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KALW Still Coming of Age at 75

August 2, 2016

Through good times and bad, KALW has pinned its identity to the image of a scrappy little alternative FM station, the “local public radio” that could. In fact, the station has seen grown significantly in the last 15 years, and its resilience is marked by its 75th anniversary.

And so a party is in order. 

The station (91.7) will offer a concert this Thursday night, August 4, at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco, at 8 p.m. The Kronos Quartet will play along with Bruce Cockburn. For more information:

KALW is a National Public Radio affiliate and the oldest FM station west of the Mississippi. It was launched at the world’s fair on Treasure Island in 1939 by then owner General Electric, which donated the title to the San Francisco Unified School District in September 1941 — making KALW the first educational FM station on the West Coast.  The station’s transmitter is on Twin Peaks in San Francisco. 

“Our message is this,” says Matt Martin, the station’s general manager.This is a creative enterprise that’s done some important things in this community. People should pay attention. Not least because we’ve been a real advocate for local arts.”

Among the station’s relationships: the Berkeley Symphony, SF Performances, and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

The Thursday concert program for the Kronos Quartet includes: Aleksandra Vrebalov: My Desert, My Rose; Pete Townshend: Baba O’Riley; Laurie Anderson: Flow; Geeshie Wiley: Last Kind Words; Garth Knox: Satellites: III. Dimensions; Omar Souleyman: La Sidounak Sayyada (I’ll Prevent the Hunters from Hunting You); and Bryce Dessner: Aheym (Homeward).

Mark MacNamara, a writer and journalist based in Asheville, North Carolina, has written for such publications as NautilusSalonThe Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Vanity Fair. From time to time, his pieces in San Francisco Classical Voice also appear in  Noteworthy examples include a piece about Philip Glass’s dream to build a cultural center on the Pacific Coast; a profile of sound composer Pamela Z and an essay on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. MacNamara recently won several awards in the 2018 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards presented by the San Francisco Press Club.  His website is