The Underground Sound

KSCU has evolved on campus since 1948

The Underground Sound

In 1948, the first “Kampus Voice of Santa Clara” program hit airwaves thanks to music-loving students and the zeal of a Jesuit. Fifteen years after the invention of FM broadcasting, the vision of Ferdinand J. Spieler, S.J. took shape in KSCU-FM’s inaugural broadcast in January 1953—it’s evolved and inspired ever since. 


TURN THE DIAL Since receiving its license from the Federal Communications Commission, KSCU has broadcast on several frequencies, jumping onto 1953’s airwaves with a carrier of 90.1 before later moving to 89.1. It settled into its 103.3 FM shoes in 1982. 

KSCU was one of the first college radio station to move beyond the education band of the dial—those stations in the lower frequencies. 

PRIORITIES CHANGE When KSCU played its first notes in 1953, the station aired a range of programs that included classical composers like Beethoven, lectures on topics from ethics to psychology to “Russia Today,” and dramas by Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Eliot. In 1957, Edward Boland, S.J. wrote that KSCU prided itself in its opportunity “to reach more people with those intangible things that make man a better man.” 

ON AIR Both students and visitors have been hosting programs for decades. For a time across the 1980s and ’90s, local Ken Leonard hosted “A Step Ahead,” interviewing leaders in business, industry, government, and social services to give students a first-account scoop on the “real world.” “I like the people I know from Santa Clara,” Leonard says. 

BELOW GROUND By the 1980s, the station had fully adopted its “underground” mission—playing progressive music. The station moved from its studio in Swig Hall to the basement of Benson. CDs and records have been subterraneously accruing for years, and the collections now stack up to a neck-craning height. 

While music can be downloaded and aired from MP3s, one can still find records from the Swing Era at the station.

BRUSHES WITH FAME KSCU has seen its fair share of celebrity. While a student and DJ at SCU, storied radio personality Mike “No Name” Nelson interviewed Johnny Ramone before a Ramones concert, during which Ramone took swipes at Nirvana and U2. In 1993, No Doubt came into the studio to speak with DJ Eric Klotz. At that time, Gwen Stefani said she knew of only five people with No Doubt tattoos. 

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Mic Drop

Jamie Gussman ’22 co-founded a new non-profit, Voices Heard SF, to act as a liaison between those who’ve been muted and those who can help.