Mark Kilfoil is the program director of CHSR, the campus radio station shared by The University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University. He has a radio voice, a metal head’s beard and a scholar’s thoughtful diction.
He hosts three radio shows: The Lunchbox (current affairs and some music), Caffeen (music) and The Weird Show (spoken word)
Kilfoil is one of the two paid employees at the station; it otherwise depends on volunteer content. He was born in Bath, N.B. and has a masters in computer science at UNB. He was working on a PhD in the same field, but cut that journey short and began working at CHSR full time.
Why did you stop pursuing your PhD?
I’d been doing it for a while and I didn’t feel like it was satisfying me anymore. I still love computer science and I do miss it but I found that the research world is not where I want to be. It took me a long time to be convinced of that. I’m still not entirely certain, sometimes.
Why did you pick this job?
I’m not sure in a way if I picked the job or the job picked me.
I’ve been a volunteer here for many, many years. I think ‘97 is when I first started. There was a bit of a problem with staff in 2010, so we ended up having a big need for people to step up. I kind of leaped full into it despite still working on my PhD at the time and split my days at my office working on that and then here.
When we came to finally decide on a position I just looked at the candidates and said “I’m not personally pleased with what’s happening here.” Nothing against them; they were just not the people I felt would be good for the place. So I thought “I’ll give it a try myself,” and this is my fifth year here.
How would you describe your relationship with CHSR? What is your role here?
Gosh… It’s an almost liberating experience. We do real radio, so there’s a definite feeling that you’re doing something real in the world, you’re reaching people in the community, you’re helping people in the community get heard. It’s very satisfying.
There also a sense, because I’m working here and because I’ve been a volunteer and I’ve been helping to train, that I get to help people find their voices. And find what they want to do, and find ways to express themselves. To see them build confidence in doing that is also very satisfying.
What is it about your personality that makes you a good program director?
One of the things I’m told by a lot of people is that I’m very patient and I think that’s an essential quality if you want to teach anybody anything.
People say I have a good voice for radio, and that’s something I do accept but it’s also something that is earned from 15 or 20 years of doing this, I don’t even know how many years anymore.
Would you rather be blind or deaf?
I think that I would fear the loss of sound more than I would the loss of sight. Because there’s a subtlety to sound which is very difficult to reproduce in sight. The landscape of my mind is much more capable of reproducing so many more things than the landscape of any screen. I can recreate anything I’ve seen at any time in my imagination through hearing it.
How does the arts and music culture in your life influence you professionally?
I grew up on country, and some of that still stays with me. When I came to CHSR it was a musical awakening.
Music is a big part of my identity in terms of what I like but, ironically I like listening to spoken word programs and news. Those I can listen to at all times, but music is a special event to me usually. It’s something where I don’t want to be working on anything else, or I want the music to be inspiring what I’m working on, like when I’m writing fiction.
What else are you passionate about?
I’m a role-playing gamer, and that’s a chance to do shared storytelling. I built a game set in the Firefly universe, the TV show. I built my own sub-universe within it which is only marginally related.
What’s the game’s name?
It doesn’t really have a name I suppose… I guess I call it The Family, but that was a goal more than a title at that point.
Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft?
Dungeons and Dragons of course! Table top.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I hope that the ability for me to do more creative expression of my own increases. I’d like to have written a few novels and audio dramas and plays, and travel a bit more. All of that is in the future I hope.
Would you say you love your job?
Oh yeah. It could mean long hours, it could mean frustration, it could mean a lot of confusing things to work with, a lot of different personalities – sometimes you don’t get along – but I definitely love it and because all of those things don’t matter too much, I’ll overcome them, I’ll see them through.