Listeners will recognize Leone from “Postcards” on KUAC FM. The program, produced at the KUAC studio on the UAF campus, works to bring the perfect feel to Sunday evenings, hitting the right balance between familiar and undiscovered music from home and abroad.
Music and radio have always played a prominent role in Leone’s life. Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, she listened to Top 40 songs and maintained a huge record collection. In between studying for a bachelor’s degree in environmental psychology at the University of Michigan and earning a law degree at the University of Oregon, Leone worked as a bartender, slinging drinks to the melody of popular tunes.
Once Leone came to Alaska in 1984, she knew she wanted to stay. While working for an Alaska Superior Court judge in Sitka, she volunteered at public radio station KCAW. Admitting to shyness, she had to challenge herself to host a show called “Sunday Thymes.”
“It was public speaking without people of front of me, so I could do it,” she said. Even after all these years, she said, “I’m still shy, but I’m good with a microphone. I find it personally rewarding.”
After a stint in Anchorage, Leone relocated to Fairbanks to work in the state attorney general’s office. Wanting to get back into public radio, she found her way to KUAC, hosting “Monday Blues” for a couple of years. The late-night program didn’t mesh with her day job and she eventually landed the “Postcards” slot.
“I love doing radio,” she said. “It’s creative; it’s useful; it’s helpful to people to have auditory diversity. And radio builds community.”
Being a good radio program host requires an interest in music and in people. “The other skills come to you,” she said. “I just try to touch others with what has touched me.”
KUAC volunteer coordinator Lori Neufeld believes that has definitely worked in Leone’s case. “Leone is a volunteer coordinator’s dream,” she said. “She makes listeners feel close and part of the community on any given Sunday evening with her easy-going style and musical picks.”
In the beginning, Leone’s program featured female acoustic singer-songwriters, but Leone found this too limiting and added non-acoustic music and male voices. Down the road, blues crept in, followed by world music and even popular music.
“I look for something lyrical in a poetic sense,” she said. “It’s not about a particular genre or artist, it’s more a search for connection. I like to slip in socially relevant content without being overwhelming. I love music that has something to say and says it in a beautiful way.”
Although Leone loves music, she has made only low-key attempts at playing steel drums, ukulele and guitar. Yet music and her KUAC program are on her mind most of the time.
Leone recalled travels where she was always listening for music to feature on “Postcards.” “I can’t emphasize enough how having a radio program has deepened my travel experiences,” she said. “I don’t travel as much as I used to, but music brings me to places where people think differently, yet we are all under the same stars.”
Now retired, Leone said she has had to drop extracurricular activities at times, but never KUAC. “I want to stay with KUAC and keep my radio program,” she said.
“Postcards” airs at 6 p.m. Sundays on KUAC 89.9 FM.