As some of you know, open mic attendance is usually down during
the summer. It's a good time to play more songs, though, because
fewer people sign up. Of course, this will only be the case until
fall's busy season sets in.
Some people have gone to an exotic island. Helen Mallary, a regular
at Victory open mics, is spending some time in Oahu, Hawaii. Thanks
to the Web, I was able to interview her in time for this article.
She has a message for the Ravenna Third Place Books folks: "Tell
everyone at the bookstore I said aloha from Oahu and that I love
them all. I'll see you all soon."
Helen is passionate about playing her violin and has been delighting
folks at the Ravenna open mic for quite some time now. Besides
her classical background playing recitals and youth orchestras,
she loves to play traditional dance music. One night she gave
us her own version of "Orange Blossom Special" with
some classical jazz thrown inI believe she said she was
going to use the arrangement for an audition she was practicing
I put my pen into cyber space drive and asked Helen (on Hawaii
time) a few questions:
What made you decide to start playing open mics?
My dad kind of suggested the open mic as a way to cope with my
stage fright. It's also to help me in working with a mic and on
my stage presence.
How old were you when you gave your first performance and how
old are you now? Where have you played and where do you want to
I was about five years old when I first performed. I played the
ABCs, outside my house, on a violin that I took from my dad's
bedroom. I'm 18 now, since June. I've played in school talent
shows and school events, at the Pike Place Market, at Folk Life
and Bumbershoot, at open mics and in community/youth orchestras.
I'll be continuing to play at Ravenna Third Place Books and at
my recitals or youth orchestras in Mt. Vernon. Hopefully one day
I will make it to Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice).
How has the Victory open mic influenced you and your music?
Well. it's like practicing for future performancesso I can
get rid of the stage fright and actually focus on phrasing the
What are your goals in music and what are your current plans for
I just hope to continue music in life no matter what. I thought
about being a rock star while I'm still young and still continue
the violin. Then when I reach middle age, I thought of making
a career as a solo violinist and make it at least as big as Vanessa
May or Yo Yo Ma. But for now I'll be trying to plow through Cornish
College of the Arts.
There you have it. An open mic is a community of folks, both performers
and listeners, who nurture each other and create a music forum
where people like Helen Mallary can work on their craft of performing.
Jim Santanella, a regular at the Highliner Pub Showcase, is another
new musician to the scene who is passionate and committed to giving
his music to the people. His lyrics are clear and supported by
solid guitar work, and his meter is relentless. He can rock out
or sing a ballad, and he has produced two CDs of his own. He has
been seen giving away his latest, Yellow Skygo see him perform
and maybe you can pick one up.
His journey began in 1989 in the very small town of Millington,
New Jersey, where he and some friends had a band during high school
In 1990, Jim attended New Hampshire College and began writing
songs and traded his amp for an acoustic guitar. After college
he moved to Manhattan, took a night job in the graphic arts field
and continued writing songs. At this point he began the study
of Bel Canto singing at the Singers Forum in New York City under
Liz Russo and Phil Campanella. For three years he developed tone
and performance technique. He then moved to the East Village where
he recorded his debut release East 5th Street.
In the summer of 2000, Jim moved to Seattle. The west coast life
style took awhile to adapt to but Jim finally settled into the
music scene and in 2004 he released his new CD, Yellow Sky, which
has been described as dark folk for its honesty and starkness.
Many people have said that if your song is good, you should be
able to make it work with just a guitar and vocal. Jim has it
downI have seen him solo several times and he is solid.
His guitar work uses many varied textures and rhythms behind his
rich, soulful vocals. He has added some sparse percussion and
harmonies to make this CD, giving his songs a little more depth.
The CD ends on a great duet with Jim's son Beck joining him on
"All Done." This CD is by a true renaissance manJim
created the stunning graphics himself and released the CD under
his own label, Squatter Records (www.SquatterRecords.com).
The Ramblin' Mike hopes to see you out there listening to this
great abundance of creativity around us. The open mic scene here
in the Seattle area is rich with talent, even during the slow
summer season. Many of the hit songs you hear on the radio originated
in a songwriter form, where the song held its own with minimal
accompaniment. You may hear the birth of a future hit at your
open mic experience. If you have an open mic story, send it to
my e-mail address below.Michael Guthrie is a singer/songwriter
who regularly plays venues in the Northwest and is a Victory Music
sound volunteer. He has produced his own CD and run his own coffee
house/cafe, The Village Green Cafe, in Kaslo, BC from 1973-79.
He studied sound engineering and recording at Sound Master Recording
Studios in North Hollywood, CA in 1987.