Winters Open Mic, a magical musical event

The Winters Open Mic is free and is open to the public every third Thursday and currently hosted at 22 Main St. at 7 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

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By Gar House
Special to the Express

Winters befittingly boasts as host of many unique live events. Among these events is Winters Open Mic, our very own special showcase of local talent presented free to the public each month. To the delight of the Winters community, musicians and poets perform live — and often original — music every third Thursday.

Each Winters Open Mic event is a unique, eclectic concert, spanning the robust arc of music genres, including country, rock, jazz, folk and classical. Open Mic provides individual artists and band ensembles a veritable crucible to reveal and experiment with their unique styles while in the presence of a live audience. Open Mic’s comfortable and congenial atmosphere also generates phenomenal “jam” sessions among presiding musicians seeking new expression and creativity for their repertoire.

Musicians provide entertainment as varied as their names and personalities. Guitar singers and groups include: Steve Ackley with his clever, seasonal songs, Jeff “Lonewulff” McMoyler with his folksy, amusing ballads accompanied by Gregg Partridge on his harmonica and Jim Wiant on bass, Rich Adams’ enigmatic flute solos, and Lynn Pereira entertains with his bard-style, story telling songs, accompanied by percussionist Phil Whitmore.

Winters Open Mic performers are indeed a unique, captivating and enthralling group. Classically-trained Michelle Martin magnetizes the audience with her passionate and enchantingly-beautiful violin solos and marvelous collaborations with Dana Cox, while Matt Dunn electrifies both body and soul with his incandescent and exhilarating, piano-accompanied tenor solos.

If poetry appeals to you, Lili Russu’s imaginative, heartfelt and original verses can touch you emotionally as adroitly as a smooth, delicate feather stroke.

Open Mic definitely offers music, poetry and song to satisfy virtually every taste. The recent Dec. 16 Open Mic event hosted a total of 18 different performers and acts. Hopefully, all these and other new talented performers will return for the upcoming Jan. 20 Winters Open Mic event.

Open Mic history
In the summer of 2012, Sam and Lori Hawk, founders and galvanizers of Winters Open Mic, worked with Rootstock co-owner Lynda Hinds to produce the first “Rootstock Third Thursday Open Mic,” as it was originally known. The first show had seven attendees, four of them performing, but within six months more than a dozen artists performed for an ever-growing attendance.

In 2019, Winters Open Mic (as it is now known) began performing at Berryessa Gap Winery with welcome nurturing from Corinne Martinez. This June Open Mic moved outside and began performing in the blocked off area within downtown Main Street, an area which has now become an indispensable physical venue, invoked and catalyzed through the decisive leadership, innovation and wisdom of our Winters City Council, staff and Chamber of Commerce.

Participate and attend
Winters Open Mic is free and is open to the public every third Thursday and currently hosted at 22 Main St. All musicians or poets are cordially invited to perform. The sign-up sheet for performers opens at 6:30 p.m. with the show beginning at 7 p.m. All acts are required to sign in to perform. Each act receives 15 minutes of stage time, or three songs/poems, whichever is shorter.

Winters Open Mic ends with an “End of Night Jam” in which all musicians and singers are invited back to the stage to play one last song together. Since this “Finale” is unrehearsed, it can often be hilarious, sometimes inspiring, but always a lot of fun for the audience as well as the musicians.

As Sam Hawk quips, “That’s why it’s called Open Mic.”

Open Mic & community
Our growing Winters community is definitely enriched and rewarded both culturally and economically through promotion and hosting of live entertainment such as Winters Open Mic. Maintaining Winters’ preeminence as a destination city is indeed a worthy goal. Achieving that goal will be well served by satisfying increasing public demand for live performances, which hinge upon venue availability and suitability.

View videos of past Winters Open Mic performances on YouTube at and like them on Facebook @wintersopenmic.

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