Dec 082011
Authors: Courtney Riley

There’s a difference between music that’s made for people and music that’s made for money, according to Nick Penney, KCSU’s DJ Stickley.

“I like music where you can tell people put thought and feeling in it,” he said.

After three years of hosting his own radio show for KCSU at 90.5 FM, the applied computing technology major is leaving behind the legacy of his radio personality, DJ Stickley, when he graduates this semester.

For the past three years, Stickley’s show has aired on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. He mainly plays new music from promoters, but he likes to squeeze in some of his older favorites like Radiohead and Postal Service.

In addition to being a prime time DJ, Stickley, who randomly thought of his DJ name at the last minute before his first show, is also KCSU’s production and booking manager. He is in charge of making sure their underwriting slots and promotional bumps get recorded and played during all 24 hours KCSU is playing music.

“It’s kind of a grab bag of new stuff and old, good stuff,” Stickley said. “People can get a taste of what’s new before they here it somewhere else.”

Stickley is very smart and creative, said Mario Caballero, the general manager of Rocky Mountain Student Media Corp., and he has a distinctive style.

“He has a quirky sense of humor and is still very personable on the air,” he said.

For Stickley’s last show, airing tonight at 4 p.m., he is going to do something different from his usual style, playing a couple of songs from 25 albums he declares to be the best of all time.

“Stickley’s personality is somewhere between the smartest dweeb and the most nonsensical idiot,” said Michael Elizabeth Sakas, KCSU’s station manager. “If you have ever listened to his show, you know exactly what I mean. It’s the only way I can describe it.”

“I like to keep things interesting,” Stickley said. “I think I’m pretty energetic and I have a unique voice that puts off some people, but it also makes some more interested I think.”

People have even recognized his voice in coffee shops around town and asked him if he’s really the DJ Stickley they hear on the radio.

“It’s not something that happens all the time, so it doesn’t get annoying. It’s good to know people are actually listening,” he said.

Sakas said Stickley’s show has drawn listeners for years through his great on-air personality and technical skills.

He involves listeners by taking their requests and recording and playing their phone calls over the air.

“People know that when they call Stickley, they will hear their voice and the song they requested, and who doesn’t love that?” she said.

When he’s on air, the DJ just tries to have fun.

“It’s kind of a zen-ish experience,” he said. “It’s really a rewarding challenge.”

Stickley readily embraces incorporating new voices, attitudes, music and trends as part of his job, Cabellero said.

“He does a good job of carrying on the tradition of always reinventing KCSU.”

Most of the music he plays on his show is Indie rock. But Stickley said he listens to a lot of different types of music.

“There’s good stuff in all genres,” he said. “Some more than others. But I don’t try to discriminate. I really like the new stuff we play. I get to be exposed to music I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. The music directors do a good job of getting new music.”

Stickley became interested in DJ-ing at KCSU because his mom had a friend whose daughter was a DJ at CSU’s radio station. He came to the station, shadowed her and decided it was for him.

“It started off kind of like driving a car,” he said. “It was tough at first, but now it’s second nature.”

His favorite show he hosted in his three years of DJ-ing was a request-a-thon he did two years ago.

He took 53 requests, which set a record, at least as far as he knows, he said.

Stickley has also done a segment on the best of RamTalk, where he ranked his top three submissions.

And RamTalk returned the attention with a post a few semesters ago saying, “Dear Stickley from KCSU: Can I have your Children?”

Music in general has been an interest of Stickley’s for years. He was in marching band in high school and has played the drums since he was 10 years old.

“I fool around with the guitar and bass too,” he said. “Music has been a good, creative release for me for most of my life.”

After graduating this month, Stickley plans to start graduate school out of state in August and enroll in an interaction design program where he can help develop technology, mainly dealing with usability.

“I’m just staying here for a few months, applying and hoping I get in somewhere,” he said. “I’ll miss the people here the most. I’ve made a lot of friends here.”

“I’ll miss our office antics the most when he is gone,” Sakas said. “He is the best guy to keep you from getting anything important done.”

“Anybody who has been here that long and contributed that much energy will be greatly missed when they graduate,” Caballero said.

Every new DJ at KCSU looks up to Stickley for his level of recognition he’s received in his years here, Sakas said, from the staff and also nationally.

“His voice is all over KCSU, and right now he is our most distinct voice,” she said. “All DJs want to be that one day, and I think his name will stick around for a long time after he is gone.”

Entertainment editor Courtney Riley can be reached at

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