Arts & Entertainment

Open mic creates platform for students’ artistic voices

Monthly open mic events showcase the diversity of UWT community’s talent.

Photo by Kellan Moorad | Aidan and Abbi, also known as Skagit River Valley.

For any performing artist, getting experience in front of a live audience is indispensable. But it can be difficult to find the opportunity to do so, especially when first starting out. Whether one has dreams of performing at the Tacoma Dome someday, or simply wants to share their voice with anyone who will listen, participating in an open mic can be a great way to start an artistic journey and connect with other creatives.

For this reason and many more, the UW Tacoma community is lucky to have the Music Club, founded by Jadin Hawkins. In addition to performing under the stage name BLACKDISC, Jadin  recently started organizing a monthly open mic, the most recent of which took place on April 5. 

“We don’t have very many arts-based classes or communities on campus so there are very few spaces for creatives to express themselves and connect with other creatives, which can feel isolating,” Jadin said, “Through my work on the Student Activities Board as the Music & Performance Coordinator and the Music Club I hope to build community in UWT and infrastructure around the entertainment industry in the Greater Tacoma and Seattle area.”

April’s open mic was the first in partnership with ALMA cafe in Downtown Tacoma. The casual and comfortable setting made for a welcoming ambience, a plus for novice performers. A small stage in the corner of the room with a microphone and upright piano gave participants a proper yet non-intimidating performance space. Music Club member Muranga acted as the show’s MC, and his warm energy and humor-laden enthusiasm set the stage for an enjoyable night for all. 

The audience was treated to a variety of performances from UWT students and community members with a diverse range of talents. Though artists of all kinds are welcome at these events, the performers at this open mic were all musicians, showcasing a blend of covers and original songs. Some of the highlights include a hauntingly beautiful rendition of the 1950s jazz standard “Cry Me a River,” an incredibly moving cello performance and a piano ballad about a trans woman’s experiences with a vampire.

UWT student Aidan and alum Abbi performed three original songs as their folk duo Skagit River Valley. The warmth of their lush harmonies and Aidan’s folk guitar skills were evocative of the first sun of spring. They took the open mic as an opportunity to hone their performance skills and share new songs with their community. 

Photo by Kellan Moorad | 10K KLVN performed two original songs on piano.

“I think giving spaces for people to gain confidence in their act, art or themselves is a nice thing,” said Aidan, “Selfishly, as a relative rookie to live performance, it gives me more practice, hopefully lending itself to other future performance settings.”

As a musician myself, it was incredibly inspiring to watch my peers get on stage and showcase their talent. There was a part of me that wanted to do the same, but I felt a bit anxious and unprepared. 

“I think the reality is that anxiety and stage fright don’t ever truly go anywhere, they just reduce in intensity. The more you perform, the less you feel it,” advised Abbi, “I used to shake when I got on a lit stage with everyone’s eyes on me, but now I hardly notice the audience. It’s about doing it again and again, until it feels less novel and scary. Anyone can get there.”

“The truth is: no one is going to boo or throw tomatoes or heckle,” added Aidan, “Open mics are for people who are getting out of their comfort zone, exploring their creativity. The waiting is the worst part. And then you’re done. It all speeds by.”

After the final performance, Muranga ended the night on a fun note by leading the audience in rambunctious group karaoke. As we joined together to sing “Forget You” by CeeLo Green (making sure to stick to the clean version for families in the audience), I felt firsthand how successful the event had been in creating a sense of community and togetherness. 

“These kind of events are great in terms of the opportunity they give to students – to have an audience, to get experience in live performance, and to share their art with others – but they also do a lot to create a sense of community and shared experience between students,” Abbi pointed out. “Most of the attendees likely would not have been comfortable participating in [group karaoke] at the beginning of the evening. By the end, however, we felt less like strangers, so we could loudly participate in the group karaoke with fewer reservations.”

By the end of the night, I realized there was nothing to be afraid of. The audience had been kind and encouraging to every performer, no matter their skill, experience level or preferred genre. 

For anyone feeling similar to me–perhaps nervous to perform, but determined to push the boundaries of their comfort zone by sharing their artistic voice–the next open mic will be Wednesday, May 3, at ALMA cafe at 6 p.m.. I’ll be there with my acoustic guitar, ready to play. Those looking to help continue building up a supportive music and arts community at UWT can join the Music Club. Meetings are every first and third Wednesday of the month, in Carwein Auditorium (KEY 102). Students can also apply to join Jadin as a member of the Student Activities Board at the end of spring quarter if they are interested in planning events for UWT students.