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Radio free Gig Harbor

Teenagers on a whole different frequency: KGHP

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Students at Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor have their own radio station. Outside of Tacoma School of the Arts, there aren’t many high school electives that rate as high on the coolness scale as radio production class. I decided to investigate.KGHP FM was started 19 years ago by three men, Max Bice, (a nationally known broadcast engineer who built Tacoma News Tribune’s KTNT AM, FM and KTNT-TV, was former National Association of Broadcasters board chairman and state chairman for the federal Emergency Broadcast System and a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award in the field of Broadcasting), Milt Boyd, (a drama teacher who also had on-air radio experience), and Keith Stiles (an electronics engineer in the military and former owner of radio station KNDD in Oregon). Both Bice and Boyd are deceased, but Stiles is still actively involved with the station.

“It’s my job to keep things on the air, and I try to deal with all the FCC matters,” said Stiles. Stiles has been licensed with the FCC since 1939.

After getting approval from the Peninsula School District in 1986, the three men applied for the FCC license, started collecting the necessary equipment and built the studios. The station, housed inside Peninsula High School, is owned by the Peninsula School District. In 1988 the station went on the air for the first time. They have two studios, two production areas and a large music library with music they have collected over the last 19 years.

Peninsula High School students run the station during school hours, and professional volunteers produce radio shows in the evening from 5-10 p.m.

Volunteer DJs have to demonstrate to station manager Leland Smith that they have some level of competency in order to be considered for their own radio show. Coincidentally, several of the volunteer DJs are teachers from other school districts. Stile’s has his own show called Musical Memories. It features acoustic music from the late ’30s through the early ’60s. Denny Dale, a teacher from Stadium High School, has a show called Musical Connections on Monday nights that takes over from the ’60s through the ’80s. For a complete programming schedule, visit

Automation takes over for a couple of hours in the afternoon and at night from 10 p.m. until 8 a.m.

The station features national news (off the wire) and local news, and they are very proud of their policy of running a large number of public service announcements.

“We needed a strong community connection between the school and the people in the community,” says Stiles. “We are on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

“We also do a lot of remotes, for example, at things like football games,” he continues. “We cover the annual Gig Harbor Parade, the Blessing of the Fleet, which goes back to our roots as a fishing community. We also do basketball games and local political debates.”

Stiles says the intention of the station is to be a training ground for young people, not necessarily for them to become radio jockeys, but just for them to be able to organize facts and stand before an audience and state them.

“The classes are essentially introductory and/or survey classes to aid students as they search for their niche in life,” explains Stiles. “That’s where we fit in.”

Peninsula High School also teaches drama and newspaper classes in order to expose students to a broad spectrum of communication formats.

The radio broadcasting program teaches the laws associated with broadcasting, FCC guidelines, producing recorded spots, and presentation skills. Students learn not only how to speak on the radio and play music, they also learn what goes into putting together a radio show.

“For every voice on the radio, there’s maybe 25 to 50 people behind the scenes,” says Stiles. 

The format for KGHP is middle of the road, also known as MOR in radio jargon. Stiles says the music they play can be classified as Americana, a wide cultural spread of artists, eras and subject matters.

“We don’t really play the music that is most popular because much of it contains language we don’t believe belongs in a school,” explains Stiles.

KGHP has three frequencies, 89.3, 89.9 and 93.7. Two of them are translators that help with broadcasting in and around the more hilly areas. “It gets us into places in our broadcast area that are behind cliffs and things like that,” says Stiles. 

The station can be heard in Gig Harbor, Olympia, Shelton, Port Orchard, Federal Way, Puyallup, most of Tacoma and Fort Lewis by tuning into either 89.9 or 93.7 FM.

Acoustic musicians can submit their music for possible airplay on the station.

“We get five to 10 CDs every day,” says Stiles.

Teresa Evans, the current music director, would be the person to decide if the music is appropriate for the station, however, she is moving to San Diego soon. Her replacement will be Diane Coleman, who is a Peninsula High School graduate. Coleman is currently a volunteer DJ with her own show on Saturday mornings called Jubilee Train.

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