Practice grounds for musicians

Performance artists can gain a lot from open mics

Performer Zafar at the CaRaVaN Open Mic & Open Stage.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Open mics are a great opportunity for musicians who are new to performing or who want to experiment with their craft.

“My musical preference is all over the place, so it varies week to week what I play, but I try to perform an original each time to work out any kinks and see if and how people react,” musician Mel Mondor says.

She says she has gained confidence and met other musicians at open mics. 

In fact, she credits the Tuesday evening events at Jekyll & Hyde’s Freehouse for the formation of her band, Cart Before Horse.

“What’s great about our open mic is there are no rules, so you can go on stage and try something new and if it works, great. If not, well, it’s not the end of the world. You have your friends and a pretty chill, friendly environment,” Mondor says.

She sees people at all talent levels take the stage, which can be intimidating. But she says it’s also very rewarding when a musician she respects claps or compliments her after her set.

“I’d say open mics are great for newer musicians. You get so much experience at them and can make a ton of connections as well as experience other types of music you wouldn’t necessarily listen to,” Mondor says.

Jolene Kaminski has gone to many open mics but says she’s found her home at CaRaVaN Open Mic & Open Stage, which takes place Mondays at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre.

“Two of the five rules of CaRaVaN speak to its welcoming nature: no apologies and there are no bad performances, only practice for next week,” Kaminski says.

She recommends newbies head to venues such as this, as opposed to open mics in bars, because people are actually there to listen, and the bar crowd can be unpredictable.

Kaminski’s grandfather built her a guitar a few years ago. At that time, she’d never played before but used this as a push to start.

After practicing alone at home, she performed at her first open mic.

“I was petrified, and I did not play my best. Not even close. I had an interesting feeling afterwards though. I was embarrassed, but mostly I felt like I could do better and I had to come back and prove it. So I did,” Kaminski says.

After her next performance, a regular of the open mic complimented her.

“After that, it was addictive. Having somewhere to sing and share the music I was learning was really meaningful, not to mention the adrenaline rush of doing something that scares you,” Kaminski says.

When she started, she didn’t think she’d do more than play covers, but now she says she writes her own music.

“I used to be very shy and afraid to even talk to new people, let alone sing into a microphone in front of them. I still get nervous sometimes, but facing that fear and seeing that not only did the world not end, but it was actually pretty fun really gives you no excuse to continue being afraid,” Kaminski says.

For people who are afraid to perform for the first time, Kaminski says to remember that everyone was that person once, so they all understand how scary it is.

Published in Volume 71, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 5, 2017)

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