Open Mic Night

CCCB Open Mic Night, September 27, 2013

I really, really love open mic night.

I remember the first time I performed at an open mic event. I didn’t actually sing a song, but rather played an instrumental electric guitar piece I had been working on. It wasn’t my first time playing in front of people, but it was different. The normal barrier felt between performer and audience was not there. I was also playing original material, which to me felt like pouring out the contents of my heart. It was nerve-wracking to say the least, but the feeling (yes, I say feeling) that accompanied finishing my piece was something surreal. Finally, I had taken something that I had created and shared it with others. I had found an audience for my artistic outlet.
I cannot express how much I love open mic events. Maybe it’s the part of me that grew up in Wisconsin around laid-back “bar” culture, or maybe it’s my insatiable love for music, but I think open mic events are the “bee’s knees.” It’s like a concert, but smaller and less formal. There’s a closer sense of intimacy between the performer and the audience; often times, the two personally know each other and a particular bond of trust is formed when the performer shares his or her heart with their friends through art.
I’ve also found that open mic events are a great way to build community through active participation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time as an open mic coordinator (August 2013 until now), it’s that no two open mic events are ever the same. In internet-lingo, this is because open mic events work based on “user-generated content”. In other words, open mic is only as good as the acts performed by those willing to participate. It lends an element of unpredictability, which brings with it a degree of anticipation that leaves people (like me) wanting to come and see what’s going to happen each time.
When my friend Derek started the open mic event in 2012, it certainly accomplished the hope he had of building community on campus. It was my favorite thing to look forward to. When he told me that he wouldn’t be returning in the fall of 2013, I was super bummed out. Open mic had given myself and several other students such a great outlet, and I really wanted to see that continue. When student development granted me permission to continue open mic in Derek’s stead, I could not have felt any happier. I also could not have felt more helpless.
I had been involved in all aspects of chapel (from music and leading to sound and tech) during my first two years on campus, so I had a general handle on the technical logistics of things. I knew what size of sound system would be appropriate for open mic. I knew how to set it up, how to mix sound, and how to tear it all down without breaking anything. However, I didn’t know how to organize or promote an event, and I had no idea how to get people to want to come. To be honest, I was a little scared and nervous.
I owe the current success of CCCB’s open mic events to performers who were willing to share their talents in front of an audience, the harvest house manager for offering the venue for use, and numerous volunteers who have stepped up to help. I’m astonished to see how far open mic has come from the first event that Derek hosted in 2012 until now. Still, I see things at almost every open mic night that could be improved or changed to make the next a little better, and passionately strive to give my best to this thing. Even now as I write this, I’m drawing up plans for things that could not only help improve this event, but the venue itself for future events.
But, my time as coordinator will end. I’m a little bittersweet right now, knowing this is my senior year and thus the last year I’ll be able to coordinate open mic nights here on campus. Part of me is honestly nervous with anticipation of what may happen after I leave. I don’t think open mic would cease to be an event. This being the third year of open mic night, I’m confident that somebody would step up and take it over. However, what direction will it go? I’ve always feared the day it might be absorbed by student council and become over-regulated. Personally, I’d rather pass it off to the venue that has so kindly hosted it. But I know that once this year is up, I’ll need to step back and let someone else step in.

So I want to leave open mic in as good of a state as I can for the next person.

Ideally, I’d like to see open mic become something that the right person could come along and easily take over. I’ve been making small steps toward that end goal. A few things I have done include getting approval from the chapel coordinator and Harvest House manager to keep a sound system in the venue for a faster and easier setup/teardown, instituting open sign-ups, video announcements, scheduling the event dates at the beginning of the semester, and recording videos of all the acts to upload select ones to YouTube. Of course, there are more things I’m trying to do, but I prefer not to reveal my plans until a certain time.

One thing I consistently do is keep my eyes and ears open (literally) for things that could make open mic better. Since open mic night is for the students, my best source of ideas for improving the event is the student body. If somebody voices an idea (either directly to me, or something I simply overhear in passing), or if I see something that could be visually improved, I’ll tuck it away in the back of my mind and ponder it. With any idea I consider, I think of how it can be done efficiently and consistently from one open mic night to the next. And, of course, one thing I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for is a person who would be a capable and willing fit to take over my role as coordinator of this event.

I’m grateful for this event and the incredible opportunity I’ve had to coordinate it. I’ve learned so much as I went along with it, and grown in community with others through it. I’m excited to see what this year’s freshman class will bring to the event and how it’s going to change and morph over the next few months. 

Mostly, I’m excited to see where it’ll go after my time is up. 


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