On July 31 2017, Adam Kamis will take over as CJSW’s next station manager. Adam is a long-time volunteer and the current host of the Failed Pilot, airing alternating Thursdays from noon to 2:00 p.m. on CJSW 90.9 FM. He comes to us after spending five years with the National Music Centre.
Before Adam takes flight in the starship radio however, we sat him down to talk about his plans for CJSW’s future, the wonders of bocce ball and why community is most important. Interview by Melanie Woods.
So, are you excited for the future?
In a broad sense, yes. But in a more localized, CJSW-sense, I’m very excited about the future. This is a place that has been an institution in town for years and years and it’s largely because of the extraordinary efforts of our volunteers, staff, and our community. It’s this beautiful, cyclical, symbiotic relationship of community and support for one another. I just can’t wait to add to that and build it up.
Why were you interested in joining CJSW in a more formalized position as station manager?
I think it’s just serendipity. This job came up last year. I was at National Music Centre most recently, and last year was a very monumental year there and it wasn’t something that I felt I could leave my team there for. It’s something I did consider very very hardly. But when it came up this year it seemed like you know I think I have some skill-sets that would benefit this station. I have a lot of experience with volunteer management, events, and working in a non-profit. I thought this would be a perfect fit. I’ve been a member and volunteer for almost 20 years now and it’s been one of the most influential presences in my life. In a way, it’s an opportunity for me professionally, but also in a way it’s an opportunity for me — I guess in a more spiritual lovey-dovey sort of way — to give back to the station that’s given so much to me.
What are you looking forward to most about the job?
Working with the fabulous people here. There are so many cool, creative, talented, thoughtful, energetic people at this place, and I’ve always found it an eternal fountain of youth and inspiration. To be in the environment from day to day and see all the cool projects that people are working on and events like the Funding Drive which is really a coalescing activity for the entire membership and staff where everyone is just serving in the trenches and giving it their all. That kind of energy and excitement is really contagious and really fun to be around. So yeah, I guess working with the people is my greatest thing I’m excited about.
Coming into this role, you join a long line of folks. How do you want your time to be remembered when people look back at the “Adam Kamis years” at CJSW?
That is an interesting question, because I haven’t even officially started yet. I want to be remembered as helping create an environment where people can feel comfortable expressing themselves and feel respected and empowered and utilized and valued. I feel like that’ll pay the greatest dividends. As you mentioned, there’s been loads of Station Managers that have come through, but we’ve also had volunteers who’ve been helping out for 40 years. And keeping that specialness of when you have 40-year veteran volunteers working with brand new people. I want to build a community — really put the capital “C” community in the community radio aspect of CJSW. So it’s really just creating a fun environment to so the amazing work that we do at the station.
I mean the “C” in CJSW probably should stand for community.
I think so. We should ask the CRTC, but we’re getting too anagrammy I guess.
You talk a lot about these people who have been here forever. You yourself have been around for not a short amount of time. Over all the years you’ve been an on-air host and a general volunteer, do you have any particular memories that stand out?
Okay. Too many to count. But I’ll give you a couple good ones. A great memory of CJSW is the very first year we did Slurpee Cup in 1998 — that was so much fun. We didn’t really know what we were doing and just came together for it which was amazing. And we were using those chloroplast boards, which is that plasticized cardboard that we got donated from Spruce Meadows because our Program Director at the time — Chad Saunders, who would eventually become station manager — used to work there and knew people who had all these old sponsorship chloroplasts, so we made this hockey arena. We just had the silliest time and it was like structured chaos. It was so much fun. And it has grown into something that has run for, you know, 19 years now or something.
But that first Slurpee Cup was so memorable because everyone worked so hard. And it was all done by volunteer power. We had people there at 7:00 a.m., 7:30 a.m. in the morning ready for a noon start, working with each other. And a lot of folks who hadn’t met each other at that point were working alongside each other to make a cool project happen. For me it really showed the power of volunteering and what this special community is about. I met people that day that I’ve seen once every two or three years since or even sometimes longer — once every five years, since everyone splits off to go do their own thing. But there’s still friendships there and there’s still birthday wishes and condolences when your cat dies and all that kind of stuff that goes with it. That was the catalyst that got me hooked, and said ‘you know this place is really really cool.’
And then there are other times. We had Chuck D from Public Enemy come down after his show in MacHall on a Saturday to do an interview just because he knew this was the campus radio station. And he’s like ‘you guys are the real deal.’ And when Mista Chuck says that, you listen.
