WU chemistry professor fosters community through music

Karen McFarlane Holman is known for many things. 

The Willamette University chemistry professor was named Oregon Professor of the Year in 2010.

She is a veteran punk-rock guitar player, the mother of two young children and the proud owner of Griffin, a corgi commonly seen with her on campus.

She’s also the founder of KMUZ 88.5 FM Turner, a community radio station celebrating its one-year anniversary this month.

“Being involved with KMUZ fulfills two big passions that I have: the technical geeky side and the artistic and whimsical side,” she says. “(Radio) is one of those things that I can’t imagine living without, just like my kids and teaching chemistry.”

On Dec. 9, reporter Cara Pallone wrote an article for The Statesman Journal about the radio station, which broadcasts everything from Siberian jazz and Broadway show tunes to death metal and Southern Gospel.

According to the article, McFarlane Holman hoped to start the station when she moved to Salem in 2001, but because of the difficulty in obtaining a radio frequency, she didn’t achieve her goal until Dec. 17, 2011. 

Today, McFarlane Holman has two radio shows. The first, “Punk Rock with Dropkick,” is a “rough and dirty” punk rock show that airs Wednesday nights. The second, “Radio Exotica,” is a laid back and relaxing show that airs Friday mornings.

“My co-host ‘Auntie Viviwa’ and I, ‘The Girl from Ipanema,’ live on the imaginary Island of Radio Exotica where it is always 80 degrees and sunny,” McFarlane Holman says. “We play exotica music (tropical lounge) from the ’50s and ’60s, and most of our record collection comes from thrift stores. … It’s sheer whimsy.”

The station is managed by a seven-member board of directors, with help from about 70 active DJs. Their goals are to improve programming, offer remote broadcasts and provide more public service through broadcasting.

“I feel that in order for a community to truly come into itself, we all need to be more connected,” McFarlane Holman says about her love for community radio. “With more connections, we have more understanding and appreciation for each other, and many more opportunities for fun.”

To learn more about the community radio station and McFarlane Holman’s role there, read Pallone’s article at The Statesman Journal