Though he is typically known around Calgary as the co-owner of Unit Structure Sound Recordings and member of local bands Burro, Yankee Yankee and Dada Centauri, Whitney Ota has recently added a new title to the list: music director at CJSW. Fresh off a plane from Austin, TX, for SXSW, Whitney Ota spoke to BeatRoute about the new job.
BeatRoute: How has the first month of the new job been? Any surprises so far?
Whitney Ota: I am officially in my third week in the office and I can honestly say it has been great! My first week was basically me learning what my job would be and how to approach different situations, all while CJSW’s staff around me were intensely focused on the big CJSW referendum campaign that was aimed to help fund the massive podcasting project the station is currently working on. My second week, I was representing CJSW at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. For those who haven’t been, or haven’t been in a while, SXSW is probably the biggest music and industry festival that takes place in North America, attendance is somewhere in the ballpark of 30,000 people. My third week, which has just begun, has been all about catching up on the work from last week, in addition to the regular workload. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks…
I guess I’m not so much surprised as impressed at the amazing job that Kat Dornian (the previous music director) and the rest of the CJSW staff have done in the last few years to really make CJSW operate smoothly and become, as it is to many, a world-class radio station. It has not been without a whole lot of hard work and passion to create top-notch radio!
BR: What are you most excited about in your new role?
WO: I’m most excited to simply listen to music all day. Music is not so much my passion as a necessary ingredient in my life, just as food or shelter. Perhaps this is a boring or obvious answer, but how amazing is it that listening to music is the most important part of the job and it’s also what I like to do best?!
BR: What is it, in your opinion, that makes CJSW so special to its listeners?
WO: CJSW is like your big brother or sister who hooks you up by teaching you about all the cool bands and artists, or like your favourite teacher in school who challenges you to think critically and outside the box. CJSW is also your best friend who goes to the same shows as you and supports your music or what you have to say, when you have something to say. CJSW is all these things, but there’s also some kind of indescribable quality that it possesses as well. Let’s call it radio magic?!
BR: As the music director, you hear about a lot of new releases. What music are you excited about right now?
WO: Maybe I just drank the Cancon Kool-Aid, but I’m really excited about Canadian music at the moment. So much good stuff coming out of our country and our city. While I am passionate about all genres of music, I am most passionate about experimental/adventurous music. Some great stuff coming out of our city, too. I’m extremely excited to do everything I can to get this music heard by not only the people of Calgary, but of the world!
Other than Canadian music in general, what I’m following closest at the moment are the releases from Recollection GRM, a subsidiary of the Editions Mego label. My top three from that label are: L’Expérience Acoustique – François Bayle 3LP, Presque Rien – Luc Ferrari 2LP and L’Œeil écoute / Dedans-dehors – Bernard Parmegiani LP. All incredible and essential works.
BR: What do you envision for the future of CJSW?
WO: The future of radio is moving online. More and more people are listening to music online these days; sure people tune into the good old 90.9FM, but more and more people are choosing to listen directly off the CJSW website. There are so many ways for people to listen to music these days, so we want to make CJSW relevant to as many people as possible! We have begun working towards retooling our website and are working on introducing podcasts so that people can listen to any of our shows at any time! As our programming is so diverse, this will be an amazing advantage for us as there are some incredible shows that air at times that are not accessible to many. This will also help us grow the station into the global community. It’s going to be a crazy year for us! I, for one, am excited!
By Sara Elizabeth Taylor