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Open Mics and Facebook Likes

While sticking it out at home for several months, the isolation can really set in. “Young artists need outlets for creativity,” says Georgia Didier, Development Assistant at Lagond Music School. Of course, the same can be said for adults. That’s where virtual open mic events come in. Several local organizations have provided open forums for participants to express themselves during the recent pandemic, giving them a voice – even from home.

In Lagond’s open mic events, teenagers perform everything from popular cover songs to original works for an expanded digital crowd. According to Didier, the Facebook Live format allows students to interact with a wider audience and helps the school to showcase their students’ talent to more people than their usual in-person events. She explains: “Sharing in the creative process with other musicians is a critical part of learning as a musician.” The school plans to offer both in-person and virtual open mic programs even after the county reopens.

Arc Stages treats open mic events like an in-person event. Participants sign up in advance, do a soundcheck, and get announced by a host. When they are done performing, whether it’s an original song, dance or a cooking lesson, the rest of the Zoom attendees are unmuted so they can applaud. Real-life gig training. Like Lagond, Arc Stages intends to provide both in-person and Zoom open mic events moving forward. But the point was to keep students connected. Says Stephanie Kovacs Cohen, the organization’s Artistic Director of the Educational Stage: “It is part of Arc’s mission to be a haven for the community. It seemed obvious that we should continue that journey virtually in any way possible.”

Many people have been separated from their families during the pandemic. However, Hudson Valley Writers Center (HVWC)’s Open Mic program “has fostered a ‘family feel’,” according to its host, Bill Buschel. He explains: “Once a month we’re able to get the family together.” The open mic events were already the center’s most popular recurring event, according to HVWC Managing Director Krista Madsen. She added: “But our online presence has grown greatly…to include people from as far as California. And for the others who could never come for whatever reason, be it geography, a disability, etc., this [virtual platform] opens a new set of possibilities to consider when it comes to being able to be more inclusive.”

A version of this article first appeared in the July issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNewsis distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

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