'A lot of radio stations," observes Robin Pressman, "when they are choosing the music they play, work from the idea that when a listener hears something they are familiar with—a piece of music they know really well—they get a special kind of good feeling. . . At KRCB, with programs like Our Roots Are Showing, we do some of that, definitely—but we're also devoted to exploring great new music, artists you're being introduced to for the first time. I love that people discover new favorites through the music we play. I can't say that we're star-makers, but we are definitely giving voice to people who don't necessarily get a voice in today's media."
As program director of KRCB-FM, Pressman has been diligently giving voice to the voiceless for more than 16 years, making her a clearly obvious recipient for this year's Boho Awards.
At 90.9 FM, KRCB radio—arguably Sonoma County's most influential and innovative public radio station—has developed a large and varied slate of on-air programs, many designed by Pressman specifically to serve and support the artists of Sonoma County. (Full disclosure: I host one of them.) These include the aforementioned Our Roots Are Showing (Saturdays, 1-5pm), the hugely popular roots-and-folk show Pressman co-hosts with Steve DeLap; Sonoma Spotlight, Roland Jacopetti's pleasantly unfussy daily five-minute interview show (9am, Monday through Friday); Curtain Call (Fridays at noon), host Charles Sepos' articulate weekly conversation with classical musicians, poets, theater artists, authors and others; Arts ID, an occasional magazine-style show with artists as its primary focus.
The list goes on and on.
"I've always seen my job as trying to provide a hub for the community, particularly a hub for cultural life," says Pressman. "From the beginning, I wanted KRCB to be a station that that would champion the arts, that would nurture and represent the arts—in every possible way."
Raised in Kentucky, Pressman moved to New York in fourth grade, and eventually went to film school in southern Illinois, where she fell in love with documentary films. After a number of years working bicoastally in Hollywood and New York ("By then I'd gotten sidetracked into a career in commercials," she explains), Pressman and husband Peter Cooper relocated to Sonoma County. That was in 1993—a year before KRCB-FM officially went on the air.
"When we got here, New York had become a very difficult place to live, so we were just thrilled to get away," she says. "And I was excited at the people I was meeting in Sonoma County, the artists I was meeting, going to ARTrails, exploring the back country roads, finding hidden artist studios, going to theater, going to concerts, exploring everything. So it was a pretty exciting time."
In 1994, when KRCB radio started up and the call went out for volunteers, Pressman was among the very first to heed the call.
"I remember getting the letter in the mail," she laughs, "and immediately jumping in the car and driving to the station and saying, 'Okay. How can I help?'"
Eight months later, she was named KRCB's program director.
Sonoma County has grown a lot since then, and its art scene has grown right along with KRCB. On being elected as a recipient of the Boho Award this year, Pressman says, "I really don't think this is an award for me, personally. I really see this as an award for KRCB, and everyone who works here, including all of the many volunteers. Our intention has always been to celebrate the arts, to celebrate artists, and to encourage participation in the arts.
"That," she adds, "is one of the most important things we do, to honor and point out creativity—because there is so much creativity here in Sonoma County."