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KUSP Veteran Bonnie Jean Primbsch Hired as Interim General Manger

KUSP's new interim general manager, Bonnie Jaan Primbsch. Photo: Chip /Good Times

KUSP’s new interim general manager, Bonnie Jaan Primbsch. Photo: Chip Scheuer /Good Times

 SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – Mar. 3, 2016 – Independent Public Radio KUSP 88.9 fm today announced that local public radio veteran Bonnie Jean Primbsch has joined KUSP as Interim General Manager. Ms. Primbsch succeeds Lee Ferraro, who led the recent format change from predominantly news and information to music-centered programming.

Ms. Primbsch has been a KUSP host and volunteer for more than 15 years. Her long and successful history with the Greater Monterey Bay Area community radio station includes notable achievements as public affairs producer/director, host of more than a dozen shows, and on-air spokesperson during membership drives.

Ms. Primbsch takes the helm four months after the station’s transformation to a music discovery format, a move intended to offer more choice to public radio listeners in the Greater Monterey Bay Area. Music discovery has proven popular and successful in other markets across the country and complements KAZU, an NPR member station owned by California State University, Monterey Bay.

discover-full-800“We are excited that Bonnie Jean has chosen to lead KUSP at this particular moment in its long and storied history,” said Board President Kelly O’Brien. “KUSP has an opportunity to reinvent itself and we believe Bonnie Jean has the skills to foster creativity and collaboration within the internal team and with the community at large.”

Ms. Primbsch’s principal duties are to continue the momentum of the music discovery format and fine-tune its appeal; strengthen the ability of the station to bring in revenue from members, sponsors, and major donors; reinvigorate KUSP’s presence in community; and lead professional staff and volunteers in meeting the challenges and opportunities of the changes that began last September under the strategic direction of the Board of Directors.

“I am keen to help us discover how KUSP can serve in a way that reflects who we are now and that reflects the area’s collective sense of place,” Ms. Primbsch said. “It is a new lease on life for an organization that I have loved for over 20 years, and I join the upwelling of excitement from new and veteran ‘Pataphysicians and listeners who want it to thrive.”

Ms. Primbsch arrives at KUSP in time to preside over its Spring Membership Drive, which begins March 9. This will be the first full-length membership drive since the format change and follows a successful two-day, on-air “mini campaign” held at the end of last year which indicated strong listener support for the new music format.

Woody Guthrie’s Racial Views



The new book Woody Guthrie L.A. 1937-1941 includes an essay that revisits Guthrie’s racial views. When he was Growing up, Guthrie’s family was closely associated with the Democratic Party in Oklahoma at a time when the Democrats were closely associated with the KKK. The essay argues Guthrie developed his sense of racial justice during his years in Los Angeles.

(Listen to part one of this Monterey Bay Stories.)

Listen to Woody Guthrie in a 1940 show with Leadbelly:

L.A. Changed Guthrie and Guthrie Changed L.A.



A new book makes the firm argument that Woody Guthrie’s development into a political folk singer and indeed the connection between folk singing and politics began well before Guthrie settled in New York. The collection of essays focuses on Guthrie’s artistic development in Los Angeles in the years prior to World War Two.

(Listen to part two of this Monterey Bay Stories)



Listen to Woody Guthrie in a 1940 show with Leadbelly:

Screening: The Education of Auma Obama


Branwen_FINAL_lowBy David H. Anthony | KUSP -

Event info

On the second week of February, Santa Cruz shall be afforded a rare opportunity. On Wednesday February 10, Nigerian born Branwen Okpako will be present at a free public screening her widely acclaimed 2013 film, The Education of Auma Obama, about the Kenyan half sister of Barack Obama, at the Landmark Nickelodeon Theater, at 7:30 p.m. Director Okpako will be fielding questions following the screening.

The following day Thursday February 11 Okpako will be screening her 2000 TV documentary Dreckfresser, Dirt for Dinner at 10 am in Coll 8 240 for my History 30, The Making of Modern Africa. Dirt for Dinner is a 2000 about Sam Njankuo Meffire, son of a Cameroonian exchange student in East Germany and a German mother.

Both The Education of Auma Obama and Dirt for Dinner treat the subject of African emigration to Europe in general and Germany in particular. Branwen Okpako, herself of mixed heritage, is the daughter of a Nigerian father and a Welsh mother. After college in Wales and Bristol in the UK Okpako studied film in the German Film and Television Academy and lived in Germany before relocating to the US. Okpako currently teaches at Hampshire College.

