More than once, I’ve been asked by someone I don’t know if I play the ukulele. It’s possible I just look like a person who would play the ukulele (short, vaguely artsy), but the question is usually followed by “I saw you play at the insert open mic location here!” and a half- to three-quarter-hearted compliment. I’m by no means well known, but I like to think I owe these brushes with fame to my experience at my very first college coffeehouse performance. Last year, when I was still a freshman in her first month of college and not sure how to find out about performance opportunities, the SASHP newsletter informed me about the SASHP Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse. I remember being really nervous, unsure if I’d be able to pull off a serious college performance. When I walked in, though, I realized that I knew so many people in the audience, and even if I wasn’t entirely at ease, I did feel comforted. Because the coffeehouse is run through the Honors Program, the audience is composed of the people in your honors classes, who you met at honors events, who live in your dorm. Then they invite their friends, who inevitably want to perform so then they invite their friends. It’s an honors-based community, but it spirals outward into this much larger community of people who love to perform or watch their friends perform. The Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse was my first interaction with this community, and it definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed to be more comfortable playing elsewhere.
That night I made a mental note that I desperately wanted to run the coffeehouse. A year later, I was given that opportunity.
This past Friday, I had the absolutely incredible honor of co-hosting the Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse. The usual host was unable to attend, and she asked my friend and me if we would be interested in taking over. Interested was an understatement; I was so beyond excited.
I knew it wouldn’t be all fun and games, though. A coffeehouse host has three extremely important responsibilities. The first is to advertise the event. My co-host and I decided that a theme would be the best way to draw people in. We wanted something classic and cool, and we eventually settled on “Scarlet Knights.” I made a cover photo for our Facebook event by collaging various covers of the book Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux and adding a K in front of the word Nights. I’ve never read the book, but I am an English major, so I felt that this both represented the theme and me. Step one was complete.
The second is to write down the names of the performers. The first thing I did wrong was forget to bring something to write with and to write on. Luckily, there were special SASHP pens and FIGS booklets just sitting out ready for me to borrow them. Step two was complete.
The third has multiple sub-responsibilities, all of which can be summarized in the phrase human interaction. A coffeehouse host must introduce the performers in a way that is both pleasant and entertaining. My co-host and I definitely at least satisfied the second requirement. My favorite part of hosting, though, is that it’s actually a necessity to talk to everyone. You need to engage with both the performers and the audience, make everyone feel comfortable and welcome in the space. I loved feeling like an essential part of the coffeehouse and even more connected to the audience and other performers than I usually do. That being said, hosts are only as good as their audiences. It really helps to be able to feed off of the energy of those watching, and some crowds are better than others.
My co-host and I apparently did a mediocre enough job hosting that we were invited to host again at some point next semester. I think we’re going to plan something big. I would recommend attending.
If you’re interested in attending the next Artists’ Collective Coffeehouse, it’s going to be December 11th at 35 College Ave. Hopefully I’ll see you there!