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SIOUX CITY | Most of the time, Jenni Beaver, 18, is a serious-minded Morningside College mass communications junior who dreams of becoming a writer.

But for a two-hour shift twice a week, the Fort Walton Beach, Florida, native becomes the effervescent host of "On a Positive Note," a program of contemporary Christian music on KMSC-FM Fusion 93, the college-run radio station.

"I think there's the 'on-air' me and the 'real' me," Beaver said. "Hopefully, those two sides of my personality aren't too far apart."

Mass communications associate professor Mark Heistad said Beaver is learning an important skill that will follow her, no matter what career she chooses.

"Learning the basic technology of broadcasting isn't difficult," Heistad said. "Learning to communicate effectively with people is the difficult part.

"The audience feels like they know the person on the radio," he added. "On the radio, (audiences) get a sense of who (an on-air personality) really is."

Since the start of the school year, Fusion 93 listeners have been learning even more about their favorite DJs.

"Previously, our announcers had a set list of mostly alternative music they had to play," Heistad said. "We no longer have that playlist, which means the students have more freedom to bring in their own music."

Growing up in the 1960s, Heistad said he had a steady diet of folk, jazz and classical music.

It wasn't until he became an undergraduate student at Decorah, Iowa's Luther College that he discovered the then-burgeoning "underground FM radio" movement.

"I found out that radio could be a lot more than just Top 40 music," Heistad said. "When I was in college, my musical tastes expanded greatly. I want to give my students the same freedom."

So, what do college kids want to hear on the radio nowadays? Surprisingly, the same stuff their parents listened to when they were younger.

"I have a young nephew whose entire music collection consists of Aerosmith, Jefferson Airplane and other groups that can be considered 'classic rock,'" Heistad said. "The kids are attracted to the old stuff."

Ben Catus, a mass communications senior and the radio station's heavy metal host, has also noticed that trend.

"I also teach guitar, drum and piano lessons at the Sioux City Conservatory of Music," the 21-year-old Moville, Iowa, native said. "It seems like all of the young kids want to play Metallica music."

Which is fine by Catus, who admits to enjoying similarly "retro" groups like Led Zeppelin when he isn't listening to more contemporary fare.

"Actually, I'm into all kinds of music," he said. He enjoys movie music soundtracks when studying and "pop-punk" bands like Blink 182 and Green Day when feeling nostalgic.

Still, the low-key Catus prefers to plug newer, harder music for his three-hour Wednesday night heavy metal show.

"I'm constantly online looking for bands with interesting sounds," he said. "I want to really push the boundaries when it comes to music."

And Heistad wants to encourage that fearlessness to a certain degree.

"We still must adhere to Federal Communications Commission standards," he said. "Beyond that, I want the kids to consider (KMSC) as their station."

Currently on the schedule, more than 30 student broadcasters host shows devoted to country, rap, hip-hop, classic rock and heavy metal, among other genres.

Still, Beaver, the station's sole Christian music host, considers her program just as groundbreaking.

"You don't hear much Christian music played on college radio station," she said. "The reason is people think it's just church music but it's much broader than that."

Beaver is grateful to add such contemporary Christian artists as Matthew West and Tim Timmons to Fusion 93's playlist.

"I like sharing the music that I like with my audience," she said. The feedback has been positive, she said.

Even though Beaver isn't looking towards a broadcasting career, she considers radio a nice diversion in her otherwise busy day.

"My studies are important to me," she said. "Being on the radio is when I can kick back and have fun."


Food and Lifestyles reporter

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