KZUM taps The Bottle Tops’ Kerry Semrad as next general manager; Halfwit teases upcoming full-length, releases first of three new songs; Hear Nebraska, Maha Music Festival among Nebraska Tourism Commission grant awardees

KZUM taps The Bottle Tops’ Kerry Semrad as next general manager

Lincoln community radio station KZUM’s nationwide search for its next leader has concluded right in its own backyard, landing on one of the city’s most active, visible local musicians.

The Sunrise Communications board of directors has tapped Kerry Semrad to fill its general manager position. She replaces interim director and current programming manager Ryan Evans, who filled the void left by former GM Cathy Berhns’ departure in October 2015. Semrad’s tenure begins May 4.

Coupled with years in the local music community as co-fronter of The Bottle Tops, Semrad brings more than a decade of experience in the financial sector. She has spent the past five years at Liberty First Credit Union, with duties ranging from management to grant writing to event planning.

Semrad will now be tasked with guiding KZUM through one of the most pivotal periods in its 38-year existence. The nonprofit radio station is in danger of losing public funding after new federal funding regulations increased the baseline amount of private funds community stations must raise in order to be eligible for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s Community Service Grant funds.

KZUM has missed that mark two years running; a third will trigger loss of funding. Semrad sees this moment as an opportunity to capitalize on KZUM’s diverse programming, strong team, and community connections.

“I find this challenge to be motivation to become more financially independent,” Semrad says. “I want to bring every crazy idea to the table and see what we can make happen, as a team.”

Her financial background and grant experience is one of the main reasons Board of Directors Chair Anthony Ragar says makes her a great fit. Ragar says her connections within the private community not only complement Development Coordinator Shannon Claire’s small-business and local music focus, but will allow Semrad to hit the ground running with KZUM’s renewed grant-writing focus.

“Her background will lend itself getting out to that part of the community … [that] we don’t approach a lot,” Ragar says. “She has the confidence we really liked. Having worked in it, she can talk the talk, so to speak.”

Semrad says she’s excited to begin reaching out to members, listeners and the general community, as well as focusing on youth outreach to generate future interest in the station. Investing in that part of the community, she says, will help make KZUM self-sufficient.

I want to look into the future, another 38 years from now and have KZUM be [even more relevant] than it is now,” Semrad says.

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Halfwit teases upcoming full-length, releases first of three new songs

After a semi-active 2015 that saw the band sparingly on stage but active in studio, Lincoln’s Halfwit will release a full-length this year. The hard rock quartet inconspicuously dropped that LP’s first single yesterday via YouTube.

Halfwit teased its forthcoming release over the weekend with a video of drummer Lance Fiedler and text indicating three new tracks. Four days later, it posted “Great Western MCU” to its Facebook page.

Lincoln saw the band — comprising Fiedler, bassist Saber Blazek, guitarist Kevin Waltemath and guitarist/vocalist Dan Jenkins — out for its major festivals in 2015, as well as a small handful of one-offs. But the band stayed largely out of view, releasing a pair of digital EPs and presumably working through new material.

Hear “Great Western MCU” below, and catch Halfwit Friday, May 13 at O’Leaver’s with Well Aimed Arrows and The Natural States (RSVP here).

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Hear Nebraska, Maha Music Festival among Nebraska Tourism Commission grant awardees

The Nebraska Tourism Commission has its eye on music as one of the state’s most enticing out-of-state attractions.

Its Community Impact Grant program awarded $155,420 in total grant money to four Nebraska organizations, among them YFC Inc. — the parent company of Maha Music Festival — and Hear Nebraska. Recipients also included the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau and Omaha Sports Commission.

The Community Impact Grant’s goal is to provide marketing assistance to communities and organizations hosting national or international-caliber events in Nebraska that have the potential to attract a significant percentage of out-of-state visitors and to generate favorable national or international press coverage for Nebraska, the NTC said in a statement.

“We are pleased to provide this opportunity to Nebraska communities in assisting them to compete for events that bring national attention and visitors to Nebraska,” said Tourism Commission Director Kathy McKillip in that same statement. “The Commission is dedicated to marketing the state to travelers, and looks forward to helping attract and promote more high caliber national events in the future.”

YFC Inc. will receive $21,800 to promote the 2016 Maha Music Festival, which has grown attendance 20% annually with visitors from around the country. Hear Nebraska will get $15,880 to promote Lincoln Calling Music Festival, the annual downtown Lincoln which has become HN’s newest programming venture and part of its vision to make the state a globally recognized cultural destination.

Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau received its award of $17,740 to promote the Old West Balloon Fest, the annual parade of hot air balloons which takes place on Labor Day weekend. Omaha Sports Commission netted $100,000 to promote the 2016 U.S. Olympic Swimming team trials, which is projected to draw more than 200,000 people for more than 30,000 hotel room nights.

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Concert Round-Up

Tonight, Bien Fang, The Morbs and No Thanks play Duffy’s Tavern. Briner’s Sarah Bailey recently tabbed Bien Fang as one of her essential yet under-the-radar acts as part of our recent survey. We’d venture to say the other two could end up on such a list. The 9 p.m. show is $5, RSVP here.

Also tonight, Maha Music Festival will reveal the complete lineup for its 2016 concert at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Follow its Instagram here for hints throughout the day. If you can’t be there in person, stream it live via news station WOWT 6 here. RSVP to the party here.

Stick around after the lineup reveal, as Benson Songwriters’ Exchange celebrates the release of its Flannel Shirt compilation. Thirteen local songwriters — including Brad Hoshaw, Benjamin Baldwin and Dominique Morgan — will perform their original songs from the comp, which will be available for purchase for $10. View the complete lineup and RSVP to the free event here.