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Alum Creates Greatest Emerson College Playlist of All Time

If you’re looking for something new to listen to, check out the newly-made Emerson Mafia Presents Spotify playlist created by Holly Sverdrup Hoyer ‘13. But don’t expect to go through the list in one car ride because there are close to 3,000 songs on the list.

Hoyer was inspired by several musicians she knew and recently learned were alums, including George Watsky ‘10, and the lead singer of KiSMit, Carley Barnette ‘13.

Read more about Watsky on Emerson Today

Making and listening to the playlist has uplifted Hoyer’s spirits during the pandemic.

“KiSMeT has a song called ‘Panther’ that’s all about being a woman in a bar and men praying upon them. The chorus has a line, ‘I am the panther, not the pray,’” said Hoyer. “I found myself drawing a lot of strength from that, especially because she’s an alum I know already. On days I don’t have my energy I can borrow from my fellow Emersonian.”

KiSMiT performing a mash up of “Feel it Still” by Portugal. The Man and their original song “Panther” in the Bamboo Room in Silver Lake, California.

That got Hoyer thinking of putting together an Emerson playlist, to pull together all the musical creative energy that came out of Emerson alums.

Hoyer posted on the Emerson Mafia Facebook page asking for recommendations of musicians. She figured she’d get 10 to 15 suggestions, but she got more than 120. The playlist includes solo acts and groups that include at least one Lion.

“Basically, my thought with that is even if you are the bassist in a band and aren’t part of the writing process or anything like that, your signature sound makes that band sound like that and be that band,” explained Hoyer. “We’ve seen rock bands over the years and they’ll change out members and their sound changes. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are on there because a founding member [saxophonist Tim Burton ’88, aka Johnny Vegas] is an alum. If it’s an Emersonian they are included on the playlist.”

Curating the list has almost become like a part-time job that she’s balanced with her full-time job as an operations supervisor for a pet sitting care company, and her volunteer work for a cat shelter. To keep track of all of the suggestions Hoyer created a spreadsheet, and one by one added singles, albums, and random tracks. There are some doubles, which she plans on removing eventually.

Hoyer also created an Instagram account to promote the playlist and Emerson musicians at Instagram/emersonmafiaplaylist and people are welcome to email Hoyer at to suggest more musicians to include.

“New music comes out all the time. Some musicians only have one or two singles out and their journey is just starting,” said Hoyer. “I would love to update the list. On Instagram you can showcase album covers, album art work and link to them pretty easily. The Wolff Sisters [consists of three sisters, including Kat Wolff’ ‘18] just dropped a single and I added it. I would absolutely love artists to say, ‘Hey, I just wrote something. Keep an eye out for it when it comes out.’”

Hoyer said she is employing the marketing skills she learned at Emerson to spread the word about the playlist. Students involved in shows would always use hashtags, tag other people, and create their own brand. Specifically, a business theater class taught by Performing Arts Professor Scott Pinkney instructed students on how to market themselves.

“I know that if I’m making a playlist, I need a cover image for Instagram, Spotify, and use the hashtags #emersonartists #emersonmusic and #emersonmafia,” said Hoyer.

Along with KiSMeT and Watsky, Hoyer said she discovered, and is really enjoying, FuzzKill with alum Jake Smerechniak ’18, and recently graduated soloist Navin Bose ’21.

Hoyer has also been feeling the LeetStreet Boys, and anime otaku band created by Matt Myers ’06.

“They do anime- and video game-themed music. One of their songs sounds like late 1990s and early 2000s pop punk. I super love pop punk music and I’m a sucker for their song ‘Masquerade’,” said Hoyer.

Hoyer emphasized that the playlist will continue to be a work in progress, and she wanted people to email her or reach out on Instagram to suggest more musicians. And maybe one day she will hand off the reins of curating the list to someone else.

“With Spotify you can make playlists collaborative. Even if I can’t give up control of the list, a new person would become collaborator and I will fade into the background,” said Hoyer.

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