KUAC volunteer Esther Cunningham is retiring after hosting for 23 years on the KUAC FM airwaves, over half of that time, Esther has hosted the Gospel Hour on KUAC’s Sunday nights at 9pm. Esther’s final shows of the Gospel Hour aired July 24th and 31st, 2016.
KUAC’s Volunteer Coordinator Lori Neufeld interviewed Esther Cunningham leading up to the sunset of the Gospel Hour.
LN: When did you start hosting on KUAC?
EC: I started hosting ‘Round Midnight “Slow Jams” in 1993. Every Saturday listeners would call in and dedicate songs to loved ones in Alaska and beyond. I was particularly popular with the postal employees at the Downtown Fairbanks branch who were working the late night shift. I played a lot of Motown hits from the Supremes, Miracles, Four Tops, Temptations, Jackson 5, Gladys Knight and so many more soul musicians. I have quite the collection of over 300 CDs that I’d share from on ‘Round Midnight.
LN: How did you move from Saturday night “Slow Jams” to Sunday night’s “Gospel Hour”?
EC: In 2001, there was slot in the Sunday evening schedule so I left a Gospel CD with the program manager at the time, Roger Leff. He liked what he heard and the Gospel Hour was born. I know the Lord had a hand in guiding me towards leaving the Saturday night ‘Round Midnight shift to the Sunday evening “Gospel Hour”.
LN: You’ve been recognized for your commitment to hosting at KUAC?
EC: Yes, in 1995 I was the KUAC-FM Reel Special Volunteer which came with my name engraved on an actual reel-to-reel audio tape. The national magazine “Essence” featured me in their October 1994 article “Living in Alaska”.
LN: Speaking of recognition…How many times have you been recognized by community members when they hear your voice?
EC: I earn my living working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough as a switchboard operator/receptionist. I’ve had folks call in and comment that my voice sounds familiar and then ask if I play music at KUAC. Others see my name plate at my desk and would ask if I host the Gospel Hour on KUAC and comment “I love your music!”
LN: With your upcoming retirement from the Borough in Spring and your retirement from hosting, do you have any special plans?
EC: Retirement means I had better get on with my bucket list!