By Sebastian Moronta Blanco, Staff Writer
Cedar Dell West hosted an Open Mic Night this past week that echoed the positive and welcoming aura that many UMass Dartmouth students have come to expect from their community.
On Tuesday February 7, Cedar Dell West’s furniture was rearranged to make way for a microphone, a few amps, a chair, and a small fold-out table for holding music.
The couches were pushed back, and a table behind them held assorted snacks and drinks.
The set-up was quaint, and its modesty was only surpassed by the audience, made up of just 8 or 9 students, a handful of RAs, and an RD.
One might think an open mic night can’t thrive with a single-digit audience.
I’m sure that’s what Shaya Weidmann, junior bioengineering major and the RA who organized the event, thought as he scrambled to find other RAs and friends to perform, having run through all of the available performers in just the first half hour.
“I called this a ‘cultural’ open mic night because I wanted to encourage and include,” Weidmann said. “‘The more the merrier’ basically in genres and content.”
That sentiment was felt throughout the night as the mic amplified sounds of musical performers, as well as student poetry and spoken-word performance.
Weidmann himself played the guitar, and sang a few songs by himself.
A fellow RA stepped to the mic to perform original guitar duets that he arranged and then performed.
He played one of the guitar parts, while a speaker in front of him played the other pre-recorded part.
After each had performed individually, Weidmann returned to the stage to jam with the other RA, improvising music together for the first time as I learned when speaking with Weidmann after the show.
One student shared poetry, after a brief message on her experience of college at UMass thus far. “I feel like you are the truest to yourself late at night, that’s when people really get to know you” she said.
She felt she hadn’t truly allowed many people to really get to know her while at school, and I thought it significant that someone who felt that way was allowed the opportunity to express herself at the open mic night, even if only for a few people.
Another student had stage fright at first, and admitted to only having performed in front of a live audience once before.
That student performed five songs by the end of the night, with encouragement from the audience.
A while into the show, a woman entered with her young child to sit and enjoy the performances, and the little one danced along to one of the acts.
Latoya Robertson, the RD for Cedar Dell West and globe-trotting musician, even appeared to perform an original song about her love for ice cream, and gave a powerful rendition of a song with Weidmann playing guitar, and performed it entirely in Spanish.
While the audience was small, the applause after every performance could’ve convinced a blind man he was sitting in the Dolby Theatre.
Everyone in the audience was supportive, and made the space safe for those who weren’t confident enough to get on stage on their own.
There was a feeling of energy in the room, a comradery with total strangers that is admittedly rare among times like these.
It gave hope to a young Hispanic reporter that a room with people of several distinct walks of life could laugh together, even around a lonely mic in a mostly empty room.
Weidmann wants to organize open mic nights in the future. When asked what he’d like to see from an open mic night in the future, he answered simply, “I’d like to see more people come.”