WLUR’s Open Air Waves showcases student talent

Spoken word poetry and acoustic performances dominated the evening


The annual open mic event was held in Elrod Commons living room. Photo by Virginia Laurie.

Virginia Laurie

Sam Boyd, ‘20, won the top music prize for his piano rendition of Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” for WLUR’s Open Air Waves event.

Students gathered in Elrod Commons to participate in the campus radio station’s annual event on Tuesday, March 10.

WLUR 91.5 FM is a radio station owned by the university that broadcasts a variety of music and genres through students who sign up for a weekly time slot. WLUR hosts Open Air Waves annually, where any student can participate.

David Gálvez, ‘22, performs at WLUR Open Air Waves. Photo by Virginia Laurie.

Jacob Day, ‘21, was runner-up for his acoustic performance of two songs, including one by Jack Johnson.

The duo of Eli Bradley, ‘22, on piano and Kathryn Muensterman, ‘22, on guitar and vocals won third place in the music category.

Joëlle Simeu, ‘20, co-host of the student podcast Living Poets’ Society, shared several poignant, personal poems and took the top prize in spoken word.

Leeann Passaro, ‘20, who performed a multitude of poems, including some analyzing the experience of the LGBTQ+ community at Washington and Lee won second place in this category.

Isabel Ryan, ‘21, won third place for spoken word with several original poems.

Tiffani Thompson, ‘22, WLUR music director and co-emcee, said the event provides a unique space for student expression.

“It gives students a space to express themselves and bond over that expression at a campus where artists could feel very alienated otherwise,” she said. “I think it’s an extremely positive event that brings a lot of creativity out of the community. It’s so fun to get to see the beauty of the minds at our school!”

The event featured student performances in three categories: group music, solo music and spoken word, which are broadcasted live on the air for all the station’s listeners to hear.

Natasha Gengler, ‘22, WLUR music director, remarked on the station’s influence in the community.

“I think people would be surprised at just how many people in the area tune in,” she said. “I’m not sure student DJs and performers realize the reach they can have.”

Jeremy Franklin, ‘04, General Manager of the station, said there are traditionally cash prizes for top student performances in each category and one overall grand prize.

This year, the prize categories differed from previous years. Lily Mitchell, ‘21, a WLUR radio host and coordinator, explained the change.

“Due to the overall lack of music performances, the judges decided to consolidate the music categories to just one,” Mitchell said. “No grand prize winner was selected this year. A little different than past years, but just as fun!”

Others performed poetry and excerpts by favorite authors. Recent alumna Rossella Gabrielle, ‘19, read from a selection of her Twitter drafts and David Gálvez, ‘22, translated an inspirational acceptance speech by a Latina actress from Spanish, wearing his “feminist” graphic tee.

A number of poems and performances were dedicated to or tied in with Women’s History Month.

Thompson reflected on some of her favorite moments from this year’s event.

“I must say that I was moved by a lot of the poetry performances, and I still remember Naked Lunch performing ‘Hallelujah’ last year,” Thompson said. “They drew the song out and it was absolutely fantastic. But my new favorite memory is either being an MC with Jackson Cleghorn this year, or Tash Gengler reciting a drawn-out math joke for her performance.”

Leah Jackson ‘22, who attended the event, also enjoyed it.

“I think we have a lot of talent at this school, and I’m glad there are opportunities to showcase it,” she said.