Melanie Berzon: 'Radio Junkie'

KCSM 91.1 FM Operations Director

Radio has been FM 91 Program Director Melanie Berzon's life. From the moment Melanie put on a pair of headphones and listened in awe as she spun records at her first radio show in 1973, she was hooked.

A self-described radio junkie, Melanie knew early on that her future would be in radio and worked persistently to reach that goal. "I loved it and I never turned back." Encouraged by a talented circle of women who had similar aspirations, she worked diligently to build a career in the radio field -- a task that didn't come easy.

Like many women of the time, Melanie juggled a number of interesting jobs like driving cabs, typing and spinning music in clubs to support herself. At the same time, she tackled volunteer opportunities at several non-commercial radio stations in the Boston area from 1973 to 1980, learning more about the trade and music, jazz in particular.

By 1978, still trying to establish herself in the field, Melanie enrolled in a women's electronics program where she acquired new skills, a strategy that ultimately paid off. By 1980, she earned an engineering position at Boston's WGBH, where she worked for 10 years. She made the Bay Area her home in 1990 when she became the Program Director at Berkeley's KPFA. After a three-year stay, she returned to her music roots at KCSM where she has been ever since.

Since hitting the KCSM airwaves in 1993, Melanie has expanded the cultural dynamics of jazz programming at FM 91. One such example is a tribute called Women in Jazz, inspired by International Women's Day (March 8), which recognizes the achievements of women around the world. It is a tradition that she has held dear from her early radio days in Boston. "I have always had a policy of celebrating International Women's Day and Women's History Month (also in March) since I got here in '93."

The March 8th celebration on KCSM has featured 24 hours of women in jazz: musicians, arrangers, composers, vocalists and announcers. In choosing to air the tribute, Melanie explains "We do this because women in jazz have been around for a really long time. But we haven't only been vocalists, we have been instrumentalists, we've been arrangers; it's important to remind people that [women] have been there."

Melanie has won numerous awards for her productions including And They Never Came Back...Life After Our Parents Have Died, Women in Jazz: Accomplishments and Achievements Despite Adversities, Audre Lorde: A Burst of Light and Oy Chanukah, among others. She's been a music consultant on various projects including the award-winning Eyes On The Prize.

Melanie Berzon can been heard Wednesday through Friday on Jazz in the Afternoon from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.