At 6pm Okpako will be discussing her work and showing excerpts of her films for the Living Writers Series in Humanities Lecture Hall on the UCSC campus.

Few topics are of greater concern than immigration and Branwen Okpako has devoted years to the subject, not only intellectually, but as one who has lived in the space between Africa and Europe. Since embarking on her film career she has dedicated the majority of her artistic and family time to elucidating stories of Afro-Germans. Moreover, she is herself the mother of Afro-German children.

These details give a level of depth to the immigration debate that leaves viewers profoundly moved. Having seen both Dirt for Dinner and The Education of Auma Obama, I eagerly urge you to be present to witness the craft of this gifted cineaste.


Album Review: ‘Black Star’ by David Bowie – Goodbye From the Spaceman


bowieOn Friday, January 9th, the day of his 69th birthday, David Bowie released his acclaimed new album Black Star.  I listened to it several times that day and well into Saturday trying to figure what exactly he’s singing about on this densely layered and intense record.  On Sunday, Bowie died.  By Monday the lyrics had a completely new meaning and suddenly much more became clear.

Haunting  track

The haunting and much talked about track “Lazarus”, which is also the title of Bowie’s new musical adaption of his 1976 movie “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, contains these words “looking down from heaven. Now everybody knows me”.  The eerie companion video shows Bowie wearing a rag mask with buttons for eyes, singing from a bed as his body tries to resist levitating upwards and downwards. No explanation needed.

“Black Star” is ten minute opening title track dramatizing three somewhat obtuse song plots stitched together as one bewildering tale. It seems to involve the death of a mysterious leader and the black star that takes his place. When he finishes, Bowie takes a recorded deep breath and launches into “It’s a Pity She’s a Whore” that will forever be known for this choice Bowie-ism: “She punched me like a dude”.

New band and new direction

For Black Star, Bowie jettisoned the usual cohorts he’s worked forever in favor of a group of NYC up and coming young jazz musicians. An alien saxophonist himself, Bowie has formed a sort of cosmic jazz band where horns dominate over guitar. It’s an entirely new musical direction impeccably guided by longtime Bowie producer Tony Visconti. Former Santa Cruzian Donny McCaslin supplies outstanding sax and flute. He’s an absolute killer throughout the album right down to the final touching track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” punctuated with a  tasteful solo as Bowie takes his final bow.

Black Star is an album that it may take many spins to fully comprehend its fascinating lyrical complexity. It’s one last journey through familiar Bowie themes that ponder life and death, anxiety-alienation, space and time, and of course, an infatuation with the cosmos.  David Bowie’s Black Star is an eloquent goodbye from this visionary Star Man.  - Eric Berg


KUSP Succeeds at First Membership Drive Since Format Change

Independent public radio station exceeds “mini-drive” challenge by 25%, secures Community Foundation Santa Cruz County Challenge Grant.

KUSP's new 2016  logo

KUSP’s new 2016 logo

The success of a two-day, on-air “mini campaign” indicates strong listener support for the new music format adopted by independent public radio station KUSP 88.9 fm.

The December 30–31, 2015 membership campaign was the first on-air pledge drive since the station switched from predominantly news and information to a music-centered format on November 1, 2015. Listeners from throughout the Monterey Bay region and from outside the area – who listen online at kusp.org – made financial contributions.

Read a related January 9th article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

“The team had a lot invested in this membership drive,” said Interim General Manager Lee Ferraro. “It was important to see how the community would respond after listening to the new format for two months. The results indicate a healthy level of interest in what’s being broadcast on 88.9 fm and a willingness on the part of the community to support KUSP’s music format.”


Dearly Departed: Allen Toussaint -The Big Easy’s Prolific Songwriter (1938-2015)


ToussaintBy Eric Berg | KUSP’s BergAlert -

The great Allen Tousaint, the New Orleans pianist, prolific songwriter and record producer, unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack last week after a performance in Spain. He was 77.

What?  You’ve never heard of him? Believe me, you’ve heard his songs.

Prolific songwriter

How ‘bout Robert Plant and Alison Kraus’s version of “Fortune Teller” from their Raising Sand  album? The song was penned by Toussaint  in 1962 and became a hit for Benny Spellman and later the Rolling Stones.

