For almost three decades, Saturdays in southern Idaho have offered radio listeners a musical smorgasbord. Private Idaho, a long-running show on KBSU (FM 90.3), has been central to that offering of assorted of tunes. It began when Boise State student Victor Pacania walked into the station and created a show of unmatched eclectic musical programming. Back then, KBSU was a student radio station, not the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate it is today.
From student station to NPR outlet, Private Idaho has been a consistent feature of KBSU broadcasting. It has always been a live program full of diverse music featuring classic rock, folk, blues, jazz, world beat and even musical theater. It was, and still is, on FM 90.3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday.
Shortly after I moved to Idaho, a woman confided that she often planned her Saturdays around Pacania's broadcast. She wasn't the only one. After just a few weekends of listening to Private Idaho, I started scheduling my Saturdays the same way.
Pacania's tenure behind the controls tragically ended earlier this summer. After battling pancreatic cancer for over a year, he passed away in June at age 53. He'd been the host, producer and driving force behind Private Idaho for nearly all of his adult life.
His love of music and people, and his interest in life in general, was evident in the outpouring of feelings from friends and fans when they learned of his passing. Excerpts from comments posted on the Boise State Radio Web site included the following:
• "He did the most remarkable job of bringing his excellent taste in music to the listening public every Saturday." (posted by Lois)
• "Quite simply, Victor was the best at mixing old and new, styles, paces and moods. As one fan wrote, he just seemed to capture Saturday." (posted by Matt)
• "The world is a better place for Victor having been in it, but it is a lesser place without him." (posted by David)
• "Though absent in flesh, his spirit lives on in our airwaves." (posted by Kevin)
Boise State Radio General Manager John Hess points proudly to the Boise State scholarship fund founded in Pacania's name. "Victor was far more than just a host of a radio show," Hess said. "People tuned into Private Idaho to hear a weekly conversation with Victor, carried out through the music he played. And while the show was always about the music and not about Victor, he became an integral part of our community." To honor him, proceeds from this new scholarship fund will go to Boise State students enrolled in the radio production courses through the Department of Communication.
Following his death, the management at KBSU faced difficult questions. Would they continue the program, and if they did, who would take Pacania's place? His talent and touch would be tough to match. In the end, Boise State Radio selected, coincidentally, another 53-year old, Carl Scheider, as the new host and producer for Private Idaho. Scheider has been a fixture on local radio, including working on KBSU in its early years. More recently, he occasionally filled in when Pacania was too ill to do the show.
On the selection of Scheider as host, Hess said, "When we chose Carl to substitute for Victor, we wanted a host who understood the sentiments of Private Idaho and could add their musical knowledge and style to an already great program."
I went to the KBSU studio to watch Scheider in action one Saturday in mid-August. While there, I spoke with Linda Laz before she left the studio. Laz has her own eclectic music show on KBSU, airing just prior to Private Idaho.
Now that Private Idaho is under Scheider's direction, Laz hands off to Scheider at the end of her show. Pacania used to say, "Linda always plays the good stuff before I get there." Laz responded with a laugh, thinking of her show starting at 6 a.m. "Victor never wanted to get up that early."
People who thought they remembered a song played on Private Idaho often found that it was really played on Laz Spectrum and vice versa. She and Pacania perfected the handoff between their shows to the extent that Victor often timed his arrival to just a minute or two before he went on air.
Scheider feels pretty lucky. After 25 years, he says he kind of ran out of radio stations to work for. "I never thought I'd be in radio again," he says. When asked about the best part of his new job, with a sweep of his hand, Scheider answered, "This is it. There's no playlist. Unlike commercial radio, you're actually involved in the music selection." The worst part? "There isn't a worst part. I wouldn't trade this for anything."
Over the last year as Pacania was ailing, Scheider and Pacania spoke a lot. Scheider waited for Pacania's call each Friday, telling him if he would need to fill in. If not, Scheider knew that Pacania felt OK. Even now, Scheider says he thinks of himself as a "permanent fill-in" for Pacania.
"Sometimes I think he's sitting, watching, when I'm inspired to play something he did." On air, he refers to those songs as "Vic's picks" and he plays about one per hour. Like Pacania did, Scheider brings a bag full of his own CDs to the studio each Saturday. He estimates about one-third of what he plays are his CDs, and the other two-thirds are from the KBSU collection.
The future for Private Idaho seems to be in good hands. The easy mix between songs continues in a way that would make Pacania proud. Scheider's selections range from Elvis Presley to Elvis Costello and from the Beatles to the Greencards. He plays Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash and Brandi Carlile.
Scheider has elected not to close Private Idaho with "Almost Saturday Night," the tune Panacia always used to end his shows. However, he still selects a Saturday-themed closing song. The Saturday I was there, he closed with B.B. King's "Saturday Night Fish Fry."
In football, a handoff is defined as the act of giving the ball to another player. In this case, the ball is a microphone and a well-loved show. The handoff from Pacania to Scheider seems to have been smooth. And we can look forward to some more great music on Saturdays.
Private Idaho airs on KBSU FM 90.3 on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To learn more about the Victor Pacania Scholarship Fund, contact the BSU Foundation at 208-426-3276.