Youth Center’s open mic success despite low attendance

Austin Schumacher (Award for best spoken word) Open Mic Picture Credit - Hope Griffin-Ortiz

The lights go dark as Ernest Griffin-Ortiz, or “E” as he’s known at the Carmel Youth Center, goes up on stage Sept. 13 to introduce the performers and kick off the sparsely attended Teen Open Mic Night.

The CYC Teen Open Mic Night was first held in March 2012 and has been held every month or so since then, providing countless teens the opportunity to perform to an audience and share their talents.

Usually the performances last from 6:30 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m., but due to a poor sign-up—only six acts—it was over sooner than usual, possibly because it was held on Friday the 13th, which may have kept the superstitious away.

Normally around 12 acts sign up.

“It’s a really good experience for people who aren’t comfortable with singing and performing, to get up there and have a good time,” says singer Meagan Hoch, who shared in winning the uncontested best group performance award.

But as Griffin-Ortiz, the administrative director for the CYC and the driving force behind the Teen Open Mic Night, says, it’s just as important how students perform in front of 10 people as 10,000 people.

“Performing arts has the potential to transform,” the dedicated Griffin-Ortiz says. “Not only for the audience, but for the performer as well. I’ve seen kids discover a passion for music they didn’t know they had. I’ve seen parents cry from intense feelings of pride because they had no idea their child could create something as moving as the original song their child couldn’t sing in front of them at home, but just now performed in front of a supportive audience.”

“I do the open mic night to create more moments like that for as many people as possible,” Griffin-Ortiz says. “There aren’t enough moments like that in the world.”

As for the future, there is talk about the best performers from the Teen Open Mic Night to possibly perform at next year’s First City music festival.

“We recognized that there are very few venues in Monterey County that will book teen singers and bands, and there are no venues that cater exclusively to teen performers,” he explains. “Our goal is to provide a place where teen singer-songwriters, rappers, bands, poets and comedians will have a venue to work on their craft on a regular basis.”

Prizes currently include a free recording at Spirit Vision Studios and movie tickets.

The next Teen Open Mic Night is Oct. 4.

-Day Gudmundsson