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From the Magazine: Radio Free SLC

Timing is everything. Derek Dyer, executive director of Utah Arts Alliance, began the tedious process of obtaining a radio license on behalf of the nonprofit four years ago. There’s no way he could have known then that at the same time he was looking to book on-air talent, DJ “Bad Brad” Wheeler would be no longer employed by KRCL, the station that made his broadcast career.

So, Dyer called Wheeler. “I thought. ‘Wow that would be awesome,’ because everyone missed having him on the radio,” says Dyer. Wheeler says he was surprised by the phone call. “I had so many people coming up to me saying, ‘We miss you on the radio,’ ‘Life isn’t normal without you on the radio,’ ‘Can you get back on the radio?’ I knew I wanted to do something where I connected with those people but honestly I didn’t think anyone would offer me a radio job on the Wasatch Front—radio is so commercial and what I do is not commercial.”

After the two men spoke about the mission of the KUAA—including partnerships with Bilingue Radio Utah and University Neighborhood Parters—the radio veteran decided to give it a go at the new station.

As program director, part of Wheeler’s role is curating music to fit the world music-centered brand of KUAA—including many foreign language covers of English songs. “How do you get people to get people listen to music in another language?” Wheeler asks rhetorically. “Present it in a way that is familiar. That’s the only way. You listen to The Beatles in German and you may not be able to sing along but you know it’s ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ It’s incredible, it creates nostalgia in you but it’s not real. You know the song, the melody is running around in your head.”

It’s not just music Wheeler wants at KUAA. “We want people doing social justice issues, people doing cultural issues, people talking about art events and happenings. We’re talking about true community radio here.” 99.9 FM, or stream at utaharts.org/programs-and-events/kuaa-radio

Pie ’n’ Beer

Wheeler’s flagship fundraiser will continue this year as a fundraiser for KUAA—local breweries and bakers will join together for a literal Pie ‘n’ Beer Day celebration at Beer Bar on July 24. Visit utaharts.org for more information.

Christie Marcy :Christie Marcy is the managing editor at Salt Lake magazine. Though she writes about everything, she has a particular interest in arts and culture in Utah. In the summer months you will find her at any given outdoor concert on any given night. In the winter, you will find her wishing for summer. Follow her on social media at @whynotboth.