An open mic for those too young for the bar scene
The nerves were palpable as seven under-21 aspiring singer-songwriters took the stage at the newly renovated Nave in Spenard. Some musicians stumbled at times, but each was met with a loud round of applause from the modest audience of friends and family. For some of the artists, it was the first time they had performed outside the comfort of their bedroom. While there was a noticeable disparity between the level of experience of the artists, each young artist showed bravery as they earned their performance stripes.
“We are all under-21, other than our program director, that is,” laughed open mic host and performer Grace Swigart. “This is the first time that we got to meet in person in 2021, and we have a lot of plans for the future. It’s going to be awesome!”
The Under-21 Open Mic program is currently the only venue for young musicians to perform and learn the ins and outs of putting on a show. From managing promotions, booking acts, and filming performances, the artists run every aspect of the program. They even design and sell their own merchandise.
“The program has helped a lot of young artists take their first steps and grow in confidence. I sang my first song at Open mic when I was 12 years old, and then I worked as a sound engineer. Since that first performance, I’ve played at the Forest Fair, Salmonfest, the Alaska State Fair, and even been on the radio a few times,” said singer-songwriter Charlotte Severin.
One half of the band Lucky Spider, Severin says that having the opportunity to practice performing in front of a supportive crowd was instrumental in not only hers, but her sisters, development as artists.
“I watched my sister, who was ten at the time, lose her nerve right before her first performance. She had to leave the stage and struggled to find the courage to get back up there. But the audience, and the organizers, and the other musicians were very encouraging. When she got back up again, they were so ready to hear her sing. The program turned her scary experience into something really positive. And I feel like that is so important for the next generation of Alaskan musicians,” says Severin.
But Severin isn’t the only performer who has benefitted from the opportunities provided by the program. Singer Skye Morriseau was recently selected to audition for American Idol. While she didn’t make it all the way through, her success represents another crossed hurdle for Alaskan musicians. “She’s just amazing. I can’t believe we have that kind of talent in this group. It really makes me proud to be a part of this movement,” says Swigart.