By Pamela Hong
Five minutes before the start of performances, the crowd bustled with excited chatter. The air filled with the smell of popcorn, and the sounds of the room resonated with anxious performers’ last-minute run-throughs.
The Brushfire Literary & Arts Journal hosted “The Open Mic” in the Matthewson-IGT Knowledge Center’s rotunda on Tuesday, Nov. 24. Students from around the university milled about the room as some prepared to perform, and others settled in to watch. The event showcased the musical, poetic and performing art talent scattered throughout the campus.
The performers injected their personal flair into the diverse acts with both original compositions and renditions of other artists’ works through literature, music and comedy. Edgar Garcia, director of “The Open Mic,” rushed about the room as he finished getting everything in order.
According to Garcia, the event is an artistic outlet for the student body, particularly those new to the university. A veteran attendee of open mics, Garcia’s love for them led him to bring one to the university.
As Garcia took one final glance at his surroundings, he sat among the audience members, and a hushed quiet fell over the rotunda. With a blue Ovation guitar and harmonica slung around his neck, guitarist Frankie Robert and bongo player Robert Monroy took the stage. The duo then launched into “For Heaven’s Sake,” Robert’s original folk song.
University of Nevada, Reno freshman Jace Winkelman, a performer at the event, saw the open mic as an opportunity to express himself and promote his new band Urban Roots by singing three original compositions accompanied by his guitar.
Applause after every performance echoed throughout the rotunda, and audience members laughed and joked between acts. But as each act came up to perform, the din died down, and all eyes were on the performer.
Emotions were palpable in many of the performances throughout the night. Singers Becky Akpan and Dedra Tufon sang R&B classics a cappella. The audience snapped as they kept the rhythm of the songs, as Akpan’s interpretation of R.Kelly’s, “I Believe I Can Fly” came to a close, the room erupted into applause.
According to Tufon, music is one of her main sources for emotional well-being and communicating to the world around her.
Music was not the only outlet of expression for performers at the event. University sophomore Hunter Rand lightened the room’s spirits by performing original stand-up material about his love life and “stereotypical Asian mother.”
Poets were interspersed between the musicians. Matt Denney recited the first poem of the night: an original piece titled “Two” that depicted how humans were born to find their soul mates. Gabriella Murata delivered her poem “Things I’m Not Ready To Put Away Yet,” an analogy of messy clothes on the floor and the lost love that still occupies her mind.
“I saw the flier two weeks ago” Murata said, speaking of her decision to open up to an audience and showcase her work. ”I promised myself that I was not going to miss the next event to share my poetry.”
Matthew Karr shared three poems, one of which was a two-lined recitation of the city of Reno, and Garcia took a time slot on the performers’ list to read an original piece about his interpretation of his friend’s struggles. Sean Bassney, affiliated with Brushfire, shared his pun-filled “Pit Poem” that commented on social values.
As the show came to a finale, nothing but good energy and satisfied smiles emanated from the audience members and all the performers.
“The Open Mic was eye opening, not only to the amount of talent that exists at Nevada, but also the breadth of [the talent],” said Mallory Connolly, UNR freshman and attendee. “I will definitely be coming to the next one.”
Pamela Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @alexacsolis.