The local area is teaming with musicians and poets but is without a stage to perform. That’s why Winters Open Mic is tapping into this goldmine of creativity to not only give these musicians and poets a venue to showcase their skills, but an opportunity for the community to get out and enjoy live entertainment after a long pandemic.
Winters Open Mic originally began in 2011 at Root Stock when the erstwhile vintner was still around. Created by Lynda Hinds, Sam Hawk and his wife, Winters Open Mic was immediately met with acclaim and high attendance. Orchestration of this event required more time and dedication than Hawk could provide at the time, so the reins of Winters Open Mic switched hands. Attendance would dwindle over the years, unfortunately, until Hinds reached back out to Hawk – with decades of musical experience under his belt — in 2018 asking to take over again. He accepted, put it on hold during the pandemic — like everything else — and in late 2021, was ready to restart this live music enterprise.
“There are a ton of amateur musicians and amateur poets in this area. And they have no place to go and practice their skills in front of an actual audience. They’re not committed enough to be professional musicians because that’s a hard life. For poets, it’s even worse because there are very few venues that will take the spoken word,” explained Hawk. “Winters wants to become sort of a boutique/artistic town, and all this art in the area is not being displayed. So, I thought let’s build a platform for these amateur musicians and poets, and if a pro comes by and wants to try new material, they’re welcome too. But, everybody hangs their rockstar credentials at the door so we all treat each other as equals.”
To Hawk – the executive director – this is a different approach to live entertainment. While venue owners will hire bands to drive business and let money muddy the art, Winters Open Mic is about creative and artistic development. The charm of Winters Open Mic’s approach is audiences will be entertained by musicians and poets of all skill levels and ages with unique, creative expressions one won’t find anywhere else. Not only that, but Winters Open Mic recently achieved its non-profit status – 509(a)2 to be exact.
“The problem with open mics is that they’re temporary. They’re a lot of work and the person running them usually gets tired because no matter what anyone pays them it’s never enough. It’s typically using your own equipment too,” explained Hawk. “What I wanted to do was make a self-sustaining mechanism here where people can come get out of their living room, get on a stage, get over their stage fright and learn what makes the crowd happy and do that without the stress of having to do it for a living. This way, we can have it permanently in Winters. It’ll support itself, the Palms is a great venue in the wintertime and the street is wonderful in the summertime.”
Winters Open Mic isn’t a one-man show, however. Hawk is joined by a top-notch board of go-getters including Treasurer Corinne Martinez, Secretary Rebecca Fridae, Directors Gregg Partridge and Gar House, and Board Chair Jesse Loren.
“We’re bringing together people in the community, and as a nonprofit, we can accept donations to help us with our mission. It’s amazing that we were able to do this in a short amount of time with a small, dedicated group. I’m so excited,” said Loren. “It’s all happening at the Opera House, where the Palms used to be. I think the Opera House is kind of the heart of Winters. I also think the downtown area gels as this happening place where you can come and experience so much, and to have the opportunity to have music back in that room, to me, is very moving.”
Winters Open Mic happens every third Thursday of the month at 13 Main St. (formerly the Palms). Shows start at 6 p.m. with sign-ups to perform starting at 5 p.m. The next Winters Open Mic is taking place on Thursday, Dec 15. For more information, visit wintersopenmic.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its social media platforms by searching @wintersopenmic on Facebook and Instagram.