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The Ramblin' Mike

A Bounty of Talent
by Michael Guthrie

Live Music

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 in—I believe she said she was going to use the arrangement for an audition she was practicing for.

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 play?
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 performances—so I can get rid of the stage fright and actually focus on phrasing the music.
What are your goals in music and what are your current plans for your music?
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 Sky—go 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 down—I 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 man—Jim 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.
Contact: moorafa@mindspring.com

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