Kat Dornian Departing music director CJSW

You’re leaving this job on February 28th?

Yup my last day is on the 28th. I’ll still be around CJSW though. I’ll probably get a show in the future. But I’m moving on to work for Phidgets. They make USB sensors and controllers and they’re used in tons and tons of things. My favourite thing that they’re used in is robots but there’s a project in San Francisco where they’re used to measure earthquakes and there’s a lot of really cool art — there’s this piece of art in Thailand with shifting leaves that use motors from the company.

So USB sensors and controllers. Are we talking hard drives?

They have temperature sensors they have motion sensors and then they have LCD displays and motors. Just various things that you can hook up to your computer write a program and then have them do whatever you want them to do.

Crazy. What are you going to be doing there?

I’m the product outreach developer. So it’s kind of marketing trying to raise awareness about Phidgets — what they are how they can be used. I’ll probably be making some things and showing people “this is how you can do this.” Trying to connect with more people and get the word out about it. There’s lots of things that use them and people are really really excited about them but they just don’t talk about them there’s no real community. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Arduino?


So they’re very similar to that and Arduino has this really strong community and culture. And Phidgets are similar but they’re better quality and less likely to break.

Not that you’re biased.

I was talking to an artist from the U.K. and he actually said that to me. He said “you know all my friends they use Arduinos and stuff from Sparkfun and it always breaks down and their projects are always fritzy.” And I’m like “Use Phidgets because they work better!” That was what someone else said. And obviously the companies is like “we make them better quality.”

Well and obviously you’re going there because you believe in it.


How does one go from being the music director at a university radio station to robots and sensors?

Well I always really liked science and technology and math. While I was working here I’ve been volunteering at Telus Spark and I tutor in math. I did computer engineering in school. I like programming and I like working with technology and I keep up to date on technology blogs. It is a bit of a weird jump but the new job kind of combines my love of technology with my experience in radio and media. It’s a really sweet job because it won’t just be programming and staring at a computer all day. It will be working with people a bit more.

Is it in Calgary?

Yeah they’re located kind of by Chinook in that industrial park.

So the technology was created here?

Yeah it was actually created by a professor of computer science here at the U of C and then one of his students took the project and made it into a business.

It’s so funny the little segments of Calgary that you don’t know about.

Well a lot of people don’t know Sun Microsystems were invented by someone who went to U of C as well.


I think they moved to Silicon Valley pretty early.

Okay to flip a previous question around if you took computer engineering at school and you’re interested in all that stuff how did you become the music director at CJSW?

Well I volunteered with CJSW since I started university. I really liked the radio station when I was in high school and I listened to it all the time but I couldn’t really get to the university to volunteer so before I even went to my first university class I came here and started volunteering. Then when I graduated the job market wasn’t that great and I worked a couple of other jobs here and the music director position opened up and it was kind of my dream job too. I love music and I love knowing about what’s going on in the music industry. It was a good turn of events because there just weren’t that many jobs in my field that interested me and I really wanted to work at the radio station.

It is kind of a dream job for a music nerd. Do you have access to pretty much every album that comes out?

Well we get enough music that I’m listening to music all the time. There’s more music…. I heard a crazy stat I think it was about YouTube that every minute there’s 12 years’ worth of material posted to YouTube or something. Don’t quote me on that. It’s equivalent to music as well there’s so many people making music and putting music out that probably every minute there’s a year’s worth of music being released and put up on Soundcloud and put up on Bandcamp. You can never get it all but it’s cool to stay abreast of what’s cool what’s happening and just hear really neat things.

Don’t you find it overwhelming at times?

Oh yeah especially busy times of year like in the fall and right around now it gets busy as well right before SXSW and the festivals and all that. There’s a lot but you get through it. It’s nice being at CJSW because there’s a lot of volunteers who help out and just really cool people. It’s a cool culture.

What exactly does the music director do?

I review all the music that comes in and decide what fits CJSW and what doesn’t. Ultimately our DJs have the last call on what goes on the air but I take care of that. We have a library with at least 60000 records in it. I help local bands. We mail out CDs to other radio stations so I help co-ordinate that and I help co-ordinate bands going on the radio. Then just monitoring shows and listening to the radio and making sure that everything sounds good and meets requirements.

How many DJs at any given time on the CJSW roster?

There’s about between 100 and 150. I think we have 108 shows.

That’s crazy.

Yeah there’s a lot of people. There’s also people that just stop in and people that do show fills for us.

Were you the music director when the station was still in the basement?

I came in right after that.

So you’ve always had a window.

Yeah I’ve always had a window office. I was the librarian before I became music director so I was in charge of moving all of the CDs and records — everything — from the downstairs library to this library. So I had to co-ordinate all that and where all the shelves would go and where everything would be organized.

It’s nice that it’s your system.

Well it’s the system that we had downstairs but it was my setup and I also got to co-ordinate all the volunteers to alphabetize things and sort through it.

How long have you been music director then?

Four years. It was really good. It’s an awesome job.

I bet. I bet people are beating down the door for the position. Have they hired someone?

They have but we can’t say yet who it is.

Are you still going to stay involved with CJSW?

Yeah. I love the people here I can’t leave.

Do you have a show right now?

I do. I won’t be doing it. I do The New Classics which is all new music and that’s kind of the music director’s show so the person who comes in will take it over and play the new music that they’ve been listening to all week. I want to come back and do a show. I’ve been playing with the idea of doing a dark-themed sad show at night and like reading Edgar Allan Poe and playing depressing music.

That sounds… fun. What kind of music would it be? Would it be dark electronic music or sad folk songs?

I want to do a mix of everything just anything that’s sad. Some murder ballads some goth some industrial. Anything that’s dark. Some metal.

Do you have a favourite genre or are you all over the map?

I do like a lot of things and sometimes even genres that I don’t tend towards something will come out and really surprise me and I’ll just love it. I did an electronic music show before I became music director and I also did an experimental music zine for a little while.

What was that called?

Feedback. So those are two genres that I know a lot about and I really like. There’s getting to be so much electronic music that it’s becoming one of the biggest genres that’s out there so it’s hard to keep up. But I like the weirder electronic stuff.

How do you become a DJ on CJSW? Do you just have to volunteer for a while?

Yeah totally. Anyone from the community can come in and put in a volunteer form and start putting in their time. Then you get production trained and on-air trained.

Is there a big waiting list?

It’s not too bad. If someone’s really driven and has some good ideas they don’t have to wait too long. Obviously our broadcast schedule is full right now so we couldn’t just drop someone in right away but certain times of year there’s just more changeover. People move away over the summer and go to university and change jobs.