President Magill talks music interests on WXPN

Penn President Liz Magill stopped by WXPN's ‘Friday Morning Mixtape’ with Kristen Kurtis to share a 13-song playlist, what about music grabs her, and more.

Recording studio booth
Penn President Liz Magill guest hosting the 9 a.m. hour of the “WXPN Morning Show,” alongside Kristen Kurtis. 

Penn President Liz Magill embraced her inner radio DJ on Friday, joining WXPN host Kristen Kurtis on the 9 a.m. hour of the “Friday Morning Mixtape” and curating a playlist of 13 songs.

The playlist spans several eras and genres: from the folk-rock of Bob Dylan in the 1970s, with “Tangled Up in Blue,” to the funk of Prince in the 1980s, with “Let’s Go Crazy.” 

“I love music of all stripes, all varieties. In terms of me as a music listener, I would say I get quite obsessive when listening to something I love,” Magill said during the broadcast. “I’m sure I’ve listened to the song ‘Paul’ by Big Thief at least a thousand times when I was really into it. As we were driving over here, I was reflecting on when Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ came out on that album; I probably listened to that a thousand times as well.”

Magill noted that her husband and friends are comparably “less obsessive” than she is. She added that with music, she’s most attuned to and moved by the mood of a song, more than the lyrics. 

“Mostly, what the music conveys and evokes to me is a sense of mood and emotion,” she said. “That’s the kind of music listener I am.”

She also reported getting some inspiration from her children. Her son, she explained, plays the drums and is in a band—and double checked to make sure she knew about The Roots before moving to Philadelphia. 

During the conversation with Kurtis, Magill also gave special shout-outs to the Penn Music Department—including new presidential assistant professor Tyshawn Sorey—and Penn alumnus John Legend. She noted that important to her is how “broad and deep the love of music runs in the city and at the University.” 

With a nod to WXPN, which is a radio service operated by Penn, Magill, who moved to Philadelphia and became the University’s president in July, said: “Even people who don’t know Philadelphia know WXPN. I think ‘rhythms not algorithms’ says it all; this is a true music lover’s corner of the airwaves. WXPN exemplifies Penn’s commitment to community engagement and we are incredibly proud of what you do here.”

Kurtis and Magill also touched on the Philadelphia food scene, as well as Magill’s beginning-of-the-semester bustle of getting to know students, staff, and faculty on campus and becoming acquainted with the city as a whole.

Magill closed with advice for students as the semester gets underway.

“This is an opportunity to be open to new and unexpected experiences and opportunities,” Magill said. “You can never be sure when and where you may meet your new heroes. And when you do, reach out and start a conversation. It could change your life.”

Penn President Liz Magill and XPN staff crowd around a poster that reads 'The Sounds of Philadelphia: the power of music"
Penn President Liz Magill talks with Quyen Shanahan, associate general manager of WXPN (right); Bruce Warren, associate general manager for programming (back right); and General Manager Roger LaMay (back left), in front of a poster of “The Sounds of Philadelphia,” showcasing a collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia through which a series of musically themed murals were created from 2004-07. 

“I loved talking about music with President Magill,” said Kurtis after the show. “It was fun to connect with her about artists we both enthusiastically enjoy, and she put together an impeccable playlist.”

Magill also made time during the weekend of Sept. 16 to experience the XPoNential Music Festival at Camden Waterfront—a major undertaking each year by WXPN, featuring established and up-and-coming artists. 

“WXPN is a beloved service to many,” Magill said. “Being part of Friday’s program with Kristen was extraordinarily fun, and to experience firsthand the hard work and dedication of the WXPN team during the XPoNential Music Festival was remarkable. I am so proud of this organization and all it represents for music lovers, for Penn, and for Philadelphia.”

Below, find an extended playlist from President Magill.