Open mics give everyone a chance to shine on Cape Cod
Article appeared in Cape Cod Times January, 15, 2020 written by Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll
The Cape’s many open-mic nights draw musicians, poets, storytellers, comedians and more.
There’s the construction worker who wants to play music in his off hours. Or the former high-school chorus member who still loves to sing.
There are songwriters, poets or comedians who want to test out their latest tunes, jokes or writing. There are music students who’ve never played in front of an audience. The musicians trying to get up the courage to land a gig.
There’s even an occasional magician.
Those amateurs, would-be professionals and other types of entertainers and artists are the people who perform at the Cape’s many open-mic nights. The programs where anyone can play a couple of pieces of music — or, increasingly, to share poetry or stories — are a popular part of winter entertainment. They take place at local bars and restaurants, cultural centers, and even at libraries, an art gallery, a local TV studio and a music school.
Some performers are regulars. Josh Shea, manager of O’Shea’s Olde Inne in West Dennis, notes there’s “a little community of people (on the Cape) who like to play open mics,” which his restaurant/bar holds every Monday. But area hosts and venue managers say there also seems every time to be at least one performer new to the idea who steps up.
“There are people who just want four minutes of fame, or to get some feedback,” says Andrew Richards, membership and outreach coordinator at Falmouth Community Media Center, which has hosted a monthly open mic since last summer. “I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but apparently there’s a market for this.”
A different kind of music
But local open mics aren’t limited to vocalists or guitarists on the bar scene. Open Mic Classical — which notes on its website that it’s “aka the mic-less open mic” — has been a monthly off-season program since 2015 at First Parish Brewster UU Church (and has also been presented annually with the Sandwich Arts Alliance).
Each month, the free event (thanks to an anonymous donor) offers a featured performer plus a chance for others to sign up. At 3 p.m. Sunday, the performer will be international pianist Ana Glig.
If they need piano accompaniment, musicians are asked to send in sheet music ahead of time, and there’s a rehearsal option an hour before performance. Clarinet player and teacher Monika Woods, co-founder of Open Mic Classical with Bob Marcus, says the musicians who have participated have represented a mix of ages, instruments played and experience levels.
“It seems we always get someone new who has never been there before, so (the open mic) really seems to fill a need,” Woods says. “Word has gotten out.”
Word spread, for example, to a man from New York who saw a sign for Open Mic Classical and decided to pick up the flute he hadn’t played in years. That opportunity pushed him to keep playing, and he’s now getting paid for it, Woods says. She tells a similar story of a Cotuit mason who didn’t pursue his piano-playing as a career but has enjoyed the open-mic music outlet.
A woman with a cochlear implant and service dog to help her hearing once agreed to go on stage as part of a duo, Woods recounts, and was so encouraged that she later won an international music competition for people with cochlear implants.
“We’re definitely helping both amateurs and professionals,” Woods says. “We have many amateurs who never have a chance to perform.”
Opening up the program to anyone can be a little nerve-wracking for organizers, because it’s possible no one will show up or there could be 30 wannabe entertainers. So several open mics use the featured performer, or the host musician as the main act who can play more if it’s a slow week.
“We’re all musicians,” notes Woods. “So if no one shows up, I can play.”