It’s Tuesday morning and Heidi Sarazen settles into a small corner desk at her workplace on Pine Street. As she stares at a computer monitor the size of a roadside billboard, she jumps between the dozen or so tabs opened on the desktop in search of music. She starts to play a song by The War & Treaty, a “folk-gospel” duo that will play the 45th Telluride Bluegrass Festival June 24, before stopping mid-tune in favor of some spacier sounds.
“This was such an awesome set,” she says as she pulls up Joe Russo’s Almost Dead set list from this year’s Sweetwater 420 Fest in Atlanta. The “greatest Grateful Dead cover band out there right now,” as Sarazen puts it, will play the Telluride Ride Festival July 15. As KOTO Community Radio’s new website manager and account administrator, Sarazen recently posted a link to the 420 Fest performance on the station’s Purple House on Pine blog. The blog is a Sarazen creation: Something the station has never had before. She explained KOTO wants to employ more multimedia methods, and that desire includes online content.
“I like the idea of a blog because you can have some flexibility with it,” she said. “I see it as a more intimate view of KOTO.”
KOTO DJs, along with Sarazen, write the stories, including DJ spotlights. It’s all part of the koto.org website facelift, she said, which also includes increased social media activity and livestreaming, especially during the summer festival season.
“I’ve been focusing a lot on the website, and our online presence and appearance,” she said of her newfound role.
Sarazen is no stranger to the station, though. She holds down a regular Sunday spot from 4-6 p.m., which first aired two years ago after she completed the mandatory DJ training with encouragement from fellow wax wizard Jamie Catchpool, host of Electric Grease Gun Radio.
Catchpool noticed Sarazen’s knack for good music when she hung out in the studio during his show.
“I play a lot of jam bands and bluegrass. I love Phish. I love to play some 12-minute songs for sure,” she admitted.
As a student of anthropology and environmental law at the University of Georgia, Sarazen always loved music, but never considered a career in radio. She became a guide on South Carolina’s Chattooga River and worked on a dairy farm in Craftsbury, Vermont, before moving to Telluride in 2011. And what brought Sarazen out West? Well, she and her guide friends heard this Rocky Mountain town was “the spot,” so they decided to give it a go.
“I was ticket-checking for the mountain my first year and just didn’t leave,” Sarazen said.
Becoming involved with the local radio, which she calls “the last bastion of free speech and expression,” has “exposed” her to a “new Telluride,” she added.
Cara Pallone, KOTO’s news director, describes Sarazen as a “ray of sunshine,” noting her upbeat personality and seemingly constant smile. Plus, she’s a music junkie, or “aficionado” as those in the biz say.
“She understands the KOTO balance — treasuring it as a funky, authentic Telluride institution, while helping it adapt with the times. She gets it,” she said.
While music is a passion of Sarazen, she’s also an “amateur artist.” Her media of choice are watercolors and acrylics; her paintings can be viewed at Alpine Wellness, along with some of her “psychedelic landscape” prints.
She always took art classes, she said, and her father was “artistic,” but a torn ACL two years ago gave Sarazen more time to focus on painting.
“It was something to do because I couldn’t be as active as I wanted to be. Art was a mental therapy for me during that time,” she said.
She laughs thinking about how an admirer once described her pieces.
“She said, ‘they look like how I feel when I see it.’ How you feel when you look at the landscape is what I’m trying to capture with my art,” she said.