By: Jen Campisi / Herald Contributor
On Monday, October 17, RWU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, along with the Musicians’ Guild, hosted the first Open Mic Night in accordance with Free Speech Week, celebrating our First Amendment rights.
SPJ did not just serve up talent, but also some sweet homemade treats for audience members and performers alike, including cookies, brownies, and Oreo truffles. Vice President Sabrina Polin, Secretary Carli Buono, Treasurer Rachel Bimonte, and Communications Chair Kyle Souza helped run the event. SPJ President Dillon Stambaugh kicked off the event by reciting an poem he wrote, which set the lineup into motion.
Throughout the night amateurs and professionals, first timers and aspiring artists, all came together to perform cover songs, acoustic guitar solos and duets, original slam poetry, hip-hop/rap, and even stand-up comedy.
“Open Mic Night was a huge success,” Stambaugh, a senior journalism major and creative writing minor who also closed the show with a poem he wrote for his girlfriend, said after the event wrapped up. “I was so pleased with the turnout, especially since this is my first event as president of SPJ. I’m really pleased for the future of the events.”
Early in the night, audience members were serenaded by freshman Laura Ailinger, who sung and strummed the hit “Riptide,” as well as a tribute to the Eagles. Miranda Coker covered “Youth” by Daughter, with the help of guitarist, senior Zach Mobrice, who followed her act by performing politically-charged music with the humorous intention to “piss people off.”
After singing folk songs about Freddie Gray, an African-American man who notably died of a spinal cord injury and whose death sparked riots in Baltimore, and “Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” Mobrice commented, “There was no better way to celebrate free speech than by singing about something political. Political critiques are very important and I just wanted to start a conversation.”
Rachel Lombardi, a senior journalism major who also is the secretary for RWU Chorus and a beat-boxer for Drastic Measures, belted out a beautiful and soulful rendition of “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith.
“It was a great opportunity to come out as a part of Free Speech Week,” she said, reflecting on her performance and the event as a whole.
Junior Holly Huntoon, a fellow journalist and country singer, got a warm welcome from a crowd of friends cheering her on as she sang one of the songs off of her EP that is currently available on iTunes. Jae Jones raised her voice in an emotional cover of “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars, followed by a spoken word poem she wrote. Midway through the event, senior Grace Napoli fired up the crowd with slam poetry about the beauty of being single.
“The Open Mic Night was a great event and a lot of fun. I’m so glad I got to express myself through poetry,” said Napoli.
After many covers and original songs throughout the night, freshman Alex Bowden provided some comedic relief to spice up audience interaction. Following jokes about a hatred of social media, as well as small political jabs, Bowden stated, “Even though I bombed it, it was a lot of fun and great practice getting up in front of an audience and making them laugh.”
Positive feedback flooded in from the audience immediately after, especially from first-year students who have never been involved in this event before.
“I went because I wanted to see the talent we have at Roger Williams. After seeing it, I realized that next time it happens, I definitely want to go up there and read my poetry!” remarked freshman Isabella Pelletiere.
“Overall, Open Mic Night was a great way to showcase all of the talented people at our school and express ourselves and our First Amendment rights,” Stambaugh concluded.