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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Tara Hathaway caught lightning in a bottle. Twice.

The first time was five years ago when the Keizerite and KMUZ (100.7 and 88.5 FM) community radio deejay picked up an accordion for the first time.

“That came from an overwhelming feeling of needing music in my life,” Hathaway said. “Out of nowhere it was a little guiding voice saying, ‘Tara play the accordion.’”

Once she had the instrument in hand she had to figure out how to play it. Helped along by an innate ability to play by ear, she hit YouTube and began playing along. About a year later, she saw a Craigslist ad asking for volunteers to talk with potential KMUZ listeners and donors.

She began volunteering, but was soon asked by one of the KMUZ board members to go through the deejay training. After declining several times, she gave in and went.

“All these people were coming in and talking about who they were and exactly what type of program they were going to be doing. It was interesting, but I didn’t want to be a deejay,” she said.

She was on her way out of the building when lightning struck again.

“I was going down the hall and the voice returned. Everything, the name More Accordion, the type of show and the concept all just came to me,” Hathaway said.

The first episode of More Accordion, which features music for and including the accordion aired Dec. 30, 2011, and is still going. It airs every Wednesday at 2 p.m.

The show features accordion music from around the world as well as a healthy sampling of cover songs. A cover of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell performed on accordion elicited one of Hathaway’s favorite listener responses.

Tara Hathaway in the studio. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Tara Hathaway in the studio. (Submitted photo)

“Apparently, some guys working at an auto shop were listening and one of them stopped work to look up the station’s number after it played just to leave a message telling me how hard they were rocking out when that song came on,” Hathaway said.

Hathaway is one of a handful of Keizerites producing shows for KMUZ that run the gamut from quirky to traditional and help fill the airwaves with uniquely mid-Willamette Valley voices.

Keizerite Beth Nevue co-hosts the Celtic Music Hour alongside Ann McBride and was another deejay who had no expectation of ending up on air. She belongs to a group called Ceili of the Valley, which celebrates Irish culture and heritage. Early on in KMUZ’s development the president of the group signed up for an hour exploring Irish music and culture.

“Then I was asked to sit in on a meeting and the next thing I knew they were training deejays,” Nevue said.

Celtic Music Hour airs Fridays at 7 p.m.

At first the idea of operating the mixing board, which controls sound levels and a rack of CD’s among other components, was foreign.

“Now, if a problem happens, we know how to deal with it fairly well. They taught us how to engineer our own program,” Nevue said.

She and McBride start planning each show by selecting a theme and then diving into their respective music collections looking for the music that will play during the hour.

“One time we were able do an entire program on one family. They started out revitalizing traditional music then there were all these offshoot groups. You can only play so many songs from one CD, but we were able to trace this family through all the different groups,” Nevue said.

Next, they get together to discuss their findings and hammer out a script or figure out their questions if they are having a guest.

“The whole process might take 10 to 15 hours between the two of us for one hour of radio,” Nevue said.

Throughout the hour, Nevue and McBride also try to provide information about the artists they feature or the region where they are from. In June, the pair trekked up to Beaverton to attend Gymanfa Ganu, a Welsh hymn-singing festival, at Bryn Seion Welsh Church, the last active Welsh church on the Pacific Coast, and recorded parts of their show on site.

Nevue said there are still moments when she and McBride wonder if anyone is listening when their show airs, but “we look at each other and say it doesn’t matter because we get so much enjoyment out of it.”

For Mick Hickman, who produces and hosts the show Northwest Notes, wondering who was going to be listening got the better of him before he sat down at the mic the first time.

“It was terrifying. The first day I was on there by myself, I was stooped over the garbage can in the alley before the show because I was so nervous,” Hickman said. “I’m a musician and I was okay with the sound boards, but it was the terror of public speaking. It turned out okay, though, and now it’s a breeze.”

Northwest Notes features music by artists from the Pacific Northwest in as many genres as Hickman can cobble together in the two-hour program that airs Sundays at 4 p.m.

From the outset, Hickman wanted to be talking with regional musicians and it’s one part that’s gotten easier.

“It was really a matter of going to shows and that was something I already did. It’s easier now because some of them have even heard the show and are asking if they can come on,” Hickman said.

Like Nevue, Hickman spends most of his time poring through his music collection for the songs he wants to play and then listening again to make sure that all the lyrics are Federal Communications Commission-friendly.

“I have a bit of a formula. I try to play every genre and I try to make sure I have something there from before the 1990s and then something brand new, something ultra local and somebody world famous,” Hickman said.

Some of his recent favorites emerging from the Salem area are the band Yaquina Bay and singer/songwriters Kylie Burbank and Natalie Laswell.

“The Northwest music scene has a great feel and its always has. If you go back and listen to The Kingsmen and The Sonics and Paul Revere and the Raiders it’s always had its own unique sound here and I wanted to make sure everyone can see the connection. If The Kingsmen and Sonics hadn’t happened, then Heart may not have happened and Blitzen Trapper may not have happened,” Hickman said. “It’s a progression and it’s all there if you know how it evolved. I enjoy letting people know their neighbors are making great music and they always have.”

The one thing Hathaway and Nevue and Hickman all agreed on was that KMUZ is a family, and the deejays draw as much upon each other as the listeners.

“Everyone there is there because they are passionate about what they are doing. We have a jazz and poetry show, a Russian rock show and everything in between,” Hickman said.

Other Keizerites involved in KMUZ are Pete Tosi, who produces Jazz and Stuff airing Wednesdays at 5 p.m., and Stella Schaffer, who edits The Forum, which airs Fridays at noon.