With her silver sun and peace sign necklaces and her funky, colorful mushroom phone case, Abby Regensburger channels the aesthetic of her Kutztown University Radio show, Revolution, every day.
Revolution’s Instagram page greets its audience with a smiling daisy in the middle of a rainbow of muted pink, orange, and yellow. The 60’s hippie style is fitting, for her show is named after the 1968 Beatles song, “Revolution.”
“I just love the 60s aesthetic,” she said. “I play mostly alternative and indie, but I just thought the style in general would be cool for the show because it has political undertones sometimes.”
The 1960s saw the Civil Rights Act and student-led anti-war protests surrounding the Vietnam War. In just the first few years of the 2020s, young people are still protesting, with the Black Lives Matter movement and abortion rights rallies. Regensburger channels the 1960s vibes as a way to bring back the best of the time, young people raising their voices, to the 2020s.
“ I've been invested in politics since like third grade,” she said.
As the only Democrat in a conservative Catholic school, Regensburger’s views were often the outlier. That didn’t stop her from arguing against her classmates’ opinions.
“Once I started Kutztown University Radio, I started thinking of ways I could involve politics into what I was doing without outright saying on air, ‘Hey, I'm a Democrat, and this is what I think,’” she said. “I was trying to find ways to kind of like, make it educational, trying to be nonpartisan in a way.”
When Roe v. Wade was overturned in May 2022, she decided to host a Planned Parenthood radiothon. Her fundraising ended up surpassing its goal of $200.
The radiothon featured prominent protest songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister, “Changes” by David Bowie, and of course, “Revolution” by the Beatles. Regensburger also played some songs by Phoebe Bridgers, while discussing Bridger’s story about having an abortion at Planned Parenthood.
“We’re Not Gonna Take It” is indignant and full of rage, with sneering, screaming vocals, a sassy guitar solo, and backing vocals shouting in agreement. While “Revolution” also opens with an intense guitar riff, it is much more subdued, expressing doubt against using violent tactics. However, both songs insist that they will not follow the popular opinion blindly, instead choosing to stick out and have the freedom to make their own choices.
“I feel like a lot of songs can actually bring important issues to light,” she said. “Like one song I played on that show, ‘Bethlehem’ by Declan McKenna talked about how religion kind of relates to the problems we have in the world today.”
The guitar and drums in “Bethlehem” are solitary, drawing on the forlorn vocals, as if the singer is tired of praying in an empty church to a god that never answers. With a line like, “I can do as I want and you don't have the right to choose,” the song is an obvious choice for a Planned Parenthood radiothon, given that the pressure of religion on the government and the hypocrisy of politicians has led to the blurred lines between Church and State.
She chose to end the radiothon with her favorite protest song, “Changes,” to leave her listeners with a positive message. “Changes” embraces the art-pop genre with a jaunty piano riff, bright percussive beats, and a saxophone solo that breathes life into the song. It is perky, arrogant, and youthful, reminding its audience that children are, “quite aware of what they're going through.”
“I felt like that really spoke with what was going on at the time,” she said.
Regensburger ended up submitting her radiothon to the Intercollegiate Broadcasting Awards “Best On-Air Pledge Drive” category. Much to her surprise, she won against KUR’s own 1866 Giving Challenge pledge.
“I didn't expect it at all to be nominated, let alone win,” she said. “I thought it was too controversial of a topic to ever be considered.”
The success of her Planned Parenthood radiothon has inspired Regensburger to use her voice and host another one. One of her ideas focuses on raising money for gun safety with the Sandy Hook Promise or Everytown for Gun Safety.
Through her show as well as her involvement as chapter lead of KU Students for Shapiro, Regensburger was able to interview Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis. She was shocked when he agreed to the interview and felt it was even crazier that she talked to him before he went on to win his election race.
“I was able to ask him questions that related to Kutztown University and the surrounding area, which was cool,” she said. “I felt like that way I could be informing students who maybe aren't sure who they want to vote for yet.”
Every week, Regensburger looks forward to picking out music and deciding what to include on her show. Most importantly, she enjoys having the opportunity to speak to the entire campus. For her, hosting Revolution is about sending a message through a shared love of music. Revolution exists outside of herself, as it is part of the greater human desire for connection.
“It's something I look forward to every week,” she said.
Regensburger loves when people message her on Instagram, telling her they listen to her show. Sometimes they’ll request a song or give her recommendations of new artists to listen to. Recently, someone recommended to her the song “Grocery Store Girl” by Aidan Bisset. After playing it on her show, she began listening to it nonstop on her own. Whether it's overt or subliminal, music is always trying to communicate, fostering bonds between people who otherwise may never cross paths.
“You don't really think that people are listening, connecting with you, until you get a message like that,” she said.
When curating her playlist for a Revolution show, Regensburger draws on her personality as well as her emotions that day. If it’s a rainy day, she plays smooth, sad songs, while sunny days are accompanied by upbeat, indie music. A listener tuning in will notice, for the music creates a conversation through the radio waves.
Revolution has not only allowed Regensburger to connect with the KU community but also to be comfortable in her own voice.
“When I first started the show, I was terrified of public speaking. I would rerecord like every single line over and over again,” she said. “Now I don't have a script. I just talk off the fly.”
Instead of pre-recording her show, she goes live every Friday to create a more personal experience. Leaning into the microphone, her eyes monitoring the volume levels and queuing up her next song, Regensburger is at ease. KUR’s radio station is her place.
KUR’s recording studio is a hodgepodge of its hosts’ personalities. The door is plastered with band stickers, the soundboard is covered in rainbow rubber ducks, and a Guy Fieri Flavortown poster hangs next to a print of Elvis Presley’s enlistment photo. In the corner, there is a whiteboard covered with song recommendations, including “‘Brazil’ by Declan McKenna” written in blue ink.
Regensburger is on a mission to spread McKenna’s music to a wider audience. Much like her show, “Brazil” has a political message, criticizing FIFA’s corruption in hosting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, without addressing the deep poverty affecting Brazilians. The steady guitar riff and bass pizzicato are reminiscent of driving a convertible in the hot summer air with the roof down. However, the breezy instrumentals can barely conceal the singer’s contempt and frustration with powerful people’s corruption. Like Regensburger, McKenna was making a statement at a young age, as he was only 16 when the song was released.
Since she was a child, Regensburger has looked forward to joining KUR in college. Her dad, the advisor, is the reason she got into radio.
“I've grown up in radio basically my whole entire life. There are pictures of me in the studio from when I was like five… There's not a time that I can think of when KUR wasn't playing in our house.”
Now, Regensburger knows everything about running a show on KUR. She knows which swear words are allowed to be aired, like pissed off but not pissed on, and how many songs can be played by one artist in one show. She is meticulous in the details of editing her pre-recorded shows, making sure to edit out long silence so the audio is clean. When she airs live, she is precise in the reading of ads and logging the music she plays so artists can receive royalties. For as much as she knows radio, in a way, Regensburger is radio.
“A lot of people think that college radio and radio, in general, is dead,” she said. “But it's not.”
People may not realize the power of the radio, even when they listen to the weather on the way to work or breaking news in their offices. Regensburger is sure to remind them with each episode of Revolution, proving to Gen Z that music, and especially radio, is a force for communication and change.