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Crescent Ballroom's Open Mic Nights provide students a platform for musical expression

The events allow popular music students to share their art and find support in the downtown Phoenix music scene

The Echo-open-mic-showcase

Outside of the Crescent Ballroom on North Second Ave. in downtown Phoenix on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024.

ASU students have the opportunity to showcase their vocal and instrumental talents through a reoccurring open mic event at the Crescent Ballroom organized by the popular music program.

These events are free to the public and have become a tradition for emerging ASU artists seeking to share their music and connect with like-minded individuals.

Popular music majors in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre can explore their own musical style through the comprehensive program.

"We're focused on being inclusive to all different types of musical expressions," said C. Samuel Peña, clinical assistant professor and assistant director of popular music. "When people enter into that kind of space, they feel more comfortable being themselves."

Peña said the open mic nights help students share their music and find people with similar tastes or skill sets.

Peña's dedication to fostering a welcoming environment extends beyond the stage. He mentors students on hosting and event organization, ensuring that the open mic nights are not only musically enriching but also socially inclusive. 

"It's not just about the performance," Peña said, "It's about building a community where everyone feels valued and supported."

Ethan Whitney is a senior studying popular music. He said the open mic nights represent more than just a chance to perform; they serve as a validation of his passion for music. 

"The last time I performed, I got a cute little cheer from the director of the program," he said. "It meant a lot to me."

Whitney's sentiments are echoed by his peers, who also expressed finding comfort in the encouraging atmosphere of the open mic nights.

"I love any opportunity I can to perform," Whitney said. "It's what my focus is in the major and I want to support the pop music program."

At a recent open mic night, Whitney played his original song "Superheroes." 

"A bunch of my friends and peers sang the chorus with me. It was an unforgettable moment," Whitney said. "There's nothing like the support from those who care about you."

Sam Spruce, a sophomore studying popular music, reflects on the inspiration she derives from watching her fellow students perform.

"It reminds me that I'm surrounded by people who love the same career as I am pursuing," Spruce said. "Everyone is so kind to one another, and it makes me happy to see our music community supporting each other."

Spruce gained a following after debuting one of her original songs at an open mic night. "People seemed to enjoy it," she said.

While Whitney and Spruce thrive on the sociability of the open mic events, they also view them as an invaluable opportunity to sharpen their skills and gain valuable performance experience. 

As the popular music program continues to grow, so does the impact of its open mic events. With each performance, students are not only refining their skills but also forging lasting connections within the vibrant music scene in downtown Phoenix.

"It's a safe space, even if it is public." Whitney said. "No one is judging you, and we love that you have the guts to perform because we all know how hard it is." 

The next event will be held at Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, Feb. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Edited by Sophia Braccio, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.

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