March 3, 2023
Stasia Lanier visits with Lucinda Williams at her KSUT sponsored show at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.(Stasia Lanier / KSUT)

KSUT bids farewell to Stasia Lanier

Four Corners Public Radio | By Adam Burke

Sometimes a person is meant to do something. It just takes a little while for life and circumstance to catch up to destiny.

It might seem inevitable that Stasia Lanier ended up in front of a microphone, sharing her favorite music with radio listeners. But by her telling, she neither planned nor intended to have a career in radio.

"It was an accident," she said in a recent interview. "I saw an office manager job for KSUT appear in the paper, and I thought, 'I'll apply for that. That seems like a great place to work.'"

Stasia moved to Durango in 1992 with her husband after a decade in the Bay Area. Like many, they came to Four Corners searching for a lifestyle and a community. They were in temporary housing when Stasia started scanning the dial to find NPR's Morning Edition and found KSUT.

"I'll never forget this," she said. "It went from Morning Edition to the Tribal Morning Show. And it was a spectacular thing to hear coming through the radio. Then it went into the KSUT Music Blend - Lyle Lovett, Bonnie Raitt, Greg Brown. I just couldn't get over it."

Six months later, she was named KSUT's office manager.

"My goal was to do more at the station, but it wasn't to be on the air. That didn't occur to me at that time," she said. "I mean, I knew a lot about music. but I had no idea that I would ever be on the radio."

Channeling "The Nightbird"

Stasia had no professional broadcasting background when she started at KSUT. But she had musical taste, which she began refining in grade school, growing up outside New York City.

"I've always been a music fan, she said. "I'm the youngest of five, so my siblings first brought the music home in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were teenagers, and I was still in elementary school."

As a child, she heard evolutions and revolutions in music over the airwaves. Commercial radio out of New York City was breaking new ground in format and style–reaching Stasia's young ears in FM stereo on WNEW-FM.

"Even back then, WNEW took this album-oriented approach to programming," she said. "They went deeper than singles. They mixed up genres (the way) we do now. It was very bold as a commercial radio station."

Stasia listened at night, on headphones into the wee hours, when legendary DJ Alison Steele, known as "The Nightbird," was on WNEW. The Nightbird was known for her sultry voice and mystical late-night musings, and over a decade, starting in 1968, she played rock and roll till dawn for late-night listeners.

For at least one young listener wearing headphones in nearby Irvington, NY, The Nightbird showed how radio listening could be a magical experience.

"She would just read these random poems throughout the music," Stasia recalls. "And you would hear the latest pop song, but then you'd hear an Emmylou Harris song, and then you'd hear a reggae song."

In her teens, Stasia started heading into the city to attend concerts.

"I was doing that pretty much from the time I was in 9th grade," she said. "So I got exposed to a lot of great music. This is the early '70s to mid-70s, so there were some fantastic opportunities to see amazing bands and artists when it was still five or $10 a ticket."

Finding her voice at KSUT

When Stasia took the mic at KSUT, she knew what engaging radio sounded like. She knew great music. She just needed to put it all together.

"When I first got on the air, I was really uncomfortable and terrified," she recalled. "I would hyperventilate. I'd have to take these big breaths before I got on the mic. I was embarrassed by how uncomfortable I was. (Then) finally, it just fell away.

Over the years, Stasia held many roles. She ran marketing and promotion campaigns; she produced a series of CDs that featured in-studio performances. She even served as station manager for a few years.

Along the way, she earned the trust and admiration of countless colleagues and built followings on her Music Blend shows and San Juan Sunrise on Saturday mornings.

"She's a utility tool. She's a swiss army knife," said Chris Aaland, KSUT Development Director. "She can handle web design. She can handle social media. She can produce a show with the best of them. It's rare in life that you see an employee at a company who can wear 20 hats at once and succeed in all of them. Stasia is that person."

We asked listeners to leave voicemails for Stasia a few weeks ago, and appreciative messages flooded in. You can still leave a message here.

"I've worked in a lot of capacities here, but I think the personal engagement with listeners is probably at the top of my list," she said. "I'm very moved by having people tell me how much my music programming has meant to them."

After three decades of service, we wish Stasia well in her future adventures.

In retirement–or re-wirement, as her friends call it, Stasia is looking for "...less stress, more fun, time outdoors, travel, more time with family as everyone is aging. I definitely have some angst over it. but my husband retired a couple of years ago. But he's been so busy and having so much fun that I'd like to join him."

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