A peek into the President’s playlist

WMPG welcomes President Jacqueline Edmondson to share five of her favorite songs on the USM, Music and ME program.
President Edmondson visited WMPG’s USM, Music and ME show on Thursday, March 9.

She’s far from a shock jock, but the University of Southern Maine President may have caught a few radio listeners off guard with her choice of needle drops.

From the Great American Songbook to grunge, no style of music was off limits during Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson’s visit yesterday to the WMPG studio in Portland. She was a guest on the “USM, Music and ME” show, hosted by Margo Maller.

The show is a forum for members of the University community to share five songs that hold special meaning for them. Between each selection, guests discuss the feelings and memories that those song evoke.

Music has always been central to Edmondson’s life. Her earliest career ambition was to become a professional pianist. After spending some time in college, she refocused her energies toward building a career in education. But she never stopped making music and found new ways to weave that love into her academic pursuits.

Edmondson wrote biographies of rock and roll legends John Lennon and Jerry Garcia. She broadened her scope beyond any single artist as the editor of “Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories That Shaped Our Culture.” The four-volume set was aimed primarily at teenage readers.

President Jacqueline Edmondson chats with WMPG disc jockey Margo Maller during the break between songs.
President Edmondson is a classically trained pianist.

As attested by the sounds that are sometimes heard emanating from her home on the Gorham campus, Edmondson still finds time to play the piano between her writing and administrative duties. Musical ability runs in her family, and she particularly enjoys jamming with her two sons. She is also practicing for a recital in April with opera singer and USM alumna Megan Marino.

Edmondson especially enjoys playing music by Baroque masters such as Bach and Telemann. Other favorite composers include Tchaikovsky, Dvořák, and Rachmaninoff. But she singles out Beethoven from all the rest for the transcendent beauty of works like his Fifth and Ninth Symphonies.

Edmondson took a break from classical music for her visit to WMPG, concentrating instead on the popular hits that defined her life.  Her top five songs are listed below along with quotes from her radio interview to explain her choices.

  1. DAYS LIKE THIS by Van Morrison

    “I picked the song ‘Days Like This’ for a number of reasons. Most importantly, this song is what I danced to with my son, Jacob, when he got married last year. I wanted a song that was happy and cheerful because we were so happy for him to be getting married. And as Jacob was growing up, our house is always full of music, that’s just what we do, we play music all the time. And Van Morrison is one of our favorites and so it fit with that. And Jacob plays the saxophone, we love music with saxophones in it. So it just hit a number of notes for us. But I really didn’t want to be one of those moms dancing to a sad song with my son. I wanted it to be a happy, cheerful song. And it was that.”

  2. WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD by Louis Armstrong

    “This is the song that Michael and I danced to when we got married. . .  Michael and I have been married almost 32 years, it will be 32 years at the end of this month. And we love this song. We love Louis Armstrong’s music generally. But this is one that’s special to us and we still dance to it.”

  3. ALL I WANNA DO by Sheryl Crow

    “My first faculty job when I earned my doctorate was in Minnesota. At the time, Sheryl Crow’s album was a huge hit. The whole album, we would dance in the kitchen to. And there was this one restaurant in this little town where we lived. And the jukebox had this particular song. My son, Luke, who was in kindergarten at the time, this was his favorite song to dance to. So, I had to have a song about Jacob, a song about Michael, and this is my tribute to Luke. Had a lot of good memories of this song with him when he was in kindergarten.”

  4. THANK YOU by Chris Cornell (covering Led Zeppelin)

    “I picked this song because it connects different times of my life. I loved Led Zeppelin when I was younger. I still do, actually. But I also loved grunge when that happened in the ‘90s. And so, this song links Led Zeppelin to grunge. And I think Chris Cornell has absolutely one of the most beautiful voices that I’ve heard. And I think that the lyrics to this song are just so beautiful.”

  5. LIFE DURING WARTIME by Talking Heads

    “This one takes a little bit of a different path than the others. . . I live in Gorham, I see our students walking across campus, I see them getting on the Buskey (Metro bus). They have their headphones on and they’re listening to something. I remember when I was a first-year student, I had a Sony Walkman, and I had a cassette tape with the Talking Heads’ (album) Stop Making Sense. And this was one of those songs when I had an eight o’clock in the morning class, I listened to at top volume as I stomped my way across a parking lot through the campus to get to my 8 a.m. class.”
Margo Maller hosts the USM, Music and ME program on WMPG.
DJ Margo Maller chooses a companion song to go along with each of her guests’ selections.

The “USM, Music and ME” program airs every Thursday at 3 p.m. on WMPG, 90.9 FM. Next week’s guest will be Helena Ainsworth from Facilities Management.