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Posted: 02/26/14

Starkweather celebrates
5th year of Open MIC

Observer Staff Writer

      A taste of local talent for all the senses will be celebrated Friday at the Starkweather Arts Center.
       The non-profit art center is honoring the fifth anniversary of its Open MIC Night on Feb. 28. The event will kick off with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m., followed by performances at 7 p.m.
       David Pyrce, president of the Starkweather Society Board of Trustees, said it is unusual for a mic night to endure for so long, but he is proud of how far it has come.
       "What is particularly gratifying is we're getting a lot more younger people coming in," Pyrce said. "They bring friends and family and they come back as well."
       He said one reason it has flourished is that the mic night is a dedicated venue with a supportive crowd as opposed to open mics held in bars or restaurants.
       "In the bar you're competing with whatever hockey game is on, and the people at the bar aren't necessarily interested in music," he said. "For us, the people are there to see the music."
       The entertainment goes beyond musicians. Everything from poetry and comedians to short stories have been featured on the stage, all varying from young to older artists.
       Open MIC Night began with Dave and Kim Parks. Dave, a long-time Starkweather board member, said he held music nights at his home every fourth Friday, and worked with Starkweather to bring it to the center.
       "I know a lot of (open mic nights) come and go, but what made a difference was we have a bunch of friends who are musicians," he said.
       Through word-of-mouth the night grew in popularity, drawing in more crowds and performers over the years. Parks said it's been amazing to watch it grow to its modern-day form, with newcomers and regulars attending every month.
       "What I really like about it is the variety that comes out of our own community," he said.
       In a typical night, Parks will act as the emcee and start the evening with some of his own music, and ends it with a jam session for anyone to come up and join. He said newcomers are always welcome to attend and perform, and encourages anyone looking to get on stage to come in and experience the night.
       "My goal is to try and make everyone feel welcome," he said.
       Pyrce said the mic nights wouldn't be possible if it weren't for the Parks as well as Silvia Simon and her husband, Kent Van Allen, both of whom have been involved with setting up the stage and seating as well as providing food and beverages. Both contribute their musical talents to the nights as well.
       Admission is $3 for Starkweather members and $4 for non-members, with all proceeds benefiting the art center. Pyrce said admission is kept low to not only provide inexpensive entertainment, but give everyone a chance to participate.
       "It's giving younger kids an opportunity to perform, and that helps grow music in the community," he said.
       Open MIC Nights are held 7 p.m. every fourth Friday of the month. The Starkweather Arts Center is located at 219 N Main Street. For more information, call (586) 752-5700.

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