Sharon Hickox with Note-Able Music Therapy Services plays a song during an RGJ interview at KWNK, Reno’s community radio station on Nov.2, 2020. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)
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From under a black and white mask, Sharon Hickox sings a spiritual that has been sung for at least 200 years for healing and hope.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,” sings Hickox with a guitar under her arm in the sunlit studio of KWNK Radio.
Hickox and Nate Eng, of Note-Able Music Therapy Services, are one of the most recent additions to the lineup of 97.7 FM, or KWNK, the city’s only 24/7 community-run radio station.
For three years, the station has hosted shows that center on everything from “death rock” to “dad country,” to indigenous music and “Car Talk”-style shows. But this year, more than ever, it’s also become a platform for the community to hear itself speak and sing.
Gift of Giving: In 2020, Reno’s nonprofits took care of us. Let’s take care of them.
The three-year old station has had a 40 percent increase in listeners online since the beginning of the year, to about 5,000 listeners a month. Tom Snider, KWNK general manager, credits part of that increase to the number of people at home and craving local sounds and voices.
“Every city needs a community station because it’s one of the best ways to accurately reflect what’s going on in the community,” said Snider.
KWNK, which evolved in collaboration with the Reno Bike Project, Holland Project and Wolf Pack Radio, not only records the past, but acts as a beacon of the future.
KWNK community radio co-founder Tom Snider smiles as he talks with the RGJ in KWNK lobby on Nov. 2, 2020. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)
It gives a large portion of its air time to youth who are active in the community. The radio station has become a home of sorts for young adults to have conversations about uncomfortable topics and alternative perspectives that might not always be welcome in other media.
“When George Floyd died, we were able to have people come on the air who were directly involved in the movements to have some of the difficult conversations that people couldn’t have necessarily in person,” said Snider.
KWNK has also been a lifeline for artists to stay relevant over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the cancellation of most live arts events, the station has promoted music from local artists, musicians who were previously scheduled to perform in the Reno area as well as favorite new sounds that those artists are listening to.