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Sitka's Raven Radio unites diverse music, DJs

November 12, 2010|by Rebecca Palsha

SITKA, Alaska — Jazz, rock, blues: whatever you can think of, it's played at Raven Radio in Sitka. But the small-town station’s true secret might be its unusual disc jockeys.

When you touch down in Sitka, the first thing you notice is that it's beautiful -- but don't just look with your eyes, listen with your ears.

Public radio station KCAW’s music can best be described as an off-beat musical collection that varies wildly depending on what time and day you tune in. On one morning, the Raven Radio mic belongs to “The Good Day Show” host Susan Stanford.

“The truth of it is, it's scary, and I think it’s important especially when you get to be a senior to do something scary -- and it keeps your mind going,” Stanford said on her show.

Stanford is a volunteer, just like all of Raven Radio’s other on-air talent, with musical tastes as vast as the station’s collection.

“I usually play light rock and roll, folk, Irish, and then I kind of fiddle in with some of the others,” Stanford said.

How many discs, tapes and records does Raven have on hand? Nobody knows.

“Wow, no, tens of thousands,” Stanford said. “I mean, the LP's alone are like, no -- I can't even guess.”

Raven Radio is a community station with local DJs and award-winning reporting staff. And there’s also the small-town touches, like the Muskeg Messages.

“You can get announcements to people that way, so we'll have, like, ‘Hey Tom, call your mom,’” Stanford said. “Or the last couple days, there's been one about a little boy who lost a doll, and he's clearly really upset about it, so you can put a Muskeg Message that says, ‘Keep an eye out for this doll.’”

Every show has its own rhythm; just ask “Pass the Ketchup, Please” host Suzan Brawnlyn. For about an hour, Brawnlyn plays a perfect melody of music and food.

“I discovered there were lots of food items named after famous composers and artists and ballerinas, so I thought, ‘How fun,’” Brawnlyn said. “I would share the recipe, kind of cook it on the air, and then share info about the artist’s life or the composer’s life, and then play some of the music as well.”

Like everyone else at Raven, she does massive amounts of research for her show.
“There are times I go, ‘Why am I doing this?’ And then I have a really great show and I go, ‘That's why I'm doing it,’” Brawnlyn said.

Contact Rebecca Palsha at

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