By Katherin Neilson
Spy Hop is a non-profit that mentors young people in digital media arts and offers classes in a wide variety of mediums. One of these courses, Loud and Clear, is a year-long curriculum that teaches 14 -18 year olds the skills to run a radio program. Though Loud and Clear covers the technical bases like how to record and edit audio, run a radio program, and produce radio pieces, the program provides teens with a life experience that goes beyond the technical skills of operating a switchboard.
“You find meaning to express yourself in a world where feeling insignificant is very relatable,” said Josuee Sanchez, an 18-year-old East High School student, of his experience in Loud and Clear.
Spy Hop’s mission is to mentor young people in the digital media arts to help them find their voice, tell their stories, and be empowered to affect positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. Students of Loud and Clear can attest that the spirit of that mission is alive in their course. Sitting comfortably behind a switchboard in one of KRCL’s studios, Sanchez said, “Now I feel like I’m more able to communicate across a wide variety of people, and Loud and Clear gave me the tools to take on the world.”
Conor Estes, Loud and Clear mentor, says that through the course, which launched in 2003, teens can learn “to be a critical consumer and creator and understand why artists do the things they do.” He says his personal goal for the program is for participants to understand that their view and their story is important, and that they should create things so they are not just a consumer. The program teaches students the structure and technical skills to put on a good radio show, and then gives them the freedom to express themselves through the curation and production of the show.
“Spy Hop is a great place for people to go and express themselves and their day in a way that they feel more comfortable, especially since it feels that as teenagers we are sometimes put in a dull box at school,” Sanchez says. During a phase in life where the quotidian can feel too structured and monotonous, Sanchez says the Loud and Clear experience provides an environment that cultivates creativity. “We get to make radio shows about whatever we want, I made it about my first wrestling match that I won,” says Sanchez. “That gave us a ton of freedom to express the feeling and emotion that we had that moment and we were able to talk and say what we felt and it gave us that freedom to actually express ourselves.”
During the course, students are trained in a myriad of audio production forms including podcasts, radio segments, and playlists. Estes sees himself as a support for the student’s development, “I tried to play the role of asking hard questions and being devil’s advocate.” “It’s so much more successful for them to learn by figuring it out themselves or screwing up rather than being told what to do.”
All students get an opportunity to produce and host live radio shows, which air every Saturday night on KRLC 90.9, a local radio station, from 9 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. Students are faced with a high level of autonomy and risk in running a live show, but Estes says they don’t buckle under pressure, “they totally suck it up, and pull up their bootstraps and do it, and then they’re really proud of themselves.”
For more information on Spy Hop class offerings from documentary making to hip hop production, visit www.spyhop.org.