After 68 Years, KSPC Continues to Highlight Vibrant Voices

Lottie Malkmus '27 at a radio soundboard

It’s five minutes to 4 p.m. on a recent Tuesday and Lottie Malkmus ’27 enters Room 111H in the basement of Thatcher Music Building holding a stack of CDs and vinyl records.

For the past hour, the first-year student by way of Portland, Oregon, has been mining KSPC’s expansive music library for two hours’ worth of songs to match the psychedelic mood she’s in following her pair of Tuesday classes.

At 4 p.m., with Abunai!’s 2003 song “Two Brothers” in the Spinitron queue, Malkmus welcomes 88.7 FM listeners to “off-road with Leroy the Poet.”

ʰ——has given Claremont Colleges students such as Malkmus the platform and freedom to explore the intricacies of DJing for 68 years, making it unique in its objective and longevity.

“College radio is super awesome, and I’ve spoken with so many adults and musicians I really respect who mention how it changed their lives,” Malkmus says. “It’s a creative outlet that is unique to universities and at the intersection of creating art and analyzing art.”

“I love it.”

Nearly seven decades after first hitting FM airwaves, KSPC is seeing a wave of student involvement. No fewer than five dozen personalities—including alumni and faculty—have weekly shows, with tastes in music ranging from reggae to electronic to polka.

KSPC runs 365 days a year, 24 hours a day under the helm of Pomona’s Director of Student Media Erica Tyron SC ’92 and diA Hakinna, the station’s full-time administrative assistant.

Together, the two bind KSPC’s past to its future.

“We’ve got people who’ve been listening to the station for decades—and not just in Claremont,” Tyron says. “In lockdown, people really, really appreciated that we kept it going. Having been on the air as long as KSPC has, there’s a longstanding reputation and status in the community.”

Running the show

DJ Comet was supposed to be a placeholder name until Anaelle Roc ’24 found another.

But the moniker—a play on her last name and her love of space—fit perfectly at the space-themed radio station that celebrated 68 years on FM airwaves Feb. 12. (KSPC was preceded at Pomona by KPCR, the pre-FM, carrier current station.)

Pomona classmate Emily Gibbons ’24 christened herself DJ Moon in the same vein.

Roc and Gibbons represent a senior class whose introduction to college came via Zoom during the early months of the pandemic.

While remote in 2020, Gibbons worked as a music director at KSPC, reviewing albums and music. Roc, who hails from Long Island, NY, became a production director, learning how to edit shows and write promotions and community messages.

Once on campus as sophomores, KSPC’s secluded headquarters awed them both.

“I loved exploring the station,” Gibbons recalls. “It’s still one of my favorite things to do.”

“The space is a time capsule,” Roc adds. “There are posters there from the ’80s, photos there from the ’50s when it became an FM station. I was instantly hooked.”

Indeed, concert and band posters adorn the KSPC walls; stickers a refrigerator in the lobby.

Each piece of physical media has at least one annotation left by a DJ informing the next of their opinion on certain tracks. We’re talking generations of debate on thousands of CDs and vinyl records.

As the music librarian, Malkmus keeps the place tidy, often pausing to read the arguments between past DJs. She would be lying if she said she hasn’t thought of a DJ years from now reading her thoughts on Spoon’s 1997 release “Soft Effects – EP” or Liturgy’s 2023 record “93696,” which she has queued up to play next on “off-road.”

“People ask, ‘Why do radio? Radio is dead,’” Roc says. “We have Spotify, the internet, AI DJs who can find you the perfect song. But people are really attracted to the space. It’s a beautiful space with all this history. We want to be part of that legacy.”

While Malkmus still has three years at KSPC to hone her skills, Gibbons and Roc are wrapping up their time on air.

Gibbons, a philosophy major and host of “In the Clouds with DJ Moon,” plans on attending law school after Pomona with dreams of becoming a lawyer for a band or music label.

“I would love to get involved in the radio station of whatever law school I go to if they would have me,” she says.

Roc, meanwhile, is so invested in mastering the craft she says she only applied to graduate programs in astrophysics with established radio programs either on campus or in the community.

“Live music is something I can’t live without,” the physics major and host of “cathartic destruction” says. “I’m tied on a soul level to radio now.”

Lasting legacy

Pomona alumni often tell Tyron that working at KSPC was one of the best things they did while in college, and Tyron—who also holds dear her time working at the station as an undergraduate at Scripps College—has a few theories why that is.

“It was a space where they could be creative,” she posits. “Maybe they met some of their best friends here. Music ties people to certain memories of their life, and this being the space they were in when they were students, I’m sure KSPC brings back a lot of memories for them.”

“It just feels comfortable.”

Whatever the reason, KSPC holds a special place in the hearts of all who pass through the station and tune in daily.

Just the other week, at a conference in San Diego for undergraduate women in physics, Roc met longtime listeners who told her they wanted to meet DJ Comet—unaware their favorite spinstress was the young woman they were talking to.

“Music just has a way of keeping people company,” Tyron says. “It’s a sort of social tool, a social mechanism for people to find commonality and just have a good time.”

Far from complete, KSPC’s legacy is being a haven for “people who aren’t the center of the pack, who don’t have anywhere to fit in at school,” Gibbons says. “KSPC is providing a community and a space for people to talk about music where they probably wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”

After four years talking music, activism and all things space as DJ Comet, Roc will sign off at the end of the semester and listen from afar as the next generation of voices sign on at KSPC.

“I’ve found a great community,” Roc says. “The people, on principle, we have each other’s backs. It doesn’t matter if I know you well or where you come from, at the station, you’re a part of this family. KSPC has been a very open, inviting space—a portal between worlds.”

“A node for all the different, disparate parts and people of my life.”

A screening of "35000 Watts: The Story of College Radio" is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28, at Rose Hills Theatre & Lobby. A Q&A featuring former and current KSPC DJs and others will follow.