Toussaint wrote “Southern Nights” that was Glen Campbell’s very first no.1 hit single. And how ‘bout Al Hirt’s “Java”, Boz Scaggs’ and Bonnie Raitt’s  “What do You want the Girl to Do”, “Mother In Law” for Ernie K Doe, Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade”, “Ride Your Pony” for Lee Dorsey. Devo’s “Working in a Coal Mine” – originally another early hit for Dorsey. And don’t forget Dr. John’s  Toussaint produced album, “Right Place, Wrong Time”.  All this is a mere drop in Toussaint’s royalties bucket with all the other songs he’s written.

Kelly O’Brien: KUSP Listened, Now Needs You to Do Same

By Kelly O’Brien, President of the KUSP Board of Directors.

(This piece was also published in the opinion section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 4, 2015.)

Support by community leaders, listeners, volunteers and the general public make this fact irrefutable: KUSP 88.9 FM is a highly valued public service for the greater Monterey Bay Area. It is also clear that programing changes are necessary in order for it to remain an independent community resource. Through in-depth discussions, we’ve learned that KUSP must change in order to create a new and dynamic community media outlet.

The board of directors has adopted the recommendation of its well-respected consultant, Public Media Co., which is that KUSP must end the redundancy of news/information programming with KAZU in order to best serve the region. We believe this decision sets the stage for the existence of two compelling and complementary public radio services that deliver greater choice and greater variety to current and prospective listeners.

Conversations with the Late Alan Cheuse

Author and literary scholar, Alan Cheuse. Photo: Peter Hedlund / flickr http://bit.ly/1Keg0Cx
Author and literary scholar, Alan Cheuse. Photo: Photo: Peter Hedlund-flickr-http://bit.ly/1Keg0Cx

Author and critic Alan Cheuse died last week at age 75. He regularly participated in interviews with KUSP Rick Kleffel. On this week’s Agony Column Literary Magazine show, listen back to a selection Cheuse’s insightful interviews.

Kelly O’Brien and Terry Green: Time is Now to Plan KUSP’s Future

This piece also appeared  in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Sunday, May 31, 2015.

Meeting in Monterey, May 21, 2015.

Meeting in Monterey, May 21, 2015.

By Kelly O’Brien and Terry Green

Public radio depends on public support — and public participation. In the next few weeks, you will have an exceptional opportunity to shape the future of public radio in the Monterey Bay area.

Only one of the public radio stations in this region is owned by a local nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to serving the community through public media: 88.9 KUSP. And KUSP faces some critical decisions about what that public service will look like in the months and years ahead.

KUSP’s audience size is at its highest level ever, and with a month to go in our current fiscal year we have already broken our all-time record for donations from listeners (which make up about 55% of our overall budget). But these successes can’t mask some uncomfortable truths about what’s happening to the economics of local media in smaller communities like ours.

Competition for listeners’ ears has never been greater — from other AM/FM radio, from podcasts, from satellite radio and from online services like Pandora. Our business supporters have an ever-growing range of options for their marketing dollars. Government support for public broadcasting is stretched thinner every year.

Despite this financial stress, KUSP has continuously searched for ways to bring you better public radio. For many years we have advocated for collaboration among public stations that would improve the service you get by reducing duplication of programming by stations and gaining efficiency through economies of scale. Unfortunately, our efforts at bringing stations together have not been successful, and the time has come to look at a wider range of possible strategies for KUSP.

When we began looking beyond Central California for prospective collaborators, we heard from some unexpected places, including the parent organization of classical stations KDFC in San Francisco and KUSC in Los Angeles. They were interested in seeing if, by working with us, there would be ways to include Monterey Bay area listeners in what they do.

Their interest prompted us to think about whether there might be ways KUSP could meet its mission through approaches we had not seriously considered before. Our Board of Directors, made up of 13 community members from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, believed we should begin by asking our employees and volunteers whether the kind of idea floated by KDFC and KUSC was too “out of the box” for us to consider, or whether we should begin a serious exploration of what might be possible. While 81% of the group supported opening the discussion, there are voices in the community strongly opposed, and we recognize that broaching the idea at all has hit a nerve.

The start of the wider discussion has brought forth a number of interesting ideas for KUSP — some that involve bigger partners in one way or another, and some that the station would do on its own. As we bring these ideas into focus, we want to know what you think. Public meetings to discuss the ideas brought to us so far are going on now; a Santa Cruz County meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 2, at the Jack & Peggy Baskin Center for Philanthropy – Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, in Aptos. To learn more about current ideas and to review answers to frequently asked questions, please engage with KUSP at kusp.org/participate.

The time to plan the future is now, and we want your voice to be heard. Please join us.

Kelly O’Brien, KUSP President and Board Chair
Terry Green, KUSP General Manager