says.

KUIW, which began its online operation on March 23, has its signal uploaded online by, the self-proclaimed "world's largest Internet radio network." For a discount rate, according to Hank McDonnell, general manager of the radio station and chair of the communication arts department at the private university, The Word launches everything from rock 'n' roll to hip-hop to gospel to jazz across the world without commercial interruption or involvement from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He adds that this could not have been done seven years ago when, as an adjunct professor, he first pitched the idea of a UIW radio station.

"This is what we have been waiting for," McDonnell says. "Technology has really evolved over the past 10 years. If we tried to do this back then it would have been costly. Now we are utilizing what we have. I feel like all the students are doing a really good job."

Receiving a Title V grant as a Hispanic-serving institution, KUIW has been funded through the year 2009. The new station, which is run by 29 students enrolled in the course Radio Practicum and volunteers, joins other college and university broadcasts in the city, including San Antonio College's KSYM 90.1 FM and Trinity University's KRTU 91.7 FM. Although only available online, having a station to call their own has participating UIW students excited.

"We didn't have anything," Najera says. "Now we have something where we can at least say, 'Hey!'"

As the noon hour sneaks up on Duncan and Najera, both say farewell to their listeners for the day as senior Jessica Vela peeks into the room awaiting her turn to jump online. Vela, a sociology major, follows "Sam & Sam" with her streaming jazz and blues show "This Side of Normal." Although not a communication arts major like most of the DJs, Vela looks comfortable with the medium, as she sits with mouse in hand and launches everything from jazz pianist Herbie Hancock to blues singer John Lee Hooker.

"Here I get to listen to my music and learn something new," Vela says. "It's an opportunity to have fun and ignore the fact that I am in school. This is really a good place for me to procrastinate some more."

Not as vocal as other DJs, Vela said she is satisfied with her soothing format and would much rather let the music speak for itself than talk into a mic. "I didn't get a radio show to put my opinion on the air," she says. "Just my taste in music."

An avid listener, and now webscaster, she hasn't yet become a serious musician, though she occasionally "tinkers with" a drum set at home. A future Art Blakey? Maybe not. But it is definitely apparent that Vela is a jazz and blues enthusiast, which makes her duties as a DJ much easier. Stating that she likes Miles Davis but prefers the energy of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Vela says her allotted six hours a week online allow her to simulate the experience of visiting her favorite cafés around the city, such as Carmen's De La Calle or Luna Blue. "I like to go where I can have a glass of wine and listen to jazz," she says. "It's much better than a smoky bar."

KUIW's listeners would probably add that this modest station's emphasis on music programmed by dedicated fans of their chosen genre makes it much better than the smoke and mirrors of commercial radio.

By Kiko Martinez

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