New Affiliate KJZX Brings Jazz Back to Austin

Eric Truax of KJZX in Austin, Texas

Say “Austin” and music is often the first word that comes to mind.  But, for Eric Truax, one vital sound–jazz–was no longer in the air, and he missed it.  That longing inspired the community radio veteran to found KJZX, a new Austin-based LPFM dedicated to the genre.

It wasn’t easy.  For eight years, Truax wound his way through licensing windows and regulations until finally, in 2021, securing a frequency.  The new station offers jazz, blues, folk, and some news.  Funding is still a challenge, but development plans are already being formed.

This week, in emailed responses to our questions, Eric told us about the new station.

KJZX logo

Diane:  Congratulations, Eric, on the station and welcome to Pacifica.  

You opened your responses by posing the questions you knew would be asked about the need for another music radio station in Austin.  So, I think that we should maybe start with those questions and your answers. 


The first question is really “why”.   Why start a new low-power FM community radio station in Austin, Texas, which was already a great radio town?  What’s not on the air that Austin needs?

Well, there wasn’t a full-time jazz station, and other stations had moved away from their blues and folk roots shows over the years, which I missed quite a bit as an old Austinite. So, I decided from the beginning that this was a niche we could carve out for ourselves. 

Diane:  So, now that you’re on the air, what are the station’s connections to the community?

Eric:  Although Austin isn’t yet considered to be a jazz town – in the way that it’s been a home for rock, country, blues and singer-songwriters – it is home for some great jazz musicians and jazz clubs, with live jazz most nights of the week.  We are working on becoming part of the Austin jazz community, by reaching out to musicians, organizations and jazz clubs.

Diane:  Securing the station’s license took about 8 years.  How did you make that happen?

Eric:  The problem was that we had missed the 2013 LPFM filing window to even get an opportunity to start a station.

However, in that 2013 window, there was a group of six different mutually-exclusive (MX) applications that were filed for the same frequency in central Austin (mainly church stations), with at least one progressive nonprofit who had decided they didn’t want to run a radio station after all, which would have competed against an existing local community station.  They were going to just abandon their LPFM application.

My previous radio experience had included the start-up of two other public radio stations in Texas, as well as working at Pacifica’s KPFT in Houston.  So, despite their intention to just drop their LPFM application, I convinced the original progressive nonprofit to allow me to start up and run an LPFM station on their behalf for three years until it could be officially transferred to Jazz ATX, Inc., provided we didn’t try to compete with the existing community radio station. 

After we broke out of the MX group, we finally got on the air in 2018 on 101.9 FM but had lots of interference from a co-channel translator.  The only other frequency available turned out to be 89.1, which is where we are now. 

For the first three years, though, there was no absolute guarantee that the original nonprofit would follow through with a transfer of the station to Jazz ATX, since there were other groups who wanted the frequency, apparently the last available LPFM frequency in Austin.  So we ran the station quietly, under the radar, until the station was finally transferred { to Jazz ATX, Inc. } in the middle of the COVID pandemic in early 2021, which was, yes, nearly eight years from the original filing window.

By the way, the “ATX” in “Jazz ATX” is a local shorthand nickname for “Austin, Texas”. 

Diane:  You have a long background in community radio, and I imagine that was a great asset.  Can you tell us more about your previous community radio work?

Eric:  My radio work started in the very conservative college town of College Station, Texas, where I was going to graduate school at Texas A&M in the late 80s.  After working as a student at the campus radio station (and occasionally listening to Pacifica’s KPFT when I visited Houston), I was convinced that we needed alternative voices on the air, so I dropped out of grad school to create and manage a brand new community radio station, KEOS 89.1 FM.  It was quite a lot of work, building a station from scratch, but I’m proud of it.

I ended up working for a couple of other community radio stations, including Pacifica’s KPFT in Houston, and an awesome station in Paonia, Colorado –  KVNF – before heading back to Texas to finish grad school.

I was later invited by Tarleton State University, which is located southwest of Fort Worth, in the very conservative town of Stephenville, to create and manage a new NPR station for them (KTRL 90.5), teach broadcasting, and also manage their existing LPFM student radio station.  Tarleton had received a donation of a noncommercial radio license and weren’t quite sure what to do with it.  This was a challenge, since I was given very little budget or staff, but I managed to secure NPR affiliation, as well as an NPR satellite downlink, while connecting with the arts community in the area.  Although the NPR station covered a fairly large area over several counties, the all-music student LPFM (KXTR-LP) signal just covered the town of Stephenville, and still managed to attract listeners, given that the other choices on the commercial dial included quite a few country stations.  It was the Tarleton student LPFM that gave me the idea that a community LPFM would work in Austin.

Diane:  What an inspiring record of building community radio! 

Let’s talk now about KJZX’s current programming.  How have you built the station’s schedule? What are your programming goals?

Eric:  Our programming goals are to offer music and programming that isn’t available on full-power stations.  Right now that’s jazz during the week, with a bit of blues, world and folk music on the weekend.  

Over the years, the local NPR station had gradually gotten rid of their weekday jazz, as well as their Saturday morning folk shows, which I missed, so I’m very happy to be able to recreate that on KJZX. Also, surprisingly, one of the local full-power community stations had dropped Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, so I picked that up right away, although progressive politics is not our main focus. 

Diane:  So how does your affiliation with Pacifica support your goals?

Eric:  Affiliation with the Pacifica Network is giving us access to some great programs and streaming technology that we didn’t have before.   It’s important to create community with local programming, but it’s also important to be a part of a broader network of community stations and to share programs such as Democracy Now ! with your local community.

Diane:  And, now that your license is secure, what comes next?

Eric:  Station finances are very shaky, mainly because Austin already has a number of community and public radio stations competing for listener support. So, the future of KJZX will likely depend on a partnership with a local college that is willing to provide space and support for a community radio station, as well as a higher tower for the antenna, which should greatly improve our signal.  We’re actively looking for that partnership and hope to get that accomplished this year. 

Photo of Eric and KJZX logo used with permission of Eric Truax.