Presenting the KOOP Parke-ing Zone

Posted on: January 12, 2024
Filed under: ,

She DJs … she trains new volunteers … she’s a multi-media stylist … she’s Parke Ballantine. We spoke on January 8.

Michael A. Brown: What were your young years like growing up in New Jersey and Austin?

Parke Ballantine: I was born in a rural part of New Jersey and lived there until I was nine. But it was pretty close to New York City too. Then in 1996, I moved to Austin with my mom and sister and it was very different … to my mind, like something out of a Zorro film with western tumbleweeds and such. But I liked going from a country, backwoods world into an interesting Austin lifestyle. At that time, there were lots of arts and music and shows and I could express myself through them even at a young age. The music, especially, provided solace in what was a chaotic time for me.

MAB: When you first encountered KOOP, what did you find most appealing?

PB: I really love community arts and have been involved in media production almost all my career and adult life. I think about who is producing media and for whom. So I really appreciate organizations that embrace their community and reflect the community’s values and diversity. I first encountered KOOP during the covid lockdown period when I was looking for an outlet to help me not go stir-crazy, and that was KOOP. Music was something I could put it on, dance it out, and feel free. And I could always find something different on KOOP, from salsa to metal to lounge music to reggae to country. I also like that KOOP is helping people in the community learn broadcast arts and is making radio more accessible.

MAB: Tell us about your show, Mood Ring … the concept, getting it on the air, the music, etc.

PB: At first, I was torn between doing a news / public affairs type of show or a music show, and my love for music won out. I wanted to highlight and share my own breadth of music tastes that were formed from years of being around musicians, living lots of places, and traveling. That’s why Mood Ring is a free-form show with something for everybody … a space where everyone can belong and feel good. I play sets curated to meet the mood of your living room, jaunts, and wildest dreams. Find new gems and savor old favorites. A queer utopia! Change, evolve and repeat! Be yourself! Let the music move you.

MAB: Mood Ring is a great example of KOOP’s wide array of programming. What additional topics, themes, music, or other content might you like to hear?

PB: I would love to hear more dance music, whether disco or electronic or funk. I’ve had opportunities to DJ out in the community and play vinyl, and I think it would be really fun to have more dance-y type opportunities for KOOP to host that sort of event or at least feature more dance music on the air.

MAB: Besides hosting a show, you lead the station’s Training Team. How did you get that gig?

PB: I joined the Training Team in mid-2023. The person running the team at that time was about to move away and so they were looking for someone to take it on. I thought about it but wasn’t sure it was a commitment I could or should make. But others on the team kind of assumed I would do it and “volun-told” me. So I did and it has turned out fine … a great way of getting to know all the people plus the inner-workings of the KOOP organization.

MAB: Which aspects of training do new volunteers usually find most challenging … and what do they find most fun?

PB: For new volunteers who don’t have much technical background or experience, that can be a learning challenge. We teach the science and process of broadcasting, but being a KOOP programmer is more nuanced and involves more than merely choosing the music and pressing the buttons. For example, trainees have to consider the persona they want to present on the air, their communication style, the flow of their intended show, how they will transition between songs, how they will curate their playlist, how they will choose guests, and so on. When trainees  learn both the science and the art of broadcasting, the fun kicks in … the excitement of being on the air and sharing what they love in real-time.

MAB: You’re quite active in the Austin creative arts and music communities … tell us about those please.

PB: I work as a stylist and creative director, helping individuals and brands with their fashions and attire to make them look good. I work with photographers, videographers, and media makers. Plus, being part of events, I get to meet many people in the music industry. All those aspects come together to make Austin a vibrant creative ecosystem and community. I hope the city values the creative community and actively supports it.

MAB: What’s coming up on the next couple Mood Ring shows?

PB: I was recently out at Enchanted Rock and now I want to do a show about being on the road and out in nature. That show will happen soon. I’m also planning a show that highlights the different Zodiac signs, which will be very cool.

You can enjoy Mood Ring with Parke Ballantine every Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.

Interview by Michael A. Brown