Opinion: Open mic at local tavern is an important venue

I came to Middlebury in January 2014 for my mom’s 75th birthday from Maryland and ended up transferring my Section 8 voucher up here, a big decision of change. It was culture shock coming from a city of 80,000, and my first impression was that Middlebury was a dead town of black cloaks and blue collars. I found two places to primarily network and build contacts: Dunkin Donuts and Mickey D’s.
Then I met Mark Sikora, who heads up Open Mic at Two Brothers Tavern every other Wednesday night. I had some basic innate musical talents, I was on a learning curve on the harp and had over the years been experimenting with writing poetry. Mark invited me to Open Mic, and things took off — to my delight, being from out of state.
I found an atmosphere of energy at Two Brothers — a whole world to explore, perhaps a best kept secret. Mark and Kai Stanley asked me to read my stuff a few times — during breaks between musicians — and I found I could “show out.” I had never really stood up before folks in a bar scene — anxiety at first but a pleasant surprise. It boosted my self-esteem. A plus was I “got in with the guys.”
Amazingly, the musicians — Kai and Mark heading it up with their balanced hard-driving and then mellow tunes — are markedly creative, profound and humorous.
It’s been about a year since Open Mic got off the ground. It is a noted success in the local community, giving a welcoming scene that college students and natives can meet people, introduce, even do business, and of course wind down after a tough “hump day.”
Of note, Ken, the amiable bartender, and Tim, the equally amiable door man, are fun to talk to and do a bang-up job. Since going to Two Brothers, I have heard many stories about Vermont, and really learned the culture. I sorely needed that, being isolated and from out of town, a new and frightened resident.
I feel Open Mic has been a gift from the stars (a play on words). Let’s keep it going — it has its crowded but also slow nights. All people — of all ages, from all walks of life — can have a great time, and the kicker is it spotlights local musicians.
Barry Churchill

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