Open Mic Night spotlights student talent

Ithaca College offers hundreds of student clubs, extracurriculars and organizations that encourage students to dive into their hobbies and passions and share the experience with friends. IC's Open Mic Night is one common space to practice all of these on stage.

IC students perform at Open Mic Night in IC Square. Photo by Lauren White.

Open Mic Night has been a popular weekly event at Ithaca College for almost a decade—a place where students of all ages and backgrounds gather to do what they love most, on stage while being supported by their fellow classmates. IC junior Ben Macarell and senior Cam Narimanian are the organizers/managers of IC Open Mic Night.

Macarell got involved with the leadership of Open Mic Night by first performing in the sessions with his band.

"I basically became in charge because they were looking for people to come and round out the [executive board]," Macarell said. "And then one by one, everybody else on the E-board either graduated or left, so it fell to myself and Cam to run the whole thing."

Pandemic struggles

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Macarell said Open Mic Night struggled to remain a cohesive organization. In March of 2020, Ithaca College students were sent home from school until the following fall, and then only participated in campus activity in a hybrid setting. In the spring of 2020, Open Mic Night did not exist in person or virtually at all. In the fall, Open Mic Night followed suit with other clubs and switched to a virtual setting. Macarell said they'd hold online Zoom sessions for students to perform, but only himself and his best friend ever showed up at the virtual meeting.

"It was okay," Macarell said. "Because at least then Cam [Narimanian] and I got to know each other and become friends."

However, when the college returned to a hybrid setting this spring, Open Mic Night was hosted in places that were more equipped to follow social distancing guidelines, like Presser Hall in the James J. Whalen Center for Music and outdoors at places like the Academic Quad. Macarell said they slowly started to get a hang of the regulations and restrictions, and find creative ways to keep the organization afloat.

"It at least gave us the opportunity to figure out how to actually run the thing, because we didn't have people above us saying this is how we did it, and learning from that," Macarell said. "So we did have some extra time there to at least figure things out and make things ready for this semester."

Return to the stage

On Sept. 2 of this fall semester, the tradition finally returned to its original state (with the addition of face masks required) and hosted more than 40 participants at its usual time and location, 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursday nights in IC Square.

Student audience at Open Mic Night on Thursday, Nov 4. Photo by Lauren White

"Barring everyone has to wear masks, but that's a given. A lot of our regulars were really excited for this to get back to normal," said Macarell. Now, it feels just like old times, he says. "It's as if things had never stopped in the first place, it's like nothing's changed."

A welcoming space for all

Macarell says the most rewarding part of Open Mic Night is giving students a space to show off, judgement and pressure-free.

"No matter what talents they have, anybody can come up and do it," Macarell says. "No matter what their skill level is, we have a place for you, and I think that's wonderful."

IC Open Mic Night will continue to meet every Thursday night from 8-10 p.m. in The Pub of IC Square. Sign up to perform here or just sit back, relax and enjoy the talented students!

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"Come out to the shows, it's as simple as that!" Macarell said. "To have more people supporting this endeavor is always helpful. It's worthwhile to come whether you just want to watch or whether you want to perform, that's all we really want."