Certainly there are local open-mic opportunities at bars, but it can be hard to schedule when students have to juggle school and jobs on top of it all, or if a student is a minor.
So Jong-won Kim, a senior at Portland State University, and a small group of his musically inclined friends thought of a way for local musicians to play together and share their talents in an open forum that was convenient for students.
Kim hosted the first Open Mic Rendezvous at Food For Thought Caf퀌� on April 17. The event drew an estimated audience of more than 100 people and featured 10 performers.
“I’ve been a musician a long time now, and I’ve always had this in mind,” Kim said. “Every Sunday night a couple of us go to the Cheerful Tortoise ’cause they have an open mic there and months went by and we’re thinking, ‘Why don’t we have this at Portland State?'”
Kim took the idea to the university and was granted recognition of being a student organization.
“Music is something that everyone can connect to,” Kim said.
In order for everyone to feel welcome and respected, he said the organization has one rule: “No preaching of politics or religion.”
“I’ve always thought that only creates a fight,” he said.
Performers can sign up with Kim ahead of time and are given a three-song slot in which they are able to choose any songs of their liking. PSU students have been among the majority of the performers, but the event is open to the public.
Among those performing May 1 was Kelly Quackenbush, a PSU junior, who has been playing the guitar for four years. This was Quackenbush’s first PSU open-mic performance, and she said it was a very positive one.
Her musical selections ranged from original pieces to cover songs, which seemed to be a common combination among the majority of the musical performances.
She said the audience was very supportive and was understanding of what it was like to be on stage.
“I think I just came out for the experience,” Quackenbush said. “I’ve done two other open mics before and it’s really helped me. I was really nervous before I went up and kind of shy, but it’s a really good experience. And every time it gets easier.”
Kim said the event helps to bring students and local performers together. He added that it has created a much-needed network within the local music community outside of the music majors.
“It gives more of a sense of community to have the audience also be the performers,” Quackenbush said. “None of us are professionals, but there are a lot of music majors that are really good.”
The caf퀌� now provides patrons with couches, tables, live music and plenty of food.
“I hope it goes on,” said senior Robyn Holm. “It’s a nice break in the middle of the day, and otherwise I don’t know when I would be able to see the music majors or anybody that’s just around school playing.”
The event hasn’t been heavily advertised and has depended largely upon word-of-mouth because of the lack of funding.
Kim said the caf퀌� had been looking to put on an open-mic event long before he approached the university with the idea of his organization. Now with the performances, the caf퀌� has benefited from the extra revenue the event brings in.
You can catch Open Mic Rendezvous every Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. at Food For Thought Caf퀌�, located in the basement of Smith Memorial Student Union.