Walk past the bridge to 30th Street, and there's an entirely different world, free of the constant chaos of Penn and the need to avoid eye contact down Locust Walk. This is where to find WQHS Radio, the only wholly student–operated radio station at Penn.
But radio is supposedly dead. With the advances in technology, the debate over where to listen to music has shifted from a Walkman or the radio to Spotify or Apple Music. If anything, radio is an obsolete remnant of the past with little relevance to the present. Then again, its significance in the past is precisely the reason for its significance today. After all, radio is the sense of the freedom, the communal experience, and the self–defining factor. Here on campus, we have that at the tips of our fingers.
From indie/alternative to electronic to classical, WQHS Radio operates 24/7 through an online live broadcast stream. What makes WQHS different from other radio stations — say, WXPN 88.5. the public FM radio station — is that Penn students broadcast every show.
Because the topics and themes of the shows are left to the students, the radio is very much a reflection of Penn and its quirks. The individuals, and groups like The Philomathean Society and The Collctve, are in command. For example, Thanks For Listening (broadcast on Wednesdays 7pm to 8pm) aims to convey the “importance of listening to others,” says Rebecca Suh, the host of the show. She starts every show with an observation from her day. In one show, it’s the cave paintings she talked about in her art history class. Are cave paintings a more primitive form of art? To her, it’s a matter of context. From there, she launches into a discussion about this and plays music that, to her, parallels the conversation.
In another, Good Music (broadcast on Thursdays 7pm–8pm) hosted by Isabella Fierro and Matthew Dougherty is purely a show to play good music. The channel started over Christmas Break last year when Dougherty started talking to his sister and her boyfriend, who hosts a radio show at his own college. Inspired by this conversation, Dougherty returned to campus and sought out Fierro; he knew about her taste in music. From there, Good Music was born, playing artists ranging from Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse, Chance the Rapper to Mac Demarco. The show has become a place to relax, decompress, and “just chill,” especially given the station's distance from a bustling campus.
WQHS is in many ways the collective conscious of Penn students. It's a place to listen to others and maybe even find a voice that mirrors your own. But it's very much also underrated, with some shows having a maximum listener count of 20 (including parents, siblings, and dogs), so both for yourself and the hosts (so that they're not just speaking into the void), switch out that Spotify playlist for the radio.