KCHW: Chewelah’s Radio Station

by Amy McGarry

If you live in Chewelah, Washington, you likely know this town has a vibrant, growing arts community. In fact, in June of 2019 Chewelah became the second certified Creative District in Washington, designated by the award-winning ArtsWA program. According to the ArtsWA website, Creative Districts are “a place for people to gather and enjoy their community’s arts and culture. A district is a place where innovation and creativity can thrive. A place that helps the community move enthusiastically into the future.”

One exciting example is the music and theater found through the non-profit community radio station KCHW 102.7 FM. I spoke with KCHW’s founder and director Scott “Allen” Schlafman to learn more about the station and how it serves as a boon to Chewelah and Stevens County’s art community.

Scott Allen (his radio name) was born and raised in Chewelah before he moved on to pursue his dream of working in radio broadcasting. After working in radio in the Midwest for over 20 years, Scott returned home to Chewelah in 2009 because he “got lonely for pine trees.” and didn’t want his kids in Chicago area schools. He then discovered the opportunity to fulfill every DJ’s dream; to build a grass roots radio station free of all corporate influence.

Funded completely by donations and grants, in 10 years Scott has grown KCHW from a tiny 400 square foot radio station to a 2200 square foot space that can seat 65 for live concerts. The station now offers a recording and video studio for local musicians and even provides a podcasting studio for rent.

Described as “the music education station,” KCHW offers a variety of programming including a live show every evening. The evening shows offer 20 different genres of music every week, from country and bluegrass to jazz, classical music and even punk rock. Listeners can “wake up with Scott and friends” during his live morning show on Tuesdays through Fridays. Each morning features a different regular co-host where they discuss current events, interview special guests and try to make everyone smile. Morning Show co-hosts include Valorie Hunter, Mike Bentz, Alan Melani, Chuck Ritchie and Phillip Dutton. Other programming includes news and information as well as Kids Public Radio. A detailed calendar of daily programming times can be found at www.kchw.org under Programming.

Scott feels fortunate to work with a “great board of directors” and a volunteer staff of 14. Unlike some public radio stations federally funded primarily through the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, KCHW is a community radio station that does not receive any government funding. Scott appreciates the volunteers that make KCHW programming possible. Four of the current DJs have been volunteers at KCHW since the beginning. They get addicted to the fun of radio so much they just never leave! Still, Scotts says KCHW is “always looking for volunteers to do music shows or help with administrative duties.” While one of Scott’s goals has always been to provide community job opportunities, currently the only paid position with the station is for a commission-based underwriter.

Scott Allen, KCHW founder

Scott is also grateful for the local community members and business who provide support through donations, memberships, and sponsorships. Like so many businesses, COVID hit KCHW “really hard.” With economic uncertainties, KCHW has lost 60% of its memberships during the pandemic. COVID also impacted KCHW Studios, which is one of the ways the station generates more funds. Here community members can take advantage of a customizable studio space, a green screen, a podcasting studio, a complete sound system, as well as audio and video gear for all their video and recording needs.

Hopes for the future of KCHW include expanding the Chewelah arts scene with more live concerts and more radio theater as well as expanding the use of the KCHW studios. As much as Scott loves radio, he says he is getting to the point where his goal is to find professional management for the station. After 30 years in the business, he says he might be ready to “step back.

If you are interested in supporting community radio for Stevens County and contributing to the growth of the arts in the area, Scott welcomes you to visit the KCHW website at www.kchw.org and look at the many opportunities for donating or volunteering. The station also streams audio and video from their Chewelah studios and has several ways to listen. On your radio at 102.7 FM, on the Twitch or Tunein smartphone apps, on Amazon Alexa and catch the morning show with live video on their website or Facebook page! Now, tune into 102.7 FM for your listening pleasure as well as another way to support community radio and the arts.