Tips For New Open Mic Performers

By Ellen Schmidt

It’s hard to think of anyone who has done more to nurture the greater Boston open mic community and folk music scene than Ellen Schmidt.  In addition to being a gifted songwriter and performer, she has been hosting open mics in the greater Boston area for over 20 years.  So, I couldn’t think of anyone more appropriate to be our first guest blogger.  The question I posed to Ellen is: What advice would you give to someone thinking about playing at an open mic for the first time or who is just starting to play at open mics?   Below are 10 tips that Ellen shared with me:

  1. Congratulations!  If you are starting out as an open miker, you have many wonderful experiences ahead of you.
  2. Many performers who are new to the scene find it helpful to visit an open mike without performing, getting the lay of the land, before actually signing up. Try to get to know some of the other performers.
  3. Relax and try not to be nervous. Remember that people are rooting for you.
  4. There are many wonderful open mikes in the area – some are more supportive than others. Ask around. In general the area open mikes are welcoming and friendly!
  5. Initially you may want to attend a particular open mike a number of times – you’ll make friends and feel more relaxed. Eventually, plan to visit a number of different kinds of open mikes – you will grow from the experience.
  6. Perform a piece with which you feel really comfortable. As a first-timer, don’t start off with your newest song, especially if you have to read the words.
  7. Do all you can to make yourself as comfortable as possible. If you are really nervous about playing alone, maybe you can get someone to back you up!
  8. Smile!  If you look comfortable, the audience will be comfortable. Don’t worry about making mistakes. Everyone does at one point or another.
  9. At a number of the open mikes you can get a recording of your performance. This is a great way to learn more about your presentation and what you might do to improve it.
  10. Be sure to listen to other performers. Support them by taking the time to listen and also learn from how they deliver a song – or a poem. Help to build the open mike community. We are so lucky to have such an abundance of wonderful open mikes in this area.

Ellen Schmidt hosts two open mics in the Boston area: Tuesday nights at Nourish in Lexington Center, and the first and third Monday of the month at the Emerson Umbrella in Concord.  Her web site is:

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