And I guess another memory would be our reunion, our celebration of  years around 2009 where we put on concerts and events all throughout MacHall. And we had roughly 2,000 or 3,000 people here to check it out. The Den was full, the ballroom was full, and it was a really special thing to see demonstrably. Because we’re talking on the airwaves and there could be a thousand people listening or nobody listening. To see an entire community come in and celebrate CJSW’s achievement at that point and getting people all in for helping out with it was really special. I gotta confess, as a volunteer, I raised concerns with the management at the time. I was saying ‘do you know how hard it is to do this sort of thing.’ But it got done, and it was a fantastic time that I’ll always remember.
And you’ll be a part of making those memories for people going forward.
Yeah, that’s the hope — for everyone to find their special aspect of CJSW that really gets them going. It’s interesting, we have so much plurality and diversity in the station in terms of points of view, backgrounds, all sorts of stuff. But what unifies us all is our love for sharing our wisdom, insights, tastes, passions with the rest of the community and actually applying ourselves to that. I think that’s an incredible unifying trait and something I’d like to remind people at all times. We’re all here to do something special, and what your special looks like doesn’t have to be my special. I don’t need to care about your special, but I’m glad it exists.
CJSW is all about that special culture, and staff and volunteers have their own ways to wind down. I’ve heard you’re quite a Magic The Gathering player. What sorts of fun culture things do you plan on introducing?
I’ve been outed as a wizard. Well, definitely the Magic thing is great. For those who don’t know, Magic The Gathering is a trading card game where you don a wizard hat and summon zombies, trolls and spells to best your enemies. It’s tons of fun, and it’s certainly a social game. But I’d really like to open that up too. I really like a good game of Asshole, it’s really a sort of fun game with no experience required.
More events that not only recognize but celebrate our staff and volunteers here and what we do here. How that looks in terms of upcoming events — may I spill a bean or two?
I think this is the venue for special beans to be spilled.
What I would like to do is we have been involved with this McHugh House project. And this is something that a lot of our membership doesn’t know what it looks like. I’d like to do just a membership open house, something very informal, where we can do just a nice summer afternoon at the McHugh House — play some bocce, which I also love. I keep a bocce set in my vehicle all the time because you never know when you might want to play. It’s a lovely game because you can play it with a drink in your hand and that’s fantastic. But yeah, just do something informal. Really I want to get people amped and energized for the Funding Drive which is coming up in less than 100 days now, and get our community here working lockstep and doing the best week of radio anywhere in the world really.
This is something I definitely want. I totally want a CJSW Family Band. We have our Funding Drive wrap-up party which we’ll have at the Royal Canadian Legion and that traditionally has a bunch of local bands doing covers with theme backgrounds. But I want to have a CJSW all-stars family band to throw into the mix here because we have a lot of talent in the station. There are a lot of local musicians in town that do radio programs here. How that looks — we might even have enough interest to do two family bands which would be kind of great. And I’d love to mix it up — throw everyone’s names into a hat and say ‘hey Arielle, Mark, why don’t you just throw your names in a hat and see who you get paired up with.’
We have a cool production room here which we can use as a jam studio. So that is something I really want to use. It’s soundproof, so why not have a band practice there that’s accessible to everyone. So that is something that I definitely want to get people excited about and hopefully interested in.
I’m just trying to imagine what the genre of a CJSW family band would be.
And that’s the cool thing. We could make a band that features Mark Limacher on piano, and Arielle on guitar and Mike Gratton on bass and Marcello or Andy on drums. It would be really really cool. That’s something I really want to foster here — the idea that ‘hey you got some talent here, share it with the world.’
I, for one, am looking forward to the debut of the CJSW Family Band.
You and I both. Luckily for us, we have CJSW-branded earplugs, just in case the experiment goes a little awry.
My last question — what’s your favourite sandwich?
Okay. Excellent question. If I gotta say a favourite sandwich, it’s at Cafe del Moro, on the corner of 8th St. and 10th Ave SW, right across the street from Mountain Equipment Co-op. They do a sandwich called the prosciutto bocconcini sandwich. You can get it on ciabatta or baguette. The one on baguette makes me weep. I lived in Vancouver for one year, and when I came back to Calgary to visit for a weekend not only did I eat there the day before I had to leave, I got a to-go sandwich just so I could enjoy it in Vancouver. It is a flawless sandwich. Sal who works there has had that business for years and I’ve never been disappointed there. It’s actually really hard to deviate to other options there because that one sandwich holds such a prominent place in my heart.
It sounds like the CJSW of sandwiches.
Yeah, a little bit salty, a little bit crunchy, but pretty damn delicious at the end of the day.
Interview edited for brevity and clarity.
Check out our interview with Adam on the latest episode of CJSW’s Radioland on our Soundcloud page.