Gastineau Channel isn't exactly the Seine, and there aren't any vineyards clinging to the side of Mount Roberts, but on some Friday nights Juneau radio-listeners can close their eyes and imagine themselves walking down the Champs Elysees.
For the past two years, Juneau-Douglas High School advanced French students have taken the reins of KTOO-FM's "World Beat" show at times to produce a French-language, French music program. They broadcast from 6:45-9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month.
Their show is called "Ces Soires L," roughly translated to "These Nights," and features an eclectic blend of artists ranging from French cabaret singer Edith Piaf to rapper MC Solar.
"It's basically anything and everything," said JDHS senior Meghan Salveson, who is part of this month's production crew.
The students also broadcast the weather forecast, public service announcements and short biographies of some of the musical artists - all in French, with English translations.
The show has its origins with "Excuse My French," a French-language show on KTOO created several years ago by Carol Germaine. When Germaine moved away, KTOO program manager Susan Fitzgerald and JDHS French teacher Pat Spence discussed the idea of letting French students take over.
"We thought it would be fun to continue it, so we worked out a high school collaboration where the kids in the (fourth- and fifth-year) French class could do a radio show and use their French skills," Fitzgerald said.
"I wanted to get my advanced kids out in the community," Spence said. "It's helping them use their language skills outside the classroom."
Students split into small groups and are assigned shows for two consecutive months, Spence said. The first show is a more random mix of music, while the second has a theme.
This Friday's program - the second for Salveson, senior Jeanette Anderson and junior Claire Baldwin - will have a holiday theme.
Featured will be French versions of Christmas songs, some of French origins and others - such as "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - translated from English.
Anderson said the music for each show is compiled from the KTOO library and from songs located on the Internet.
Students are given basic instructions on how to operate the equipment, but then are largely on their own for the 135-minute show.
"In the beginning you're so nervous, but then you start to have a lot of fun and you relax," Baldwin said.
Students said the show is a learning experience, both for listeners, who get a sample of French culture, and for the students, who have their skills put to the test.
"It makes you realize there's a lot of stuff you don't learn about in class," Anderson said. "It's very overwhelming at first."
Although doing the show is a graded assignment, the students said they enjoy the opportunity to broadcast and the feedback they receive.
"It's extra work," Salveson said, "but doing the program is fun."
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