SAPB’s ‘Live! on Thursdays’ takes off with virtual open mic nights
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SAPB’s ‘Live! on Thursdays’ takes off with virtual open mic nights

In light of COVID-19 restrictions, what once was a weekly mic night at the Curb Café has changed to a weekly livestream on the Belmont Student Activities Programming Board’s Instagram page.

So far this semester, 19 musicians have performed at SAPB’s “Live! on Thursdays” events, and Belmont students are juggling the pros and cons of live virtual performances, which are very different from the in-person gigs they may be used to.

“It’s taught me to be more of an adaptive performer,” said Katja Sippola, a sophomore music business major who has performed twice this semester.

In a live setting under normal circumstances, performers get feedback instantaneously just by looking at the faces of people in the audience, Sippola said. But over a livestream, there are no immediate reactions to gauge how people are receiving a performance.

The whole idea of performing revolves around “audience engagement,” said Sippola, and the crowd can be a vital source of support as well as stress.  

As a performer with autism, Sippola was less intimidated performing without the pressure of an entire audience, she said.

“But when you don’t have that audience engagement in front of you, it makes it hard to tell how you’re doing and also to take notes for next time to improve your presence.”

“Am I making people happy, or are they wanting to throw tomatoes at me?” Sippola asked during the livestream. Nevertheless, up-and-coming performers are making do with what the pandemic will allow.

Performing virtually also has its benefits for Belmont students, said Sophia Blake, a sophomore music business major who also performed this year.

“I would be lying if I said it wasn’t really nice to sit in my room in sweatpants and perform that way,” said Blake.

Blake did open mic nights last year at the Curb Café as well as a “Live! on Thursdays” virtual event. She noted the differences: though there were more people to play for at the Curb, Belmont’s virtual mic nights are more accessible and cost effective for student performers.

“There’s more opportunities to do a livestream rather than book a venue or the Curb Café,” Blake said. Not only that, but it’s also an easy way for performers to have their music published on SAPB’s Instagram.

For Belmont artists who are just starting out, virtual options are great for reaching a bigger audience, said Savannah Ashley, a sophomore songwriting major who recently performed on “Live! on Thursdays.” Her performance was mainly to get her name out on a bigger social media platform, and since her performance is now published online, more people are able to see it — including her friends and family back home.

“This is even a way to make more friends and possible people to collaborate with,” Blake said about the advantages to virtual performances. 

In fact, Blake is seizing the chance to collaborate with Belmont musicians who she never would have worked with before the pandemic, she said.

Although not ideal, “Live! on Thursdays” is the best option Belmont can offer its many musicians with the current state of the pandemic, Sippola said. And students are turning the virtual performances into a good experience, even when they can only connect through the screen. 

“I still felt that performance high even singing to my screen, and that’s all that matters,” Ashley said.

“Live! on Thursdays” is broadcast every Thursday at 7 p.m. on SAPB’s Instagram Live. Past performances and student sign-up forms can be found on the SAPB Instagram page.

This article written by Madison Schaffer.

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