On the night of Friday, Oct. 21, over 100 people gathered in the Red Door to watch the 4th annual WMUH Radio Riff-Off. A microphone stood in the spotlight, awaiting its first performer. The red wall paint and large WMUH banner brought out a crimson glow that was characteristically Muhlenberg. “Radio Riff-Off is a competition that highlights the original music of our peers,” explained Emma Ash ‘24, one of the co-MCs of the event.
Sabrina Russo ‘26 was the first of seven talented students to perform. Russo sang her song, “I Think I Only Miss You When I’m Bored,” and later said that it was a weird sensation to perform her piece, but “this school gives me so many opportunities to find myself.”
“It was wonderful to see the great original talent of Muhlenberg students, and hearing their personal stories in the songs was definitely inspiring.”-Sam Bitterman ’26
The second performer was Matthew Robertson ‘23, a student artist who has written over 100 songs. Before singing his original, “Don’t Wait,” Robertson gave a shout-out to the roommates of the musicians, garnering laughs from the audience. After the show, Robertson told The Weekly, “Music, for me, has been the socially acceptable way to scream your head off while still seeming like a human.”
The event’s third singer was Marie Tohill ‘25—a DJ for WMUH—who said, with her guitar brandished at her side, “This is a really great experience for songwriters,” referring to how the Radio Riff-Off allows musicians to have a space to perform.
Oy Adebajo ‘24 was the fourth performer with their song “Gerard the Bard.” “I really got into it,” Adebajo commented, recalling the rhythmic drum beats and powerful tone of voice they used.
Rachel Gesner ‘24 was the fifth to take the stage with her song “Stuck Inside My Head.” Gesner subsequently told The Weekly, “It was so exciting, I haven’t performed in a while.”
The Radio Riff-Off’s sixth performer, Kristen Barbarito ‘25, has been writing songs for four years. Barbarito captivated the crowd with her song on the piano. Afterwards, she noted that the experience was scary at first but that “Warning Label” was one of her favorite songs she’s ever written.
The seventh and final artist was Niamh Sherlock ‘23, who has been writing her own music since she was seven years old. Sherlock finished her song with a flourish of the guitar and a smile. She commented afterwards saying, “It was less overwhelming than I thought it would be,” and added that she’d never gotten to do a live show performing her own songs before, which made tonight especially fun.
Once all singers had performed, the audience members were tasked with dropping a red ticket into one of seven festively-fall buckets, each representing one artist. Whichever person’s bucket held the most tickets after five minutes won an encore and the title of “Fan Favorite.” In the meantime, Muhlenberg-renowned artist and former Radio Riff-Off winner Luke McIntyre ‘25 performed three of his original songs. After his performance, he told The Weekly that it felt good to be up there. “I loved it last year,” he said. “It was the first place I got to show myself as an artist.” After all tickets had been accounted for, with a dramatic drumroll, it was announced that Tohill was deemed the “Fan Favorite.” She performed a second song of hers, “Grape Vine,” and later told The Weekly, “I was thrilled—I loved each song equally and I was glad to do them both.” Tohill added that it was a very fulfilling experience. The night didn’t stop there. The three judges, Riley Wexler ‘24, Adjunct Professor of Media and Communication Gina Sierzega, and freelance performer and educator Mike Lorenz, had chosen the official winners of the 2022 Radio Riff-Off.
“Music, for me, has been the socially acceptable way to scream your head off while still seeming like a human.”-Matthew Robertson ’23
Sherlock took third place, Barbarito took second place, and Tohill won first place, guaranteeing her a recording session and the opportunity to be the main act of January’s Radio Riff-Off. The crowd cheered wildly for each artist and demanded a speech from Tohill. She announced that she has only been writing music since last semester and encouraged the crowd to pursue their musical endeavors as well.
After the show, co-MC Harper Hogan ‘25 noted that this was her first experience organizing Radio Riff-Off. She took on a big position as an organizer this year and was “so happy to see the excitement in the Muhlenberg community.”
Ash, who remarked that they’d been working on the event since May, added that, “It was a relief to be up there and see how many people showed support for their friends.” Audience member Sam Bitterman ‘26 commented, “It was wonderful to see the great original talent of Muhlenberg students, and hearing their personal stories in the songs was definitely inspiring.”