Open mics on and off campus help foster burgeoning talent


Rashard Cunningham

Alejandro Collier has already finished two albums, but he still finds open mics a rewarding experience.

Aspiring artists have a wealth of options to show off their talents, but for many, it still starts with an open stage and a microphone.

For years, open mics have been used as a way for poets, musicians and comedians to express themselves and share their talent with others. In Buffalo, there are dozens of open mic nights happening in the city every month.

On Elmwood you can find a juice bar and café known as Ashker’s, which also serves as a wellness café, music school and healing arts center. The café hosts frequent open mic nights where anyone can showcase their talent.

The two-room building has one open area specially set up for open mic nights to take place.

There are tables with flowers on them, drinks served in mason jars, vintage furniture, and a piano. Red square cushions are propped in front of a big store case window where performers can be seen not only by the entire room, but also by passing pedestrians.

Last Thursday, singers, songwriters and musicians took turns at the mic from 7-9 p.m. A huge part of today’s writing consists of lyrics and poetry, and with new musicians trying to break into the field each year, a great way to get noticed is to attend an open mic.

Alejandro Collier, a singer who performed on Thursday, attended The Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts and now continues to further his talent.

“I come [to open mics] just to get my name out there and my face out there,” Collier said.

He is currently working on his third music album, but he will continue to go to open mics in order to listen to others and share what he has to offer others as well.

Einat Agnon was also in attendance on Thursday, though she doesn’t attend quite as many open mics. She sang as her boyfriend Dave played keyboard, and some friends, including the man in charge of Ashker’s open mic nights, played guitars.

“I just used to be really nervous,” Agnon said of performing in front of an unknown crowd. “But you grow up a little bit.”

She describes open mics as “loving, intimate, and non-judging environments” that give you a “feeling of exposure.”

Agnon has had vocal training in the past, but partakes in open mics simply for the fun of performing with others. For those who aspire to sing or do slam poetry or stand up, Agnon advises that they attend open mics.

“Remember that you’re doing something you really love,” she said. “And (then) share it with your community. That’s what open mics are really all about.”

Buffalo State and its literary organizations also provide opportunities to create community and share ideas. Tha Ink Club, founded in 2008, is devoted to the written and spoken word. Their latest event, happening Thursday, is called “Don’t Judge Me,” which gives students a chance to mingle and enjoy “free self-expression.”

In fact, self-expression is a constant for Tha Ink Club.

“Tha Ink Club is known to be uncensored,” said president Thalia Jimenez. “Everyone has a different way of expressing themselves, and [with our open mics] there is no judgment. We all like to listen to each other.”

Community, creativity and honing the craft — if you’re looking for any of these objectives, open mics are for you.

Alicia Yeager can be reached by email at [email protected].