WMUH’s third annual Radio Riff Off brings live performance back to ‘Berg

Six competitors battle it out via song

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Photo by Ayden Levine '23 // (From left to right) First place winner Luke McIntyre '25, second place winner Emily Kirchner ‘22, and third place winner Abby Schechter ‘24.

Seven performers took the stage on Friday, Oct. 15, to inaugurate the College radio station WMUH’s third annual Radio Riff Off event in the Red Door Cafe. Six artists competed in front of three judges and no less than 60 audience members for the chance to win a professional recording session at a local Bethlehem studio. Last year’s winner of a Zoom version of the same competition also took the stage to showcase her talents. 

Curated tunes welcomed the audience to an already bustling Red Door Cafe when the doors opened at 7:30 p.m. The room was occupied by artists and radio hosts alike, munching on mozzarella sticks and chips and salsa provided by Red Door Catering. An electric keyboard, an amp and three mics dominated the stage, framed by two giant speakers on tripod stands. The crowd of audience members trickled in, quickening to a flood as the time neared 8 p.m. 

Hosts and radio station representatives Sydney Holliday ‘23 and Emma Ash ‘24 opened the event with a promise that all songs would be original to the musicians who performed them, a first for this event. They introduced judges Zeke Timen ‘22, current DJ and former WMUH music and program director; Gina Sierzega ‘95, adjunct professor of media and communication; and Matt Molchany of Shards Recording Studio and WDIY’s “Tape Swap Radio.” Holliday and Ash also outlined the prizes that would be available: a set of WMUH swag for third place, a chance to perform as the opening act of the spring semester WMUH showcase and a gift card for equipment at Amazon for second place and—for the first place winner— a recording session at Molchany’s Shards Recording Studio in Bethlehem as well as being the headliner at the aforementioned WMUH showcase. The performer voted by the audience as fan favorite received an encore performance at the Riff Off itself. 

“I think [my performance] went really well. I was terrified because it was my first time ever performing original songs. But I’m proud of myself.”

– Emily Kirchner ‘22

Attendee Audrey Taylor ‘24 said, “It was absolutely incredible to hear everyone perform, and I think that it’s such a cool opportunity that they get to actually record their music in a professional studio.”

First up to perform was Luke McIntyre ‘25, who sang his own indie ballad “Speed of Light” and played the guitar, which was met with applause during an instrumental interlude. He was followed by Reema Norford ‘23, who had her live in-person music debut with her song “Self Defeating,” on voice and a guitar. Next was Emily Kirchner ‘22, who played her song “Bloom” on an amplified ukulele and sang along.

Ash and Holliday then came back with a brief break to thank the audience, prize providers, judges, production team, volunteers, WMUH staff and performers, as well as plugging future WMUH events before allowing the show to continue. Abby Schechter ‘24 picked up the performances with a simple song about reaching out to loved ones called “Reach Out” on her teal guitar, which she strummed as she sang. Joe Grisanzio ‘23 followed, accompanied by August Walker ‘22 on piano. Grisanzio sang a sad ballad of his own, “Now.” Last up for the competitors was Julia De Vita ‘23, who sang “East Coast Ghost,” co-written by Isabel Molettieri ‘23, a breakup song perfect for De Vita’s first time showcasing original music. De Vita was accompanied by Luke Poleway ‘22 on piano. 

As votes were counted and the judges deliberated, Renee Audrey ‘22, last year’s Riff Off winner, took to the stage to perform music of her own. She sang a ballad in Spanish and English called “¿Cuándo Vendrás por mí?,” a song for domestic violence awareness called “Water My Lilies” and a song about anxiety titled “Sitting in the Bathtub,” all on her guitar. She then moved to the piano, where she serenaded the audience with her songs “Clouds are Crying,” about being alone in the city during quarantine, and “Mirror, Mirror,” the song that won her Riff Off last year, about body image issues and recovery. “Mirror, Mirror” will be released on streaming platforms in mid-November. 

Of the night, audience member AnnieRose DiMurro ‘22 said, “It was really awesome to see all the performers’ original music. I really loved Emily Kirchner’s song, it was so catchy. It was amazing. What a good night.”

McIntyre won the ‘fan favorite’ designation, a title voted on by the audience, and played his song “Montauk Highway” for the encore, during which members of the audience swayed and waved phone flashlights to the beat. The hosts encouraged hand drum-rolling in preparation for each winner’s announcement. Third place went to Schechter, second place to Kirchner, and McIntyre won first place and the recording session. 

“I’m just so grateful to be able to share my music and for people to really enjoy it.”

– Luke McIntyre ’25

Runner-up Kirchner said, “It was super fun getting to hear everybody’s original music…  Everyone here is so talented. I think [my performance] went really well. I was terrified because it was my first time ever performing original songs. But I’m proud of myself.”

Winner McIntyre, a first-year student, said, “I’m feeling very thankful. This has become a real home to me. I’m just so grateful to be able to share my music and for people to really enjoy it.”

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Kat '22 is a Media & Communication major who finds joy in cooking and eating varied cuisine, reading feminist takes on Arthurian legend, and thinking about one day going on a sailing voyage and learning how to swashbuckle. Most days you can find her lying on the floor of her room pondering her various responsibilities.

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